Waiting for the Next Storm, Part 2: Elderly and Disabled on the Waterfront

May 15, 2013

Coastal towns in Connecticut are already gearing up for another hurricane season less than a month away. This is the second of a three-part series examining vulnerable areas on Connecticut's shore. (Read more in the Connecticut Mirror here.)

Yesterday I visited Morris Cove, one of New Haven’s most desirable neighborhoods right on Long Island Sound. Now, we head to a very different residential area on Connecticut’s coastline.

“We are at Czecsik Homes. Is a elderly and disabled and disabled housing complex in the city of Stamford. It is within the 100-year floodplain," says Vin Dufo, director of Stamford’s housing authority.

Like many public housing complexes across the region, Czescik Homes was built more than 50 years ago on land no one else wanted. Fifty housing units are all in small one-story buildings with no flood protection.

So in a storm situation, Dufo says, “Everything is vulnerable in this complex. There’s nothing above the first floor.” Every time a big storm looms, residents are evacuated.

Patricia Williams has lived here for 10 years and she’s tired of it. “Every time we get a storm, we've got to get out," she complains.

Evacuating before Sandy was a particularly harrowing experience for her. "I was praying, I was actually crying," she says, recalling how she felt.

"[I said,] I’m going to take everything up and put it way up high in case the river came in. I got home, three days later, and thank God…it got to the door, the back door and that was it. So I was happy.”

But Vin Dufo says she may not be so lucky next time. “It did not inundate the building. Had the water risen any higher, as it was predicted to do, it would have inundated the building by several feet.”

To protect Czescik Homes, Stamford’s plan is to relocate it outside the floodplain altogether. Stamford is still waiting to secure $13.5 million for that project. Meanwhile, you can hear construction in the background as we’re talking – it’s from across the river. An office complex is being built with a huge concrete wall to protect it from flooding.