By Geralyn M. Ryan, Reservist, External Affairs, Joint Field Office, NY
Floyd Bennett Field’s storied history in Brooklyn began in 1931 when it was an airfield used by, among others, Howard Hughes and Amelia Earhart. At the beginning of World War II it was converted into a Naval Air Station and quickly became one of the busiest airports in the United States. It continued as a Navy facility after the war and served as the landing point for a young Marine by the name of John Glenn, Jr., when he broke the transcontinental air speed record in 1957.
Andrew Hubert and Michael Topel did not know much about Floyd Bennett Field when they arrived in New York City in response to Hurricane Sandy. Although they may not go down in the history books with Hughes and Earhart, the fast, efficient effort they and other members of the FEMA National Incident Management Assistance Team Blue (IMAT-Blue) put forth that night and over the next three days was very impressinve and helped make life better for many New Yorkers.
Andrew Hubert, the Staging Area Group Supervisor for the team was at home in Herndon, Va. when he was activated for the response to Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 26. He left for New York City that day and immediately began arranging to bring in pumps, generators, food, water and other commodities from FEMA warehouses in Atlanta, Georgia and Frederick, Maryland. in advance of the storm. As Sandy made her way up the Eastern Seaboard, trucks began rolling in filled with equipment and personnel.
Also based in Herndon, Michael Topel, Service Branch Director of the National IMAT-Blue team, happened to be busy working in Louisiana at the time in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. When Topel got word he was needed in New York, he too quickly made his way up the East Coast.
Floyd Bennett Field was one of the few available places near the disaster that could handle over 170 trucks of commodities coming in and out each day.
A day and a half after the storm made landfall, Topel and Hubert were onsite to receive 60 trucks of food and water that arrived at Bennett Field. Within three days, its vast expanse was stocking over 1 million liters of water and 1 million shelf stable meals. Pumps and generators for hospitals and nursing homes also arrived from all over the country.
Hubert, Topel and two other FEMA employees, joined by a few members of the New York Police Department, quickly set about organizing the supplies, which were distributed by the National Guard. Between Nov. 2nd and Nov. 20th, more than 900,000 meals and 830,000 liters of water were distributed (500,000 of them donated) to dozens of points of distributions throughout damaged areas. The site also served as a fueling station for first responders. Gas was pumped directly from tankers so that police, fire crews and FEMA employees had the ability to travel throughout the city to assist Sandy’s survivors.
As the gas lines disappeared and the city begins to recover, Topel and Hubert’s lives are slowing down – a little. They are only working 12 hours a day – down from 18 immediately after the storm –primarily on retrograde operations, which means taking inventory and packing up the trucks to be shipped back to storage areas for the next disaster. FEMA and its state and local partners will keep some of the supplies on site and continue to use Bennett Field as an operations base, should more resources be needed in damaged areas.
In the meantime, Michael Topel and Andrew Hubert may have some time to go out and take a look at the runway where John Glenn, Jr., landed his Vought F8U in 1957.