Friday, November 02, 2012

Where Brooklyn At? Sheepshead Bay & Far Rockaway, Post Sandy

Far Rockaway, Brooklyn, via Facebook
I don't usually get too soapbox-y or preachy, especially on this site, which is supposed to be an escapist retreat about fun, and shopping, and cats. But you know what? Fuck those things right now (except for cats). I'm sitting comfortably in my apartment in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I, like most of the "South Brooklyn" area, got extremely lucky. We never even lost power. Red Hook is another story. It's like a third-world country. And so is Sea Gate, Far Rockaway, Manhattan Beach, and Sheepshead Bay. This post by Robicellis on the state of Sheepshead Bay is terrifying. This unending tragedy is far from over. In fact, it looks like it's just beginning in that community. I talked to one Brooklyn woman, like me, untouched by the storm, and sadly she put it best: "It happened right down the street, and I watched it on TV like it was happening in Missouri."

I'm fairly hermetic, so to speak, and stick around South Brooklyn when I'm not working. So I'm absolutely not going to front like I know those neighborhoods intimately. You may not either. Maybe most of your friends don't live there. These aren't neighborhoods that are part of Brooklyn's adult playground or bustling restaurant and cocktail bar sprawl (for which they're probably thankful). These are neighborhoods where generations of Jews and policemen and fire fighters and working-class people have built their homes and put down roots, probably just like your parents did wherever you grew up. Maybe you don't trek out there to do yoga or pick up CSA crops or take your kids to the park or visit some adorable little artisanal whatever shop. But just because this part of Brooklyn isn't part of your geographical map of personal familiarity doesn't mean they're not your neighbors or your community. 
Sea Gate, Brooklyn, via Facebook
These are parts of my own community that are just a few miles south of me. I was in the deli today when a man from Staten Island said his sister's home was completely gone and they're pulling bodies out of the wreckage there and he was taking his children to Pennsylvania so they wouldn't have to see it. It's unimaginable. But it seems like all anyone can focus on is a few miles north of me: Manhattan. Don't get me wrong. I called Manhattan home for five years, and I've worked there for the past 12. Even if I didn't have an emotional attachment to the borough, I, like most people would like to see Manhattan -- especially Lower Manhattan, up and running at full capacity as soon as possible. But it breaks my heart that just a few miles away, entire communities, homes, lives are positively decimated in the wake of this disaster. And in a few days, when more trains are running and more order is restored in our day-to-day lives (side note: yes, I'm judging and jumping to conclusions, and maybe every single one of the 800 people who lined up on Fifth Avenue this morning to get the new iPad mini donated lots of money and goods before they went and stood in line, but otherwise, they should probably all raise their hands and then put them down and go fuck themselves), and everyone's finished posting LOL-Sandy photos on Instagram and this whole thing, for many people, turns into an inconvenient "time we didn't have power and camped out in our friends' living room and drank, ha ha!" cocktail party story, what's going to become of those people and their lives? Those of who can need to move forward, of course, but we can't forget about parts of Brooklyn where sluggish iPhones and having to walk forty blocks and bitching about traffic and buses at the Barclays Center look like a fucking picnic on a sunny day next to literally have no roof. It makes me feel horrendously guilty and powerless and sick to my stomach to know that people just a few miles away don't have heat or even homes while I have both. And that bodies are floating to the surface of what used to be the suburban streets and now is a polluted river in Staten Island. Who is helping them? And how quickly? How are we living in two different worlds separated only by a few miles? What can I do?

This isn't about race or wealth or privilege or class divides (although, yes, deep down, I do believe that if Sandy had hit my neighborhood or Park Slope or the more "popular" "gentrified," "Renaissance" areas of Brooklyn, you'd be hearing a lot more about it, and it'd get cleaned up a LOT faster, so whatever -- I probably just contradicted myself). It's about an emergency. If your home was leveled, and your block looked like this, you'd be like WHERE THE FUCK IS EVERYONE, AND WHY ARE THEY NOT HERE TO HELP? 

Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, via Facebook
I've donated to the Red Cross. I've given household goods to the Red Hook Initiative. But I don't feel absolved (not that my feelings make a single difference in this case), but I don't know what else to do. I realize this is an unprecedented tragedy, and the answers and the planning aren't easy.

* Fucked In Park Slope has put together a list of places to volunteer in Brooklyn.
Brokelyn has some helpful relief updates
* SheepsheadBites has good updates about Sheepshead Bay.
* New York Daily News has really excellent up-to-the-minute coverage of the relief effort
* SILive has ways to help Staten Island.

But what's next? I don't know. I'm all ears.
Red Hook, Brooklyn, post-Sandy

Sea Gate, Brooklyn, post-Sandy


Terri Waters said...

Looking at images like this really do make us feel blessed, don't they? Such a catastrophic thing to happen to the East Coast.

I LOVE Brooklyn. When I've visited, I've really felt like I've connected with it because something about it reminds me of where I'm from in the east of London. Seeing Far Rockaway like this really saddens me. Thoughts to everyone affected by Sandy - you are definitely one very lucky lady :)

- Terri

Unknown said...

My 92-year-old bedridden mother in law lives in Manhattan Beach, across the street from Sheepshead Bay. Her house is structurally in tact, but no heat and no electricity. Thank you for reminding people that this is happening.

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