Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween


Gareth and I hope you enjoy this video we created
in honor of the day entitled, The House on Albemarle Road .

After spending the entire day on Coney Island, the walk home from the bus stop was a bustle of young trick or treaters. Their fun energy was a delightful, welcome reprieve from the more somber part of my day, walking among the miles of debris on the beach.

Hurricane Sandy - Updates Continue...

Wednesday, 9am

 Every day, I'm learning that more and more of my favorite areas here have been devastated or destroyed.  These include: South Beach on Staten Island, the Red Hook area of Brooklyn, Far Rockaway Beach in Queens and Coney Island. And I'm learning that more and more people's lives have been affected in enormous ways.

Today and for the next few days, I'm setting out to see the neighborhoods in Brooklyn and beyond for myself.  With limited transportation, this will be difficult, but I believe that witnessing the effects of the hurricane instead of reading and hearing about it through others, will be hugely important for me.  I continue to feel isolated and cut off from the impact of the hurricane, which of course I'm grateful for on the one hand, because I'm safe and secure, but this disconnection is also leaving me feeling increasingly agitated and angry.

Here are a few photos from my neighborhood, taken during a late night walk last night.  At an elevation of 66 feet, we were fortunate to be safe, and most of the damage done here was from the winds knocking trees down in to yards, cars and houses.

Tuesday, 2am Update & Photos

All is well.  It's 2am and I'm in a safe area of Brooklyn. It seems that, after teasing us since yesterday, Hurricane Sandy has had her fill and, like a jilted lover, is moving on.  

The winds were light this morning, but picked up continuously throughout the day, mixing with the intermittent drizzling and dampening rains.  A handful of people were out, visiting, drinking coffee, stocking up on supplies and braving the weather right along with us.

Us is me and two other people who are renting rooms at the house. Gareth a stocky, outgoing man from England with a laid back, easygoing attitude and a great sense of humor, and Catharin from Austria, a quiet young woman, generous with her stories and her snacks, boasting a gentle laugh and an adventurous spirit, always eager to run out with me in to the rain, to explore and to escape the bland indoors.  I was not delighted to spend a large part of the day stuck indoors, but I was delighted to have been stuck indoors for a large part of the day with these two fun loving, open and kind individuals.  

We ventured out earlier in the afternoon for strong, hot cups of coffee and pastries, and a fresh air walk in nearby Prospect Park.  The wind wreaked havoc on trees, splitting them in front of us and ripping the branches from the limbs and the limbs from the trunks. The water from the small lake lapped at the shore and a pair of swans huddled nearby, their heads tucked firmly beneath their wings. Squirrels darted across our path and as the ever-increasing wind galloped upon our backs, so did our pace to get out from beneath the canopy of large trees and back in to the more safe, open area of the sidewalk.

A quick stop at a small store for essentials (chocolate, beer, candles), followed by hot showers to soothe our chilled bodies, we spent the remainder of the afternoon and early evening inside, chatting, eating, drinking pumpkin beer, reading, listening to the news on the BBC, online and on MSNBC.  Gareth's online browsal and ensuing running media commentary on what was happening just miles from our doorstep kept us informed and from feeling so isolated in our second floor brownstone.

As the evening wore on, the hands on the clock reuniting over and over, 1, 2, 3... and cabin fever arrested us, Catharin and I donned our still-damp rain gear and spent over an hour walking the dark streets in the increasing winds and rain.  Few people were on the streets, and we gingerly made our way amidst scattered roof tiles, shredded awnings, garbage cans, bags and cardboard littering the sidewalks, and street signs and traffic lights bending and swinging.  The endless parade of tree branches and limbs marring the sidewalks caused us to hesitate to walk beneath the larger trees, and so we crisscrossed from sidewalk to sidewalk, one side of the street to the other, picking our way back home in more open, safe spaces.

Gusts of wind danced in and around us, whipping our hoods from our heads and plastering our wet jackets to our bodies.  We were immediately grateful for the warmer temperature and only light rain when we realized we were heading in the opposite direction of our intended route, realizing this as the wind's whipping became more intense and stopped us in our tracks for fear we'd be carried away. Quickening our pace, we arrived home breathless and anxious, but were soon relieved when Gareth shared that rather than being about to pounce upon us, the storm was passing by.  Anticlimactic sighs of relief filled the room.

The day had a surreal feel to it, hour after hour of ominous waiting.  Waiting and listening to the winds ebb and flow, the windows shake, lights flicker.  Waiting and watching the trees outside the front windows bend and shake, shaking off their coat of leaves. I found myself feeling unsettled and extremely restless, frustrated at not being able to take a bus, train or taxi to be closer to the "action".  This being right here in the city, but isolated from the energy, the heartbeat of the storm...

Exhausted and relieved, it's 1am here now, and we're all off to bed.  The adrenalin will slowly release its hold on us, as we each fall in to deep slumber, soothed by the constant drone of the wind as it skirts up and down the streets and alleys and lands in our dreams. And so we'll dream, of the wind and of the branch-scattered sidewalks, splintered tree trunks and acres of autumn leaves in a rainbow of colors, carpeting the ground beneath our damp shoes.  

Monday 9am Update:

Link to evacuation zones:

Photos of Hurricane Sandy from NBC website:

More Photos from NBC website:

11pm Update:

* Subways shut down as of 7pm

* Buses shut down as of 9pm
* Currently, mild wind
* 75 mph hurricane force winds with heavy rains projected to hit New York City late Monday
* A walk through the neighborhood reveals that smaller Mom and Pop stores still have plenty of bottled water, milk, bread and other necessities.
* Police patrolling the streets in my neighborhood say that city-wide neighborhood reports state that people are calm and well-behaved. 

