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Monday May 25th, 2015 7:42PM

Tempers flare in NJ city where thousands stranded

By The Associated Press
HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) -- Officials in the city of Hoboken, N.J., are defending their response to severe flooding from superstorm Sandy.

Public Safety director Jon Tooke says at least 25 percent of the city on the Hudson River across from Manhattan remains under water. He estimates at least 20,000 people are stranded and says most are being encouraged to shelter in place until floodwaters recede.

Tempers flared Wednesday morning outside City Hall as some residents complained the city was slow to get food and other supplies out to the stranded.

Tooke says emergency personnel have been working 24/7. He says the "scope of this situation is enormous."

National Guard troops are delivering food, supplies and gas canisters to people who need them. They are also evacuating people with medical problems or other special needs.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

National Guard trucks rolled into this city on the Hudson River to deliver ready-to-eat meals and other supplies and to evacuate young professionals and other residents who decided that after two days stranded by floodwaters, they wanted out.

The mayor issued an appeal for people to bring boats to City Hall to help take people from their condo high-rises, brownstones and other homes as an increasing number of calls came in from people asking to be evacuated.

"We are doing what we can but we really need more help," said the mayor's spokesman, Juan Melli.

Hoboken is a compact, one-square-mile city of 50,000 with many narrow streets that still retains its working-class grit, but also has come to be known as a great place for young professional families, including workers on Wall Street just across the river in Manhattan.

Samuel Scott Cornish, 34, who lives with his wife, Katie, and newborn son, Jack, in a luxury apartment complex on the border of Hoboken and Jersey City, said he was told to move his Subaru to a different area inside his building's garage for safety before the storm, only to discover it floating in water.

Superstorm Sandy sent the raging Hudson overflowing its banks into their building at least a quarter-mile away. The garage is now filled with water-soaked cars, including a BMW floating upside down in a deep rampway full of water.

Cornish said the storm itself was initially a bonding period with neighbors he once only nodded hello to at their doors - and now considers friends.

Many downtown streets still have 2 to 4 feet of water and are nearly impassable.

But now that Cornish and others have been able to get outside their homes and see a bit of dry sidewalk for the first time in days, folks are realizing the full scope of the damage and are getting antsy.

Cornish was deciding Wednesday whether to evacuate to his parents' house in Summit, where they have no power.

"I'm debating, no power and a colder house in Summit, or stick it out here with some auxiliary power that will only last until the building runs out of diesel," he said.

In Cornish's building, the generators gave them auxiliary power only in the hallways. He said doors were open and neighbors were sharing; some had refrigerators plugged in the hallway or worked on laptops.

At one condo building where power remains out, residents decided to celebrate Halloween on Wednesday afternoon.

Kathy Zucker, the condo president, said she had three children under the age of 6.

"They are going a little stir crazy," she said, "but they are hanging in there."

Zucker said children would be going door to door in Halloween costumes at 1 p.m.

Around the city late Wednesday morning, people in hipster glasses and designer rain boots swept up mud-caked front sidewalks clogged with debris as National Guard trucks rolled through the area. Others got around with their legs wrapped in garbage bags.

Payloaders had been used to get people out for medical emergencies, but Melli said the streets are so narrow they can get stuck.

P.J. Molski, a 25-year-old graphic designer who lives in Hoboken, said his place is dry but his car, which he left parked on a flooded street, won't start.

Almost every basement apartment he has seen in the small city, which makes the most of its housing stock, is flooded, he said. The mayor had asked residents of those units to evacuate Sunday.

"There are just pumps going all over the city of people trying to get the water out of their basement apartments," he said.
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