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Some Roslyn residents want a 24-hour Red Cross emergency shelter in their community

Roslyn High School on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015.

Roslyn High School on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. The Roslyn and Great Neck school districts produced the most Intel Science Talent Search semifinalists on the Island this year, with four each. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Some Roslyn residents say they want a dedicated, 24-hour Red Cross shelter in their community in the event of an emergency like a hurricane.

Gerard Dempsey, Roslyn's interim superintendent of schools, said the district is open to having its schools serve as a 24-hour Red Cross shelter in the event of a major disaster. He said that, as of now, the schools are not dedicated as shelters.

During superstorm Sandy, which struck Long Island in October 2012, the Roslyn High School cafeteria provided power, refreshments and bathrooms for visitors, but closed overnight and lacked Red Cross services. Since then, however, the school system has not approved the Red Cross to use their schools as 24-hour emergency shelters. Roslyn High School is in Roslyn Heights.

Dempsey did not close the door to future uses of the schools in an emergency.

"It is also recognized that significant state and/or county emergencies may one day necessitate the use of our facilities as emergency shelters, and we will, of course, fully comply with these mandates in the face of extraordinary circumstances," Dempsey said in a statement.

The Town of North Hempstead, which includes Roslyn, has six high schools that can serve as 24-hour Red Cross shelters. The shelters closest to Roslyn Village are schools about four miles away in Manhasset, Port Washington and Old Westbury.

Officials of the Town of North Hempstead and Nassau County said they can't authorize a school to become a 24-hour emergency shelter. That decision is made between a venue and the Red Cross. North Hempstead can only open "comfort stations" that aren't for overnight stay in town facilities that provide water and electricity.

During natural disasters, East Hills Village Hall, about a mile from Roslyn Village, can serve as an overnight shelter, but the Red Cross doesn't sponsor it. A large natural gas generator can power the 20,000-square-foot facility during blackouts and accommodate about 300 people.

"We can't accommodate everyone," East Hills Mayor Michael Koblenz said. "That would just be impossible. Somebody would have to step up and take care of it. Not just us."

Some residents say having a Red Cross shelter in Roslyn is important because reaching shelters in nearby places even just four miles away could be difficult during emergencies.

"If you can't drive, then I think it's really important to have something in the Village of Roslyn," said Sherry Jagels, 71, who lost power in her Roslyn village home for two days during superstorm Sandy. "Roslyn High School is very big that there are a lot of different rooms they could use."

Walter Reed, 82, an East Hills resident, said Roslyn should have a Red Cross shelter for the elderly because of the high risk of trees falling during storms in wooded areas. He and his wife spent several hours in Roslyn High School during Sandy.

Michael de Vulpillieres, communications officer of the American Red Cross in Greater New York, said the Red Cross has made unsuccessful attempts to sponsor Roslyn's schools. He also noted the Red Cross has locations nearby.


Shelter facts


Nassau County has 22 overnight Red Cross emergency shelters.

The Town of North Hempstead has 6 high schools, none of which are Roslyn schools, dedicated as 24-hour Red Cross shelters.

Red Cross requires emergency shelters to be wheelchair accessible, provide 40 square feet of room per person and have showers and kitchen facilities.

Red Cross shelters offer health services, mental health services, food, water, cots and blankets.

Red Cross has shelter supplies in cargo containers year-round at 45 locations on Long Island.


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