Capt Joe Paradiso
November 14, 2012

Two weeks after ‘superstorm’ Sandy devastated the region, tens of thousands of New Yorkers remain without power with hundreds, many without homes.  On behalf of our members and friends in the business community, the New York Sportfishing Federation offers its prayers, condolences and support, however and wherever possible.

When Sandy officially made landfall along the New Jersey coast on October 29, it forced power outages for nearly 8.5 million customers in 21 states, though the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) suffered the greatest loss with about 1.1 million electric customers.  A second follow-up nor’easter just days later was responsible for knocking out another 123,000 customers.

As of November 12, LIPA has said it could not restore power to about 17,500 homes and businesses in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island and 37,500 in the Rockaways in New York City due to the severe flooding from Sandy that damaged electrical panels, wires, outlets and appliances, therefore making it unsafe to restore service. 

One of the hardest areas along the entire Atlantic Coast is the coastal Queens region, where a devastating fire on the Rockaway Peninsula at the height of the storm left 111 homes burned to the ground, 20 more heavily damaged.  Reports there show not a single building on Breezy Point, Queens was left unscathed, coupled by a rising storm surge and the ensuring fire which ravaged blocks and blocks of homes on the barrier island.

In the days following the storm, one Far Rockaway couple teamed up to bring emergency medical relief to devastated victims of Sandy–despite being victims themselves.

Dr. John Meringolo (an anesthesiologist) and his wife Margaret (a registered nurse) have been providing medical assistance to residents at a makeshift triage center at St. Francis De Sales Church on B. 129 Street.  “I saw a man this morning, he suffered a head wound when his crowbar slipped and hit him in the head as he renovated his house,” John Meringolo told the NY Post last week.  After applying pressure on the wound, he sent the man to a local hospital for further treatment.

The Meringolo’s home was damaged during Sandy and they were forced to temporarily relocate.  The couple, who have three children, put their jobs on hold to lend a hand to those still suffering. “We took care of our home and kids, now it’s time to help the community,” John told the NY Post.

Dr. John Meringolo is on the Board of Directors of the New York Sportfishing Federation.

Southwest of Queens, across the Narrows in Staten Island, fellow New York Sportfishing Federation Board member John Malizia is also in the midst of Sandy’s devastation, specifically in the Great Kills and Midland Beach neighborhood where eight people in the area drowned during the storm.

“There are many people on Staten Island as well as Long Island that still have no electricity and have heavy damage to their property our prayers go out to them,” Malizia said via email on November 12 after finally getting electricity returned after two straight weeks.  Malizia too was one of the relative lucky ones whose home was spared during the storm. 

“My boat got some damage, but the marinas and homes near the marinas were heavily damaged,” Malizia added.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Staten Island during the Veteran’s Day weekend to survey relief efforts and cleanup programs, where a huge parking lot was filled with trailers and a supply distribution tent, plus another tent where residents who lost their houses were registering for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance. 

According to Staten Island Borough President James Molinari, the biggest problem now is returning power to 10,000 homes which he said can’t be done until each home is inspected to make sure it’s not corroded by saltwater.  Molinari also said that about 17,000 Staten Island residents have been interviewed by FEMA employees and almost $39 million has been distributed.

“Our board of directors is very much a microcosm of New York’s marine district, with representatives from throughout the region from north to south, east to west,” explained New York Sportfishing Federation president Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  “Just like the state overall, some of our board members are in the thick of it, some were spared, but we’re all tied into this thing together.”

New York Sportfishing Federation board member Bob Danielson was activated to the New York Department of Transportation’s Emergency Operations Center in Hauppauge and is working around the clock to help remediate travel issues in that region.  Meanwhile, the board’s vice-president Chuck Hollins is currently working clean-up at the Bob Sweeney Sport Fishing Education Center in Babylon, where New York Sportfishing Federation and other groups regularly meet. 

Fellow New York Sportfishing Federation board member Kathy Heinlein is also president of the Captree Boatmen’s Association at Captree State Park; a NY Daily News report said for-hire vessels in the Captree Boat Basin fleet were mostly unscathed, but they will not be permitted to resume schedules until Captree State Park is reopened which could have devastating financial impacts.

Board member and North Fork charter boat captain Joe Paradiso personally fared well during the storm, saying “both house and boat are ok, thank god.”  Another charter boat captain on the New York Sportfishing Federation board of directors, Capt. Mike Barnett of Freeport, was equally lucky in that his boat the Codfather weathered the storm in its slip. 

“It was like nothing we’d ever seen before. It knocked boats off the blocks and they traveled and ended up on people’s front lawns. It was one big collision in the boatyard with no one there,” Barnett told Newsweek’s Daily Beast.  “I prepared for the worst, and this was much worse than the worst,” he added.

Capt. Mike’s Freeport neighbors were not as fortunate.  “It’s destroyed my business,” said Capt. Frank Rizzo, whose mother, Elsie Rizzo, is the owner of Miss Freeport V, which for the past 12 years has chartered fishing trips and party cruises. “Sandy ruined two boats, ruined the office, and ruined all our storage,” he says. “We were counting on winter business, but I don’t think we’ll have any business now. The way Long Island has been destroyed, I don’t know who’s going to be doing parties.”

Hutchinson said it’s expected that businesses will be reeling for some time due to the sheer devastation, but told the NY Daily News recently that there are other things the government can do to help support New York’s coastal fishing community.  “Throughout New York and New Jersey we have lost so many marinas, bait and tackle shops, and boats damaged beyond repair, (that) our industry is really in a state of despair. It’s not likely we can begin to rebuild, especially with pending regulations that won’t allow us to fish rebuilt fishery stocks.”

“The federal government, as part of its emergency declarations, needs to make an emergency winter opening of our healthy black sea bass fishery,” Hutchinson added, explaining how a federal disaster declaration could provide those party boats with an opportunity to get people back to the fishing grounds this winter to fish on a rebuilt sea bass stock. 

“I know it’s hard, darn near close to impossible for some to think about fishing for fun right now, but in terms of our contribution to the local business community, the sooner our New York Sportfishing Federation members can get back on the water, the quicker we can return to some sense of normalcy,” Hutchinson added.