Sandy Leaves Devastation And Homelessness In Its Wake

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By Walter Taylor (as told to David Greaves)

The Fairway Supermarket in Red Hook was barbecuing as best they could and giving it away. And throwing away food and everyhere. Mounds and mounds of garbage. Everything on the first floor is gone. Fixtures and everything. It was all polluted seawater soaking in there.
Coney Island Seagate area is the private gated community at the end of Coney Island that had sanitation people clearing the roadways. When I went to the shore the brick walls were not strong enough to hold back the sea and had given way. Houses were trashed. Everybody was hauling their furniture, carpet and everything ruined out of their houses.
On Surf Avenue there was lots of sand, like dunes that had moved on the street. Bulldozers are plowing the streets and it was a lot like a snow emergency but with sand. There are buildings 23 floors high and there is a lot of difficulty getting to folks on these high floors. The National Guard was unloading trucks and people were on line with shopping carts. There was lots of food and people were taking what they could and go back to their buildings and made several trips up the stairs.
There are no lights, heat or hot water in high rises. All around there are piles of what looks like snow but is sand.
We went to Breezy Point and saw all the alleyways floated out. Mounds and mounds of household goods were piled out onto the street. The anitation Department had a strong presence helping where they could. Area residents included a lot of firemen and cops and they know how to organize.
The gas lines were orderly because the police did a good job of keeping everyone in check. There were piles and piles of debris along the western shore of Breezy Point. On the eastern shore, the boardwalk was nonexistent. Only some pilings were left. It was the worst. We went west to go over the bridge and passed the 6th Precinct, which was totaled. The police had muster o the street. There were piles everywhere. The street lights were ripped right out of the ground.
They’re going to have to go in with graders. The people are walking around dazed, not knowing what to do. People have to come out of their housing to get relief.
Out in the Rockaways they had a major undertaking going on clearing the streets which was critical. A six-lane street only had 1 and a ½ lanes open.
We went to the Howard Beach area and it was frightening. There were no lights until we got to the Belt Parkway. Everybody is in the dark out there. People who had houses along a mile-and-a-half-long strip got wiped out and their belongings were piled in misery on the street.
When the sun goes down, you’d better be where you want to be because there are no lights and you don’t know where you are. We didn’t see enough food out there. Clothes are wonderful, but you can wear the same clothes for days but you can’t go too long without eating and drinking. It wasn’t pleasant out there at all, and I really couldn’t get through the Rockaways because of the debris on the roads.
The Sanitation Department is using the huge parking lot at Riis Park as a dumping ground just to clear the streets and make it accessible. No way they can vote. We did have one person ask where they could vote, but I don’t think voting is at the top of anybody’s list out there.
It reminded me of the World Trade Center collapse. I was only a block away and I remember thinking it’s going to take forever to clean this up. A lot of people are going to be homeless this winter. They’re going to need people from outside to come and help.