Kudos to all at The Wave for the spectacular special edition last week. Let’s see, what was I doing at this time a year ago today? Watching water from the morning tide come up my street, which is on the bay side. Upon seeing that some people on my block grabbed some things and left. How much worse can it get, I thought, especially when we took a walk down to the beach at noon and all the water had receded? “It doesn’t look that bad,” I said to my companion. I went home and blogged “The Real Perfect Storm” (http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-real-perfect-storm.html) which included a piece of video I shot that afternoon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUt4Y0L9oTg&feature=youtube). I ended the piece with, “Next high tide is 8 p.m. tonight, the big one where we expect to take in some water. The idea is to turn my basement into a swimming pool.”
Little did I know that with water up to the basement ceiling swimming was not an option. Writing that sometime around 3 p.m. on October 29 shows just how arrogant and insular I was about the dangers.
The effects of the storm go deep and trigger many memories. On August 1st, 1979 we took title to our house. Our next door neighbors came over to introduce themselves. Born and bred in Rockaway, where they had a business, they had raised three children. Over the years we became friends despite the differences in our ages – they are now in their 80s – a very robust 80s I dare to say. As newcomers to Rockaway, refugees from East New York and Flatbush in Brooklyn, their visit, along with others on the block, made us feel welcome.
They left the day before Sandy to stay with friends and over the next few days we were their only source of information, mostly bad news – “don’t even think about saving your car.” They were not able to move back into the house they had lived in for almost 50 years until the spring and went to Florida. When they returned in April to a house restored they had made their decision. A few weeks ago they moved out, headed for Florida for the season with no plans to come back to Rockaway. While this move was probably inevitable, the Sandy experience was the decisionmaker.
Sometime this week new neighbors will be moving in, not newcomers but leaving one Rockaway house for another – a young couple with deep Rockaway roots and three very young children. On that August day in 1979 when we took title, one of the people down the block who came by to say hello was the aunt of one of our new neighbors. The ebb and the flow.
A Tale of One City?
Returning to my theme of the past few columns about inequities in Rockaway. I had written about the new “Doctors of the World” free clinic that is opening two days a week: Rockaway health, where over 20 percent of the population has no health insurance, being equated health-wise with the poorest areas of the world. Last week WNYC continued their Life After Sandy series with a piece titled, In Public Housing, Temporary Boilers Are Here To Stay (For A While). The story focused on the situation facing some residents of the Hammel Houses.
Catherine Darby, an elderly resident of the Hammel Houses in the Rockaways, said when she turns on the “warm” tap in her bathroom, cold water comes out about half the time. To draw a bath, she has to boil water on her stove. The next step is particularly tricky, because Darby uses a walker. She places the pot of hot water on the seat of the walker, then maneuvers it from the kitchen, down the hall, to the bathroom. “That’s what I do," Darby said. "It’s a lot, but if you want to wash up, you don’t want to be smelling. You got to wash.” Like many residents, Darby believes the temporary mobile boiler that now serves Hammel is unreliable. The structure looks jerry-rigged, consisting of a large plywood house and a truck with Texas plates, which emits clouds of steam. Weeds are growing beneath the wheels.
With so many Rockaway residents living in public housing damaged by Sandy, that is a story that must be told. Rockaway post-Sandy problems are not all about how high we need to raise our houses. The little potshots at de Blasio who actually at least talks about addressing these problems (I’ll believe it when I see it) show a Rockaway insularity that does not benefit us in the long run. Let’s not just tell a tale of only one city.
Rockaway Theatre Company
The reopening of Fort Tilden gave the RTC an opportunity to put on “Boeing Boeing” for the final three performances that were postponed due to the shutdown. (Video highlights, https://vimeo.com/75933374). The day after the final performance, Tony Homsey led a crew to take down the old set and start putting up the new one for a reprise of “Inspecting Carol” one of the funniest shows the RTC has done. Look for details in The Wave.