By Jill Colvin, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer
NEW YORK CITY — Hurricane Sandy ravaged public schools in low-lying areas across the city — and new photos released by the Department of Education Tuesday show just how bad that damage was.
The images, released ahead of a City Council hearing examining the DOE's recovery after Sandy, show the stunning destruction wrought by the storm, which tossed pianos like toys around auditoriums, inundated boilers and electrical equipment with flood waters and left hallways blackened with mold.
The photos also show hallways of schools in Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan strewn with debris — and even a starfish left on a stove burner at P.S. 239 in Queens.
"Hurricane Sandy was an unprecedented and devastating event for our City," Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in his prepared testimony to the council.
In addition to "severely" damaging 50 school buildings, the storm left many others without boilers, heat and phone lines, displacing nearly 75,000 students in 61 schools.
Most of the damage, officials said, was caused by flooding. Water rose as high as the first floor in some schools, and also damaged gym floors and athletic fields.
The winds and water also knocked over fuel tanks, leading to oil spills in seven buildings, which required hazardous materials response.
To help prevent future damage, the city in mulling changes, such as installing new doors and flood-guards, using more flood-resistant materials and re-locating boilers and electrical equipment to higher ground.
"While all of our schools are back in their home buildings, our work related to Hurricane Sandy is far from over," Walcott said.