Those expecting shocking photos of Coney Island's amusement attractions reduced to post-hurricane ruins will be disappointed. The rides were largely spared while many residents will remain without power or heat for days as temperatures dip. "For the first couple of days there was nothing here, nobody here," resident Sandy ("Yes, like the hurricane,") Feyjoo said yesterday as she stood in front of two large FEMA tents distributing food and toiletries. "It looks a lot better now."
Some residents of Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach, both of which suffered substantial flooding and still lack power, insisted that Coney Island needed more assistance than their neighborhoods. "A lot of people are cleaning out their basements, and the people who lived in ground floor apartments must be devastated right now, but the initial shock is over," Jason Otaño said as he cleared debris out of his mother's Sheepshead Bay home. "Coney Island has those high rises, they have to be worse off."
In Gerritsen Beach, a crowd outside Resurrection Roman Catholic Church cheered after loading up two giant military trucks full of clothing and food to be taken to the Rockaways. Inside, volunteers chatted with people sipping steaming coffee. Outside, costumed children gathered along Gerritsen Avenue before a delayed Halloween Parade.
At Surf Playground in Coney Island, several hundred volunteers, some dressed in Mountain Hardware apparel, others wearing shirts bearing the New York Road Runners logo and carrying Nalgene bottles, were told that most of them would not be needed. "Thanks for coming everyone but there's nothing we really have for you at the moment," a New York Cares representative told the crowd. Some posed for pictures with National Guard members in front of their Humvees.
On the corner of West 22nd Street, Majdi Abusabe was mopping the mud off the floor of the deli that has been in his family since 1986. His friends swigged 8 oz bottles of Corona and carried loads of ruined goods and soaked drywall out to the curb. "We threw everything into the garbage, everything," Abusabe said. "All together it's nothing short of 80, 90 thousand in lost product. That's if I'm going easy. See this square?" He pointed to a massive gap in the floor tiles. "That was the deli case, and we had just gotten a new order in last week. You can only imagine what we had to throw away in there."
As for his friends, one of whom interrupted the conversation to confirm that he had indeed settled a $5 bet with another friend, Abusabe said, "They did right by us. They stuck by us. Look, it could be worse. My brother lives on 28th Street, he lost his whole house." Feyjoo, who works as an aide in public schools, lives on West 21st with her daughter and two grandchildren, said, "The neighbors have all been good to each other, checking up on one another," though there had been a few robberies.
"I heard the super got robbed, but he lives on the first floor, and that was completely flooded," she said, adding, "Thank God I live higher up." Feyjoo's neighbor, who declined to give their name, began to weep when she saw a man who she identified as a man who lived next door. "He had all these animals in his yard—chickens, roosters. I told him to get them inside but he didn't. They all died," she said, tears welling in her eyes. "I'm so angry I can't even look at him."
Along Surf Avenue, several canned food and clothing distribution stations were well-stocked, and by 3 p.m. refused further donations. Red Cross representatives offered dry, warm places to spend the night, and NYPD officers ensured that lines for hot dogs, soup, and blankets remained orderly. The hard work of somehow getting back to normal, even without power or heat, was beginning.
Check out our photos and report from Staten Island's Midland Beach last week here.