The Year of Sandy: The Rockaways
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.
Two women are chatting outside the offices of the Breezy Point Cooperative, which occupies a pleasant brick building on Rockaway Point Boulevard.
“Well, ours flooded, you know, but it didn’t burn. We should be back next month.”
“Oh, that’s great! We’re with the in-laws still.”
Conversations like this, struck up in the midst of grocery shopping, have been commonplace this past year in Breezy Point, the idyllic private beach community at the tip of the Rockaway Peninsula that bore the brunt of Sandy’s assault. On the night of Oct. 29, 2012, a hellish series of fires tore through 135 houses, and flooding damaged more than 200 homes beyond repair.
Breezy Point was a ghost town for much of the first six months, but now about half of the community’s 2,837 families have taken up residence there once again, according to the cooperative. Some rebuilding is underway, but many homeowners didn’t have flood insurance and can’t afford to rebuild. Meanwhile, some of those who can afford it have been hampered by difficulties acquiring the necessary permits caused by city officials’ reliance on an out-of-date map.
More than 1,700 residents have applied for federal grant money under the city’s Build It Back program, but the money has yet to materialize.
Along the rest of the peninsula, recovery is chugging along, and residents are marking the anniversary with characteristic grit and humor.
The rumbling of the A train is barely audible over laughter and music at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club, which served as a relief hub in the days after the storm. It finally reopened in August after an expensive renovation and now serves both as local watering hole and community space for events like Peter Brady’s photo exhibition.
Brady is a New York City firefighter, surfer and photographer who captured arguably one of the most iconic images of Hurricane Sandy: a set of three enormous waves rolling in behind the “Welcome to Rockaway Beach” sign, an NYPD van parked next to it for perspective. This photo occupies pride of place behind the bar, but it hangs on the main wall, too, along with a selection of Brady’s other photos taken before Sandy showing the ravaged boardwalk still pristine.
And on Sunday, thousands gathered to join hands along the beach and hold a moment of silence for those who died in the storm. Hundreds of biodegradable lanterns were released into the ocean, bearing written wishes for the future.
Check out the slideshow below.
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