Brooklyn, NY – The scene is almost indescribable. Facades of homes are torn off. Houses have been wrested from their very foundations. Brick walls and slabs of concrete are violently tossed and strewn about. A microwave oven can be seen lying on its side in what is left of a front yard. A cheerful floral mural painted on an inside wall and a closet still containing clothes and shoes can be seen through what was once an entryway. These are all remnants of the lives of many residents of Sea Gate, Brooklyn.
The now calmer sea belies the destruction it callously inflicted and left behind. An eerie and hushed silence has fallen over what was just days ago a vibrant community. Home to many Orthodox Jewish families, Sea Gate is a small gated neighborhood in Coney Island. It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on three sides.
Sea Gate resident Razie Lefkowitz told The Forward (http://bit.ly/ScQl2V) that she and a few of her five kids were watching the ocean waves on Monday night at about 6:30 PM when the water began to rise quickly. “We basically just ran away,” she said. Lefkowitz’s home is one of the few still standing.
On Oct 30 2012, VIN News Photographer Eli Wohl took to the streets of Sea Gate to witness the devastation. watch below the video. scroll down to end of article for photos.
For 65-year-old Jeff Nier, there was nowhere to run. He and his wife decided to wait out the storm inside his home even as it filled with three feet of water. Nier said he could not have escaped even if he wanted to because the storm had swept up three cars and two SUVs and deposited them in a mashed heap right on his front lawn.
Instead, Nier and his wife took refuge on the second floor of their home, where they remained in good spirits throughout the ordeal. In an interview with the Associated Press (http://on.wsj.com/RsKPMt), Nier said, “Where am I gonna go? I got three dogs. It was just a surge, but I didn’t think it was gonna be like this.” Fortunately, Nier’s home survived mostly intact.
Speaking in Yiddish, Ickle Schwartz told how his father Meir Ber tried to evacuate the flood zone by driving along Neptune Avenue, but became caught up in the rising water and was forced to abandon his car. In order to save himself, his father jumped atop a garbage truck where he remained for hours. He was eventually rescued by a tractor truck driver who drove him to safety a few blocks away and dropped him off at a local Pathmark.
Councilman David G. Greenfield of Brooklyn toured the decimated area shortly after the storm ended to survey the extent of the damage. He described what he saw as “devastating.”
“The devastation I personally witnessed last night in Sea Gate while visiting with Boro Park Shomrim Safety Patrol members was absolutely devastating. The sheer destruction and havoc caused by this storm was heartbreaking. There are homes that were literally washed away by Sandy. But to their credit, the spirits of the residents that I met were strong. They are resilient and are determined to rebuild as quickly as possible,” Councilman Greenfield said.
The resilience of Sea Gate’s residents is evident in their comments about the destruction. “The Abishter helft, God helps,” said one man. Another woman who lost her home and possessions blessed God for saving her and her family.
Looting has become a concern for many residents. The Boro Park Shomrim have successfully addressed this issue by setting up a command center in the area. Councilman Greenfield had high praise for the Boro Park Shomrim. “I especially want to thank the Boro Park Shomrim for setting up their command center there, maintaining a visible presence to prevent looting and assisting the people of Sea Gate. These residents of Sea Gate are our friends, relatives and neighbors. We must do everything in our power to help them rebuild as soon as possible.”