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Residents take Jet Skis, Trucks for Joy Ride in Flooded Newark

Some angered by waves from vehicles

For some in Newark's East Ward, the flood waters that transformed some streets into lakes in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene became an occasion for fun on Sunday.

Two men were seen jet skiing up and down South Street in the ward's Ironbound neighborhood, sending rippling waves to people's already waterlogged homes. A black muscle truck and other vehicles also went on joyrides through Malvern Street, angering more residents who were pumping water out of their basements.

"It was crazy," said Lydia Matos, a Newark resident, who saw the jet skiers with her daughter Sandy Matos.

One man in his late 20s was riding a green jet ski on South Street around 1 p.m. and another man on a red jet ski also rode the more than one foot tall waves that lapped the sidewalks as their friends watched, Sandy Matos said.

"They were having fun," she said.

Christina Queiruga said she heard about the jet skis and came to the scene to check whether they were still there in the late afternoon.

"I thought that was hilarious," she said. "It's the only way to get around Newark these days."

Finally, relatives of Matos who live near South Street, called the police because they were angered at the jet skis' waves that were sending water to flooded basements.

Matos' neighbor, Jose Evaristo, said he and other people tried to stop the driver of a black muscle truck and other vehicles from taking joy rides up through flooded Malvern Street, which was also sending waves into the exterior basement stairs of his home and neighbors' houses.

"He kept on going back and forth and we tried to stop him," said Evaristo about the black muscle truck. "He was laughing. They think it's fun, but it's not fun."

Newark Mayor Cory Booker tweeted, "A lot of complaints re the now two jet skiers and the real danger involved I've deployed police to address the situation." Police did not issue any tickets or make any arrests.

In the Ironbound, if they were not taking pictures of the flood, people took measure of any damage to their homes. 

The central business district along Ferry Street was largely untouched, but there were large bodies of water in many pockets of the Ironbound such as South, Malvern, Chestnut, Jefferson and Oliver streets.

About six inches of rain had reached the low wall surrounding the exterior basement stairs of Evaristo's house, he said. Evaristo said the pumps in his basement kept rainwater out. The only sign of the hurricane in the basement was water filling up a bath tub and a toilet, he said.

Freddy Feliciano, who lives in an East Kinney Street basement apartment, said a foot of water was in his home, destroying furniture and his surround sound system.

"I didn't think it would be that high," he said.

Steven Outing and his wife Tanya Outing, who live at a multi-family home at Oliver and Jefferson streets, said rain water did flood the basement, filling it half way.

Their washing machine was caught in the flood, but their fellow tenants, who live in the basement, had to flee because of the deluge, they said.

A man, who would only give his name as Tony, said he was checking on his in-laws who live at a water-logged home at Jefferson and Oliver streets.

"We are fighting a losing battle," he said about the flooded basement, which was filled with 14 inches of water.

The sump pumps were furiously trying to get rid of water in the basement, but he said, eluding to the already wet conditions before the hurricane, "There's no place for the water to go."

"This water usually recedes a couple hours after a storm, but this hasn't gone down," he said. "This thing hasn't gone down in hours."

Around 3:25 p.m. Sunday, there was still more than a foot of water at Jefferson and Oliver streets.

"They spent millions of dollars on this sewer line and we are  still getting the same results," the man said about past repairs.

Assemblyman Alberto Coutinho (D-Essex) acknowledged that parts of the Ironbound's sewer and storm water system have been repaired, but he called them band-aids, "The city needs a major upgrade."

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