2:30pm - 10pm: 

Instead of walking the neighborhood, I decide to catch the train to Coney Island for an hour or two.  Instead, I spend the entire day on the beaches, soaking in the amazing light and energy, and visiting with interesting New Yorkers, including many exciting "firsts" for me.  Watch for a separate post tomorrow, with stories and images from my time on Coney Island.

2pm Update (as reported by housemates and neighbors):

The neighborhood Food Lion grocery store runs out of bottled water, milk and bread.  Store Manager is unsure if more supplies will arrive tomorrow morning.  Two of the three corner stores close early, but the one on our corner will be open until midnight, like always.  The owner and his wife are always quick to serve up hot coffee and warm smiles.

10am Update: says:

"MTA Directed to Move Forward with System-wide Shutdown


The MTA has been directed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to begin an orderly shutdown and suspension of all subway, bus and commuter railroad service at 7pm Sunday.  The decision was made to protect customers, employees and equipment from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy as the strong storm continues its march up the east coast."


This morning, I'm gathering supplies and preparing for Hurricane Sandy.  My staples include
bread, peanut butter, jelly, cheese, bottled water, fruit, salad supplies, chocolate, matches, candles, batteries and, beer.

Reports are that the MTA will close down the trains by 7pm and that most of the city will basically "tuck in".  This all seems like a scene from a science fiction novel to me, and when out last night, no one that I mentioned the hurricane to seemed very bothered or too concerned.  For now, I'm out to walk as the wind gathers, to get some images of the neighborhood, and to see how Brooklyn'ites are preparing...  

A Very Somber Day

After being up until 4am, restless and agitated, I slept through my alarm and woke at 10am.  I met Gareth at the coffee shop around the corner and coffees in hand, we picked our way up the streets towards Prospect Park to assess the damage to the areas we visited the day before, the day of the Hurricane.  

Streets were littered with trees limbs, trees were slashed across fences, split and bent in yards, smashed in to front, back and side windows of cars. Everywhere we looked, the damage was the trees. And although we were not surprised, we were still incredibly saddened to see these sentinels struck down.  Now, as I review my images hours later, the sadness settles even deeper in to my heart as I see the already-dying trees and the other people equally devastated by the loss.

Here are images from Prospect Park earlier today, the day after Hurricane Sandy...

Red Hook Area of Booklyn Devastated!

If you've been following my blog, you'll have read my posts about and seen images from one of my favorite areas of Brooklyn, a place that I've visited twice: Red Hook.  This area of artist studios, the huge Ikea store and amazing waterfront with a rare view of the facing side of the Statue of Liberty and an amazing organic grocery store...  It's one of the places here that was hit hard.  I'm so sad to have received the following email via a member of the photography group that I visited Red Hook with less than two weeks ago...

Got this secondhand :(

this just in from my friend Jordan Bowen : "Harrowing and sombre walk through darkened downtown Manhattan today, across a very windy Brooklyn Bridge and into my devastated neighborhood, Red Hook. Diesel fuel coats the street, basements are filled with water, the Fairway supermarket is completely destroyed. A worker carting spoiled food out to a dumpster told me all the lobsters died."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Coney Island: Stories, Images & Video of an Island on the Edge of the Storm

Up and down the Boardwalk at Coney Island, business owners and their employees fill sand bags from the beach that's soon to invade their front steps. Piling the bags  against the doors, an attempt to keep the impending flood of waters out.

A city worker shifts the frontend loader down, down the length of the beach, pushing and scooping the heavy sand in to neat rows of makeshift barriers.  Workers across the City are doing the same at all of the other beaches, including Manhattan Beach, the area of Red Hook, Far Rockaway Beach.  This is man using nature against herself, in an attempt to meet her halfway and hope that she is kind.

Consistent to what I experience in my own Brooklyn neighborhood, the locals and visitors at Coney Island are taken the hurricane warnings in stride. They're: not afraid of the storm, feel prepared with adequate supplies, not concerned about being called to evacuate; are not happy that the police are driving up and down the boardwalk, announcing that the beach is closed and that they are to stay away from the water.  These Coney Islanders are curious and they're not staying home, at least not at this moment... 

I feel badly for the NYPD.  They drive up and down the boardwalk, announcing that the beach is closed and asking everyone to stay away from the water.  As the days goes on, more and more people are drawn to the water's edge and the announcements become louder, more urgent and more insistent.  And still the people flock to the pounding surf.  They could arrest those who don't respond, who aggressively rebel, but I don't see them do this.  Instead, the cars pace back and forth, sirens flashing, speakers repeating the same message again and again. People ignore the yellow tape and step under, over and through it, so intense in their curiosity.

And I am guilty.  I'm one of those who wants to experience nature's force, to witness the awesome energy of the water as the storm approaches under a full moon.  Soon enough, I will be driven to hesitantly leave the Island, forced both by the impending darkness and the trains and buses shutting down.  Here today, the line between the NYPD's responsibility and an individual's personal responsibility heavily blurred in the ever-darkening, wet, heavy sand.

Here's a video of the Bay at Coney Island on Sunday, shot while I stood on the pier. The energy of the water is immense and there's no stopping the curious from her shores. 

And some images.