You Think Your Street Got Hit? Check Out Haven

Thomas MacMillan PhotosJason Goodson had an unwelcome house guest drop by Monday night. When she left, everything in his bedroom was destroyed and soaking wet.

Goodson lives in one of a half-dozen homes on Haven Street in Fair Haven that were damaged by flooding overnight as Superstorm Sandy swept through town.

City crews’ initial tours of Sandy-battered city neighborhoods Tuesday morning revealed that Haven Street may have been among the hardest hit of all.

Houses on the west side of Haven Street back up to the Mill River. Sandy carried swells of water with her that swept into backyards and basements there Monday night. Goodson’s basement bedroom was destroyed by the flooding. His landlord said he and his girlfriend would have to move out while the place was fixed.

Livable City Initiative (LCI) staffer Eddie Rodriguez took a look at the damage Tuesday morning, part of a small army of city staffers who were surveying damage and overseeing clean-up around the city after the storm.

While Sandy seems to have largely spared New Haven from the worst of her wrath, many homes were still without power Tuesday morning. Others were bailing out from flooding. The mayor had ordered several of the most vulnerable parts of town evacuated during the storm, including Haven Street. Neighbors returned there Tuesday morning to find their backyards filled with water.

At 9:30 a.m., LCI staff huddled in a third floor office at City Hall, where LCI’s Rafael Ramos handed out marching orders. He assigned buildings and areas of town for his men to scope out, with special attention to housing for the elderly. Rodriguez volunteered to check out several buildings, and to cruise down to Haven Street.

Rodriguez, a 12-year LCI veteran, headed there first. He strapped his fleece LCI ear-warmer around his head and put on his Dolce and Gabbana aviators. Then he hopped in his red GMC astro van, which has a Mercedes ornament fastened to the grill.

He turned left off of Grand Avenue onto Haven Street and slowed down as he peered into backyards.

“Right here. We got it,” he said, pulling over. He jumped out and saw the yard flooded behind 80 Haven St. A toppled tree had smashed a cinderblock wall.

“Holy Christ,” he said. “This is a bad one.”

“It’s nothing unusual,” said a man who said he owns 84 Haven St. He declined to give his name. It’s the second time this year the yard has flooded like this, he said.

He said his grandfather built his house in 1901 for $368. The water came in Monday night up to the man’s thigh in the kitchen on the bottom floor.

“What a mess,” he said. “Everything is upside down.”

Rodriguez snapped some pictures with his city-issued tablet, then checked out 80 Haven St., where sandbags against the basement door hadn’t kept three feet of water from seeping in. The water had receded, but still filled the backyard.

Erik Espinoza (at right in photo), who’s 20, had a pump running to push water up through a garden hose to the street. He said he and his family just paid $5,000 to repair flooding damage from Irene, which was even worse.

Rodriguez shut the power off to his furnace and hot water heater. They might be damaged by water and could even explode, he warned. He told Rodriguez to get a professional to take a look before firing up the furnace.

“I suggest you get some fans in here,” Rodriguez said. A film of water and silt covered the floor. “This’ll dry up quick.”

“It sucks,” Rodriguez said.

Back outside, Rodriguez visited another house and shut off the gas after smelling it in the air.

Goodson and his girlfriend, Crystal DeLeon were out walking their 3-month-old Cocker Spaniel, Charlie. They began to relate their Sandy story.

It only took five minutes, Goodson said. The water came in all of a sudden starting at 9 p.m. Pretty soon the bed in their basement bedroom was floating.

“You see Katrina, you’re like, man!” Goodson said. “I didn’t know the water rises that fast. I’ve never seen nothing like that before.”

Goodson and Rodriguez visited the damaged house at 102 Haven St. The blue carpet in the bedroom, littered with debris, squished underfoot. Rodriguez shut off the power to the furnace. Goodson described how he’d frantically thrown his belongings (pictured) up the stairs to the first floor as the water came in. He and DeLeon ended up sleeping on the floor upstairs.

Rodriguez called the property manager, All Star Management, formerly Apple. Mario Leite showed up and took a look.

“Should we move them out? Let’s move them out,” he said. He said the basement had just been repaired after Irene.

Rodriguez checked a couple of other homes, snapped more pictures, handed out his card, then hopped back in his van and drove to Fair Haven Elderly Apartments on Saltonstall Avenue, where there were no problems.

Back in City Hall at the 11:30 a.m. debriefing with Ramos, Haven Street turned out to have been the worst area inspected by LCI since Sandy.

Ramos took that information and headed to the Emergency Operations Center for a noon meeting between the mayor and department heads, to continue orchestrating post-storm clean-up.

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