Reporting on the September 29 New York City Flooding

Despite the catastrophic events that followed the storm, it’s important to consider the extent of the efforts taken by the Stuyvesant administration in ensuring the security of those students, as was made possible by a well-managed network of communication and collaboration among staff.

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New York City experienced an unprecedented rainstorm that led to mass flooding in downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, and multiple major subway lines on Friday, September 29. Stuyvesant students arrived at school as usual that day, without any official warnings regarding the state of the weather. Though the rain picked up throughout the day, most didn’t expect the outcome of the storm to be so disastrous as to cause major subway delays and the flooding of downtown neighborhoods.

Many Stuyvesant students, especially those who entered the school earlier, found the conditions that morning to be manageable, even noting that it seemed like a typical rainy day. “It seemed to have been a normal gloomy and rainy day in the morning, with a moderate amount of rain that wasn’t that big of an issue,” junior Austin Ruan said. He recalls being quite unconcerned about the rain, as it didn’t impede his commute to school or cause any hassle.

Other students, however, heard heavy thundering and observed quite a lot of rainfall the morning of September 29, instilling some level of caution on their way to school. “The water was dripping from my awning on the top of the steps [and] into the stairs and it was going continuously. I was thinking to myself [that] maybe I should stay home, but I couldn’t [since] I had a quiz that day,” junior Zarrin Ahmed said. “So I just hopped on[to] the R and got to Stuyvesant relatively wet.”

Though many students came into the building soaked from the rain, the actual impacts of the storm were not addressed until much later. City officials eventually realized the potentially hazardous nature of the situation during the afternoon, by which time Stuyvesant administration were contacted and an announcement was made declaring the immediate shelter-in of the school. 

According to Assistant Principal of School Safety and Security and Physical Education Brian Moran, there are two distinct ways in which the general response protocols, including shelter-ins, can be activated. The first is at the school level in response to a localized threat or unsafe condition, and the second is initiated centrally by the Department of Education or the city. “The shelter-in due to the weather on September 29 was initiated centrally and we were informed through the superintendent's office,” Moran said. After receiving notice from the city, the Stuyvesant administration activated a shelter-in. The Building Response Team was mobilized to provide lunch, after-school supervision, and cancel after-school activities. These updates were declared through school-wide announcements during eighth period, when many students were planning to go home.

The announcement, along with the severe city-wide train delays, instilled much anxiety into students regarding their commutes home and the general gravity of the situation as a whole. “I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to get home [...] I was also a little anxious that my basement might flood, since that tends to happen,” sophomore Carmen Gomez-Villalva said. She recalls conversing with her dad to discuss commuting plans in the case of persisting train delays and mentioned that her home location being in Manhattan appeased a lot of her anxiety. This comfort, however, wasn’t so easily applicable to the large numbers of Stuyvesant students residing in the four other boroughs.

After the administration established the shelter-in, their priority shifted to maintaining the safety and well-being of students. “We decided to use the large space of the theater to house students waiting for pick-ups, assisted them with finding alternate travel plans (due to subway cancellations), and addressed any other student needs,” Moran said.

Students’ commutes home proved difficult due to the flooding of multiple train stations, from both east-west running lines in Manhattan to tri-borough lines, such as the E and R. This resulted in many students either feeling anxious about the uncertainty of their commute or exasperated about the tedious nature of it all. “I walked 30 minutes in the pouring rain without an umbrella, only to end up waiting another 20 minutes in a crowded train station for a slow train that took an hour to get to my station which usually takes 20 minutes,” Ruan said. Ruan left a little after ninth period, when the rain was still quite heavy.

Ahmed, who left after 10th period, experienced similar delays in her commute and had to wait a long period before being able to figure out her transit home. “All my trains were completely closed in, like flooded. It [was] pouring and I waited at the Dunkin near Stuyvesant. I was cold and tired and was not feeling great, and I was still wet,” Ahmed said. “My mom started calling and frantically trying to figure out a way home, and [we] tried calling an Uber [...] but they canceled.”

However, beyond simply rousing anxiety among students and lengthening commute duration, the storm had disastrous impacts on many communities in New York City, especially those in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. Many Stuyvesant students suffered extensively from severe flooding in their homes. Such infrastructural breakdowns led to hardships in living conditions, as well as requiring costly fixes. “The flooding completely wrecked my basement due to blocked sewers that led to a sewer backup. I know many other homes in my area were flooded too,” senior John Fang said. “There’s still a mark about five feet high in my basement from the flood.”

Fang adds that the flooding of his house resulted in the adjustment of his family’s living situation and severe monetary losses. “Since our basement, where my grandma lives, was flooded, she now lives with us on the first floor. My grandma lost everything, sentimental and materially. My brother lost his $50,000 Pokémon collection,” Fang said. “We were completely taken aback by the flooding because this has never happened before, at least not to this extent. We’ve experienced floods of a few inches, but a few feet was unexpected.”

Fang reflects on the impacts of the flooding by expressing the unexpected severity of the storm, its extensive costly ramifications, and his initial emotional decline following the disaster. “My mental health went down for a bit because I could not accept the effects of the flooding. I think the biggest part of my sadness was when my parents told me it would take at least $20,000 to renovate the basement,” Fang said.

Despite the catastrophic events that followed the storm, the administration made a considerable amount of effort to ensure the security of students, which was made possible by a well-managed network of communication and collaboration among staff. “Principal [Seung] Yu and I rely heavily on the hard work of the entire staff, including custodial, school safety [and] deans, counselors, and support staff during emergency situations,” Moran said. “This storm certainly worsened throughout the day and caused travel difficulties, but I was very proud of our team's response in support of students and how everyone remained calm throughout.”