New York City's Elderly Worry As Temperatures Dip

The elderly residents of Wave Crest Gardens in Queens know things could be worse. Their building didn't get washed away, or lose a roof, during Sandy. But they've been without heat and power for a week, and some residents are increasingly worried.

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

Now to Far Rockaway, Queens. It's a sandy spit near JFK Airport, hit hard by Sandy. Mayor Bloomberg toured the area over the weekend and was met with anger over the response to the storm. People are cold. Supplies are trickling in. The area has a number of retired and elderly residents. And Stephen Nessen of member station WNYC checked in on some of them.

STEPHEN NESSEN, BYLINE: Just off Seagrit Boulevard in Far Rockaway is the Wavecrest Gardens apartment complex, where many residents are retirees. A lot chose not to evacuate. The buildings there didn't suffer the worst of the flooding, but power is still out. And residents like 65-year-old Star Lindstrom are getting anxious.

STAR LINDSTROM: Just because we're not underwater doesn't mean we're not suffering. We're suffering. We're in a hole, and it's dark, and it's cold, and it's freezing cold. And it's so scary at night.

NESSEN: Lindstrom is checking on her friend, 74-year-old Arlene Weissberg. Weissberg's ground floor apartment is humid from gas burners cooking water all day for warmth. Weissberg has a 45-year-old mentally retarded son who's usually in a day program. Now, he's home, and without the TV to keep him calm, he lays in bed with a small radio. Weissberg is worried he may get out of control or freeze during the night.

ARLENE WEISSBERG: It's a hard thing when you're alone in the house. We're like prisoners here. At least in jail, they tell you things, what's going on.

LINDSTROM: (Laughing) You know your sentence. We don't know what our sentence is.

WEISSBERG: We don't know.

NESSEN: Things are a bit better next door at a senior housing complex called JASA. Residents there are also in the dark. JASA says nearly 600 of the 1,500 residents remained during the storm. But here, at least home health aides are on hand, and volunteers from various organizations stream in all day to deliver food, diapers, candles and batteries. And Jon Rigolo, a Virginia Beach fire captain, is here with FEMA to check on seniors in the area.

JON RIGOLO: We're concerned about people staying warm, people using gas stoves for heat, not being ventilated appropriately, things like that. Also perhaps leaving the gas stove on, if something happens to the gas service, now you have a gas leak if it's turned back on.

NESSEN: But the power is still out, and many residents in nearby apartment buildings are not being checked on. The local power company hopes to have 90 percent of power restored by tomorrow. For NPR News, I'm Stephen Nessen in New York.

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