Likes many of my friends and neighbors, I returned home this morning to survey the damage left behind by the historic pre-Halloween s'nor eastercane Frankenbeast monster
known as Sandy. (Technically, she came ashore near Atlantic City, N.J. as an unholy mess of damaging winds, crashing waves, and torrential rain that, in more manageable words, is being dubbed by the meteorological community as a post-tropical “superstorm.”)
My home of well over six years, the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, has received a hefty amount
of pre- and post-Sandy news coverage
due to its low-lying, flood-prone geographical location in Upper New York Bay. And then there’s the semi-isolated, semi-gentrified neighborhood’s scrappy n' salty — yet stroller-friendly — bohemian-in-a-longshoreman-cap vibe that, for better or worse
, has made it a popular drinking destination
, art and design enclave, and a buzzy darling of the New York Times real estate section over the past couple of years (the Times' National Editor Sam Sifton’s Twitter feed
over the last 48 hours has been a decidedly Red Hook-centric affair ... apparently, he's a resident).
The waterfront village is most famous for an organic farm
, waterfront park, and the tastiest key lime pies known to mankind (and IKEA, of course). And given its insular, hard-to-be-anonymous nature, it's a neighborhood that knows how to pull itself by its bootstraps when the going gets rough.
The NYT described
the scene in Red Hook just hours before high tide rolled in, Sandy's winds picked up, and things got real ugly: “Throughout the day, the pioneer spirit that has brought chicken coops, beehives and funky bars to a once-desolate industrial stretch of Brooklyn was on full display, with residents hoisting Brooklyn Lager and goblets of red wine.” Cringe-y as it is, that's pretty much the Red Hook mythos in a nutshell.
Me? I decided not to stick it out and obeyed the mandatory "Zone A" evacuation orders on Monday evening, long before the National Guard rolled in, Van Brunt St. was transformed into a fast-moving river complete with floating cars and oversized planters (Red Hook is home to a couple of excellent garden centers), and horrifying images like this
began to emerge from the close-knit community.
"Lake Fairway" this afternoon
As anticipated, Red Hook suffered tremendously in the storm. It’s a legitimate disaster zone. The smell of diesel fuel is overwhelming, the number of felled trees staggering, the extensive flood damage to homes and ground-floor businesses is widespread.
Returning home this morning was a sobering, saddening affair made only more aggravating by the hordes of iPhone-wielding disaster tourists who had descended on the beleaguered neighborhood to snap post-Sandy portraits of destruction. At one point I overheard a woman — apparently there just for Instagram-ops in one of New York's worst-hit neighborhoods — ask a couple of long-time residents, busy pumping out water from their flooded basement, if she could use their bathroom since all of the local cafes were (obviously) closed for business. The look she received in return was, well, very Red Hook.
Although I live in a fourth-floor walk-up apartment and was unaffected directly by the storm surge I'll probably be displaced for the foreseeable future given that my entire building smells like a toxic chemical spill site (apparently, my landlord was stockpiling polyeurethane in the basement which leaked during the flooding). Plus, there's the whole no-electricity-for-at-least-a-few-days thing. Still, I consider myself lucky ... I only lost a fridge full of fancy condiments to the storm.
I know that Red Hook, a community in the truest sense of the word, will eventually recover from its waterlogged state
and my favorite place to buy bottles of lambrusco in threes, Dry Dock Wine + Spirits
, will soon be dry once again. I'm looking forward to once again returning home ... and staying this time.
My favorite tree
The end of my street
She didn't get the message, apparently
The other end of my street
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