Sheepshead Bay hasn't been getting as much attention as other parts of NYC that have been ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, but that doesn't mean things aren't bad for residents there. Electricity is still down in many neighborhoods, flooding has damaged countless homes, and locals say there's been an inadequate response by FEMA and Red Cross. And they've had to worry about looters as well: "We're all keeping an eye out once the sun goes down. We're trying to ward off looters and stuff like that," said Brian Otano. "It's fucking miserable here."
Brian and his brother Jason have been staying with their mother in her home at East 23rd Street, between Voorhies Avenue and Shore Parkway, where she's lived for over 30 years. The brothers told us that they've been sleeping with knives, fire extinguishers, and other weapons (no firearms): "It's common sense stuff, keeping stuff on hand, sleeping with weapons," said Brian. "It's not like Lord of the Flies, we're not fashioning spears or anything."
"There's no power on this block, no heat, no electricity," Brian continued. "We just got a hold of a generator, but it's basically useless unless we can find gas." He said the outages are spotty: you can bike two blocks in any direction and find fully-powered homes, but they're too worried to leave their home because of looters. "One person made the fortunate mistake of going into a retired officer's house," said Jason, who has previously run for state Senate in the 18th district in Brooklyn. "It didn't turn out well for him."
"Nobody on this block came out okay, there's been a massive amount of destruction," Brian said. He noted that FEMA came by to see one house on the block, but they haven't received much aid besides that. What they really need is Con Ed to come fix the power:
"It's one of those situations where we're basically fending for oursleves, until those agencies show up," Brian added. "Our basement is flooded floor to ceiling, there's a foot of water on the first floor...our story is not unique, everyone on the block is dealing with the same stuff."
But neighbors are watching out for each other: "We've been patrolling, keeping our eyes open," said Brian. "There's a family with three women down the block, they're plunged completely into darkness, no street light or anything. So we're conscious of families like that."
Matt Kerestesy saw a similar dynamic when he went to bring supplies to a friend in Sheepshead Bay. "The little bungalow community she lives in was nearly wiped out by Sandy," he told us. "Several homes were destroyed and flooding destroyed all of the personal belongings in the houses still standing. If that's not bad enough looters moved in and cleaned out all the houses of people who evacuated." You can see some more of his photos from the trip here. "It was a little scary down there," he added. "The house my friend is in probably isn't safe to be in, structurally, but she can't leave because looters will ransack the place."
We spoke to the Red Cross this afternoon, who said they should be in the neighborhood later today. And it seems Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has also heard the reports:
@redcrossny Please send unit to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Residents advising us here in Brooklyn Boro President's Office they need help.
— Marty Markowitz (@MartyMarkowitz) November 3, 2012