Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Post Rockalyptic Landscape

Today Rebecca and I rode our bikes the roughly 15 miles to Rockaway Beach.  I loaded up a UPS/battery backup unit on the back (to help folks charge phone batteries), Rebecca packed some food and off we went.  Once we crossed the Marine Park/Gil Hodges bridge we saw lots of homes pumping water from the basement, and mud everywhere.

As soon as we hit 116 St things began to get weird.

The combination of flood and fire at 114 St has created a post-apocalyptic landscape that looked like a war zone.  Smoking, and in spots still flaming ruins of buildings and muddy sand covered everything.  Fences were twisted, cars were piled up on each other in parking lots.  Search and rescue crews from other states swaggered around, as if trying to project an image of control, but yet seemed conspicuously listless, as if under no command.  And that was just the beginning.

We arrived on 96 St.  The apartment we had been scheduled to move in to last Sunday had mud all over the door and exterior wall, and the high water mark was visible which immediately told us the interior had been flooded.  We opened the door to find muddy carpets and soggy sheet rock, and damage to the doorknob suggested would-be looters had tried to jimmy the lock.  We moved on.

The boardwalk is gone as far as the eye can see.  The only part remaining is the concrete foundations, which lends a surreal Planet of the Apes kind of feeling, especially with waves breaking peacefully in the background.

We arrived to 90 St and Rockaway Beach Blvd to find cars stranded in the middle of the intersection which is now a lake.
On 91 St, a massive section of boardwalk has come to rest atop a mini-Cooper, complete with intact benches and streetlight still erect.  Some local residents stoked a bonfire in the street, adding to the post-civilization feeling.

The bungalow is still standing, despite having taken on 18" of seawater, muddy surfboards were everywhere, having been stirred about by the sloshing, and the entry alley is one long sand dune.  Shaw kept us in a good mood with jokes but summed up what we were all thinking by admitting he didn't know where to start.
The last stop was the Rockaway Beach Surf Club and friends that live next door.  Brandon D'Leo was on site cleaning up, and told the story of watching the ocean send the boardwalk down 91st on Monday night's massive tide surge, to the point where the street light was bumping against his 2nd floor apt.  

The surge in the shaping bay hit nearly 5 feet, sending surfboards, containers and power tools everywhere.  Most of the fiberglass is ruined, probably most of the tools, and the cleanup is going to be major.  At least the blanks, mounted high up on the wall, were spared.

J Scott K told me Monday night was the scariest thing he'd ever lived through.  The neighbors piled into the 2nd floor of his house as water rapidly rose in the space of 15 minutes to become a raging river of seawater, mud, debris and sewage, swamping his truck and causing his first floor to vanish beneath the waves.  How must that have felt for him and Lois, to look down from the 2nd floor loft on rapidly rising water levels inside their home, probably in near darkness, I can scarcely imagine.

I have to admit being really impressed with the humor and strength of character I saw on display.  Hard times and a lot of rebuilding are ahead.  But as we dropped off some food and batteries and prepared for the long ride home, Keone paused from cleaning mud out of his place and stopped me.  "Have you seen the waves out there?  They're not looking too bad!"

And so Rockaway lives.

If you'd like to help, check out TimeOutNY's excellent list of places you can plug in.


  1. aw man sad post, great character shown by those folks out there. where there is surf there is hope.

    Rockaway Beach Surf Club at 87 St and Rockaway Freeway (under the elevated subway) has rapidly booted up as a relief center and base for volunteers. Just drop by and announce you'd like to volunteer, and it's a depot where you can drop off supplies.

    Occupy Sandy is another outfit which seems well organized:

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