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TWO WEEKS AFTER SANDY, my friend M., who has invested huge sums of money and energy fixing up a 1930s bungalow, above, in the far reaches of Queens, New York, has just had her first experience with FEMA. A few blocks of vintage bungalows in the beachside community of Far Rockaway, survivors among a onetime colony of thousands, took a beating in the recent storm.
Most of the time, the beachfront location is a plus. M. thoroughly enjoyed her first summer in her bright, colorfully renovated bungalow, whose interior is shown here. She had even been considering living there full-time, as many of her neighbors do. After Sandy’s havoc, she’s probably not so sure.
Power has not yet been restored. The water went as high as 3’3″ in M’s basement (fortunately she has one), ruining her brand new boiler and hot water heater. FEMA came last Friday to assess the damage. M. says the assessor seemed generous on his visit, noting damage she had missed and putting it all in his report. Twenty four hours later, with efficiency I never imagined the Federal government capable of, she had an email from FEMA. The decision: M was to be given a grant of $499.99 (why not a round $500?) and offered a Federal loan of 50K. “So much for that!” she says.
M.’s report from the front today: “The situation out there is getting desperate, not so much in the bungalow colony, especially with the weather warming up a bit, but elsewhere. Utter devastation and too many poor people, too much public housing. Lines for food and supplies everywhere. Nothing much open business-wise and I wonder how many of them will reopen. Looks like a Third World country.” Transportation is still disrupted; the commute to Manhattan, normally under an hour, can take four.
Rockaway’s unique bungalow community will survive and who knows? In years to come, the whole area may see a turnaround. But it could take decades. Right now, focus is all on clean-up. “It’s exhausting,” M. says. “And I was one of the least hard hit.”
To read the back story of M’s search for a Rockaway bungalow and see photos before and during renovation, go here.
Among the perennially popular posts on this blog are two that constitute a bungalow-by-bungalow tour of the colony as it looked in February 2012. Rainy Day Rockaway, Part I is here For Rainy Day Rockaway, Part II, go here.
SANDY IS A TERRIBLE NAME for a hurricane; it sounds like a girl you dated in high school. This massive hybrid “superstorm” needed a much more formidable name. Medea, maybe, or Zarathustra.
It was strange. Here in NYC, there wasn’t much rain at all. High winds pushed waters from the East and Hudson Rivers up onto the land, an unprecedented and very frightening event. The north Brooklyn neighborhoods hardest hit were Red Hook, Gowanus and DUMBO. I haven’t seen the damage myself. I’ve been here high and dry, in my Prospect Heights apartment; when Mayor Bloomberg says to stay inside, I stay inside. It was only on seeing the shocking photos and videos, and hearing stories, that I began to grasp the extent of the destruction.
I’d come into Brooklyn from my Long Island cottage for a jury duty summons on Monday, now cancelled until further notice. Lucky I did, because my community in Springs was power-less for three days. Waiting out the storm here, snug in my brownstone pied-a-terre, I dodged the Sandy bullet completely. Prepared for the worst with food for three weeks, buckets of water, enough candles to fully observe every Jewish holiday between now and the year 6000, Sandy blew through Monday night while I slept. My lights didn’t even flicker.
When I ventured out, tentatively, on Tuesday afternoon, it was to meet a friend in one of the few open cafes. By today, Thursday, any venturing is still, of necessity, on foot. Public transportation is just resuming on a very limited basis. The shuttle buses the city has organized to replace the flooded subway lines between Brooklyn and Manhattan have their own long queues, above. Roads are gridlocked, and there are long lines for gas as well. For me, with my flexible lifestyle, these are only the merest inconveniences.
Yet for many, life has stopped. It’s apocalyptic in some places; you’ve seen it on the news. People are stuck in Manhattan high-rises, running low on food supplies. They’re rescuing people in rubber boats from Hoboken row houses. Overheard today at the gym: “…under two feet of water…” “..lost both cars and a motorcycle…” “…had just retired to the Jersey shore…” Meanwhile, my upstairs neighbor just told me, sheepishly, she had fresh-made mozzarella for lunch, from a fancy, well-stocked deli in Cobble Hill.
Today, I go about my quiet business with an enhanced attitude of gratitude.