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Hoboken Residents Wade Across City as National Guard Arrives

Hoboken Residents Wade Through City as National Guard Arrives
Members of the National Guard and Hoboken Police ride a large truck through floodwaters used to pluck people from high water in Hoboken, N.J., on Oct. 31, 2012. Photographer: Craig Ruttle/AP Photo

Wearing a New York Giants sweatshirt and shorts, Kevin McGowan waded into water 3-feet deep outside his second-floor condo in Hoboken, New Jersey, carrying a portable crib and high chair for his two daughters still inside.

His family has been without power and hot water for two days after superstorm Sandy flooded the square-mile city of 50,000 across the Hudson River from Manhattan. National Guard troops arrived to evacuate thousands still stuck in their homes, and the city’s New Jersey Transit hub remained shut.

“I had to walk up in the gasoline and water basically to get out,” said McGowan, 38, who works for Citigroup Inc. in Manhattan. “For all the taxes I pay, they did nothing. The government was derelict in its duty.”

McGowan said he never heard police vehicles or National Guard trucks once yesterday. While he doesn’t blame Mayor Dawn Zimmer for the storm, he said he expected at least to hear some announcement via an emergency vehicle yesterday while his family was trapped without power. The city had issued a mandatory evacuation before the storm for basement and ground-level dwellings.

Hoboken, the birthplace of Frank Sinatra, is a haven for artists, New York City commuters, young families and bar patrons who enjoy its dozens of watering holes. About 25 percent of its residents are employed in finance, insurance or real estate, according to Census data.

‘Absolute Devastation’

The city is just one part of the destruction the storm caused across the Garden State, especially along its barrier islands and beach communities. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit New Jersey today to tour what Governor Chris Christie described as “absolute devastation.”

The area in south Hoboken set back several blocks from the river near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel has flooded in the past. Last year a pumping system was completed that can extract about 100 million gallons.

“I don’t know how we would be getting the water out if we didn’t have that pump,” Zimmer said today in a television interview.

Catherine Walsifer, 25, waded in water up to the top of her Hunter rain boots around 9 a.m. today from a third-floor apartment on Jefferson and First Street. Walsifer, who works at a public-relations firm and lives in Manhattan, came to Hoboken to stay with her boyfriend, Ryan Santonacita, 26.

“It’s not surprising that it flooded,” she said. “The amount and the speed that it filled was surprising.”

National Guard

National Guard trucks with 4-foot-high wheels moved down city streets. About 10 trucks were delivering food and water, and evacuating residents, said Juan Melli, a city spokesman. About 20,000 residents are affected by flooding, he said.

An ambulance on Second Street and Willow Avenue was stuck halfway submerged as residents waded with garbage bags tied and taped up to their knees.

Most of the city is without power. Washington Street, the main drag, is dry and residents are cleaning debris. Street lights remain out, and police are directing traffic.

For residents in less-flooded areas, life continued. Valerie Rojas, 26, crowded into a Fiat with a co-worker from Jersey City and another from Hoboken to get to her event-planning job in Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel, which remained open even as the Holland Tunnel was closed.

Michael Stroff, 47, waited at the Ferry pier on 14th street to get back into New York after charging phones and laptops yesterday in the recycling room of his high-rise condo building on the river, which surged over its banks before receding yesterday.

“We’ve been sharing electricity from the recycling room,” he said. “We’ve got coffee makers, iPads and laptops in there. It’s a little party.”

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