Sandy wreaked havoc all along the coastal areas of New York City, but each neighborhood has its own story to tell. Take Red Hook, a Brooklyn hideaway that’s a mix of old warehouses, chic restaurants and crumbling piers. The area is full of aging seafarers, but nobody could have anticipated the surge of seawater that crept into the streets Monday night.
“It’s a real disaster over in Red Hook,” warned a bartender at Alma Restaurant in the nearby Columbia Street Waterfront District. “It’s not just trees down, cars are on their side and there’s still water in streets.
“I live over there, and I’ve got water up to my chest in the basement,” he added.
A river raged up Van Brunt Street Monday and off into the residential roads, sweeping up cars, potted plants, trash bins and newspaper stands, and littering the streets with debris. Sandbags were no match for the higher-than-anticipated storm surge as it sent water several feet deep into ground floor apartments and turned basements into murky brown ponds.
Residents began the tedious task of pumping some eight feet of water from their cellars Tuesday morning. Others began cleaning up their water-ravished businesses, piling damp furniture on street corners and assessing the damage.
Though the water had receded from most of the neighborhood by Tuesday afternoon, a large swath of Van Brunt Street near the Fairway Market remained submerged. In other spots, a greasy film and clear water line on the red brick buildings were reminders of the tempest the night before.
Just above the flood zone but in plain view of the flooded Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, neighborhood residents gathered at the Jalopy Tavern where the husband and wife owners cooked up a large batch of chili and handed out bowls free of charge for anyone who stopped by. Images of the devastation played like a broken record on the television screen above the packed bar, but most ignored it and instead chatted while a bluegrass duo entertained by the grand piano.
Joe Smith, an overalls-wearing Park Slope resident, said his family was in town to visit him, but was stuck in a hotel in Manhattan.
“With the subway system down and the bridges closed, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to see them again before they head back home,” he said.
Most weren’t sure when they’d be able to get back into Manhattan, but few seemed to care for the time being. They were too busy enjoying the kind of day where people in the city actually stop to talk to each other, where people ask their neighbor how they’re doing and stop by to lend a hand. For that, at least, they can thank Sandy.
Scroll below for a look at the storm damage in Red Hook, Brooklyn.