Diocesan News

Churches Deal With Cleanup Headaches, Damage Assessment, After Ida

WINDSOR TERRACE — The floodwaters of Hurricane Ida have receded. Now, for churches and schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn among many other sites, comes the hard part — cleaning up.

The remnants of Ida packed a punch across the diocese, flooding several churches, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and leaving pastors and maintenance crews with the headache of cleaning up the mess.

At St. Mary’s of Winfield Church, Woodside, Ida’s wrath destroyed much of the lower church — including an adoration chapel that had just opened in February — as well as statues, pews, a monstrance, and the church’s video and audio systems. 

The flood waters rose rapidly at St. Mary’s of Winfield Church in Woodside. (Photo: courtesy of Father Christopher O’Connor)

“Everything is gone,” said Father Christopher O’Connor, the pastor.

The storm that hit the Northeast on the night of Sept. 1 was so powerful that the floodwaters had still not receded the following day. “I have six feet of water in my lower church right now,” said Father O’Connor, speaking to The Tablet Thursday morning.

As the storm was raging, Father O’Connor did what he could to save whatever he could; however, it was an uphill battle. 

“Water was just gushing from the outside in. I put out a 40-gallon garbage can trying to catch the water, but it filled in 30 seconds,” he told Currents News.

Thirteen people in New York City died in the storm, including 11 in Queens. The rainfall was so hard and so fast that many residents living in basement apartments had no time to escape to higher ground. Parts of Brooklyn and Queens saw six or seven inches of rain in a matter of hours.

The city’s subway system — inundated at some stations — came to a halt for several hours before service was partially restored on Sept. 2. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul requested that President Joe Biden approve an emergency disaster declaration for areas of New York State that included all five boroughs of New York City — a request that he granted.

Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary, Elmhurst, was badly flooded, said Father James Kuroly, the rector-president.

“There was about three to four feet of water in our parking lot. There was just so much water that it was too much for the drain and not anywhere else to go, [so] it comes into our building through the back door,” he said. “It flooded our cafeteria, our Ford Center, which is like a media center, and our locker room.”

“One classroom sustained water damage, but that is not expected to affect the opening of school on Sept. 9. We’re able to maneuver it so that that classroom will be used,” Father Kuroly said.

“Our entire church was flooded,” said a woman who answered the phone at St. Frances Cabrini Church, Bensonhurst, Thursday morning. The church is a basement sanctuary located below sidewalk level. “People told me it looks like a swimming pool down there,” the woman said.

Father Israel Perez, administrator of Holy Child Jesus — St. Benedict Labre Parish, Richmond Hill, reported that Holy Child’s rectory was flooded, as well as the school’s gym and cafeteria.

The storm’s power came as a shock to many. 

“I was in my office upstairs, and I heard what sounded like a waterfall,” said Father Kuroly, who lives on the Cathedral Prep property. 

“I thought it might have been something like my sink was left on. I walked out of the room and came into my living quarters. The balcony was flooded. The water was coming inside. I was shocked by how massive–how much water there was, but also just how quickly it fell,” he said.

The Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Williamsburg, was largely spared, but there was some flooding in the rectory basement, said Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, the pastor. The church’s school also was affected.

“There was at least three or four feet of water in the school, the monsignor said. “It was horrible.”