Hurricane Sandy swept across the Eastern Seaboard on Monday evening, carrying a sea surge that flooded downtown Manhattan and left millions without power throughout the Northeast corridor. There were 62 dead nationwide and 26 fatalities in New York State alone by Wednesday afternoon, with officials expecting the number to rise.
Taken in that context, North Brooklyn was largely spared, though certainly not without its share of scars. In Greenpoint, those scars came from Newtown Creek, whose brackish waters spilled into the industrialized northern terminus of the neighborhood. According to Kate Zidar of the Newtown Creek Alliance, water rose and rushed from the end of Manhattan Avenue down to Greenpoint Avenue, and from McGuinness Boulevard and down to Java Street, leaving extensive property damage in its wake.
The chaos from the overflow was evident throughout that section of the neighborhood, even the following day: under the Pulaski Bridge, cars had flooded and stalled out. The Motiva Enterprises Gasoline terminal on Paidge Street sat in stagnant water running clear across its parking lot. Ash Street was still covered in tires and debris. From basement apartments on Clay Street to art studios on Commercial Street, residents and business owners alike used generators to pump water out in an attempt to pick up the pieces.
To the neighborhood’s relief, initial reports that sewage had overflowed at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant were unsubstantiated, said Ted Timbers, Press Secretary of NYC Environmental Protection. “We encourage residents to observe existing advisories regarding Newtown Creek, and will work with the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] to determine any potential impacts that result from flooding. Residents should wash their hands and practice proper hygiene if they come into contact with the canal’s water or sediments,” he said.
In contrast to Manhattan – where Con Edison said 250,000 customers lost power – electricity in North Brooklyn largely stayed functional throughout the night, but flooding remained a problem. On Freeman Street, neighbors Karolina Romanji and Mark Mastalerz assessed the damage done to their respective properties. “I’ve got two water pumps, so it’s okay,” said Romanji. “A little water in the foundation.” Mastalerz was not as lucky. Around 8:30 PM, seawater started coming up through his toilet, sink, and bathtub, flooding the basement of his home. Using a bucket, he began desperately bailing the water out onto the street, only to see half a dozen neighbors doing the same. “It took us four hours to get all that water out,” said Mastalerz. Then, gesturing to the neighboring houses, “A lot of us are feeling pretty sore today.”
Along the East River edge of Greenpoint, damage was comparatively marginal. Red Star Bar was open for business, as it had been the previous day, and Tara McCarthy was once again serving drinks. “It was packed all day and all night,” McCarthy said of the day of the storm. “People were just happy that we were open. I closed around 8:30 because I wanted to get home. But we had customers still trying to get in, right until closing time.”
At the Far Better Towing Company lot on Franklin and Dupont Streets, an aluminum fence came down. The following day a tow truck to pulled the property back into place. “There was no problem with the cars, and everything stayed safe and dry,” said Jennifer Achan, secretary of the lot. “I guess the wind was on our side.”
Assemblyman Joe Lentol said the city is due a lot of credit for the work done in preparation for the disaster. “Everything was done remarkably well from the state level to the federal level down to the city,” he said. “We dodged a big bullet. I haven’t heard of anybody who got hurt or worse, and that’s the most important thing. I haven’t heard of anybody who had to be evacuated for a prolonged period of time, and it seems everybody is back in their houses.”
More photos can be found here.