One year after the storm, residents of Coney Island seek to turn the page on a difficult year. Credit: Emily Johnson
The Year of Sandy
One year ago, when the Atlantic Ocean receded to its proper place, the devastation it had wrought was all too apparent in the morning light. Help poured in from out of state, from other parts of the city, from neighbors.
But relief efforts of that scale never last, and winter wore on. For people from Coney Island to Staten Island to the Rockaways, Sandy didn't fade away when the next disaster hit.
It was a long year.
A sign outside the Coney Island Gospel Assembly proclaims Sunday "A day of faith, hope and love."
For event manager Sharon Lundy, it's a day of renewal.
"This is commemorating the resiliency of this community after Sandy," says Lundy, a parishioner who lost everything on the first floor of her home in the storm.
On the surface, Coney Island looks like it always has. But despite highly visible progress — Nathan's Famous is back and better than ever, the Mermaid Parade went on as scheduled, the aquarium is repaired and the library at long last opened its doors last week — about a quarter of the area's 48,000 residents reported after the storm that their homes were ruined, according to FEMA.
Residents and small business owners are still wrangling with government agencies over limited funding. Visibility is a problem: A recent $2 million donation from the National Football League left Coney Island out completely.
Sunday's event marks the end of a difficult year in Coney Island, a sometimes-forgotten community where sinkholes remain a lingering problem. A woman from the Red Cross is inside the sanctuary, doing a presentation on disaster preparedness. The Mercy Chefs are on hand to feed thousands of families, just as they did after the storm.
This time, however, it will be a sit-down dinner — a fitting way to turn the page on a year that, if nothing else, brought a renewed sense of closeness to a formerly tight-knit, classically New York community that had drifted apart in recent years.
"It's been like old times," Lundy said. "It did bring the community closer together. And it's lasted: We just borrowed a generator for this event from my neighbor."