On Friday night, ANIMAL toured Staten Island’s south shore, the area hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy and there was destruction everywhere. Homes that weren’t outright destroyed by the surging water, were obscured from the street by car-high piles of their belongings — toys, fitted hats, clothes, wedding albums, records, a silver soccer ball, refrigerators, guitars — that were being tossed out as trash all along New Dorp Lane and side streets.
There was an eerie silence that enveloped the streets, which was only interrupted by the sound of Sanitation Department trucks busy hauling away debris. On Hett Avenue the agency’s front loader could be seen using heavy equipment to lift chunks of wood and concrete into waiting dump trucks. Red and green stickers dotted the houses, indicating whether a location was inspected. Red was bad news, green was good. There were lots of red stickers.
Father Capodanno Boulevard got hit very hard as mud covered the street and downed power lines and sinkholes could be spotted along its strip. Midland Beach was also in very bad condition. Like its neighbor across the way, I observed at least a dozen devastated homes and others just clinging to life. A spray painted sign in front of one badly damaged home read: “No Trepass, Gun.” Explicit NWA lyrics were scrawled on another (pictured).
Over in New Dorp Beach, as the temperatures dipped, the 30-something-year-old owner of King’s Deli and his six friends — one of whom was a resident — and two dogs (they were in a cage) maintained a raging bonfire in the side yard. They said they were protecting the neighborhood. “There’s a lot of crazy people out here,” said one of the men. “It’s been horrible here. If you come here in the daytime you see everybody struggling.”
Another man sitting near the fire chimed in, “Houses are getting bulldozed. The foundations are bad from all this water.” There was a Mercedes in the yard with its hood open revealing a water ruined engine block amidst other debris.
A garbled public announcement over a loudspeaker from the direction of what is supposed to be a FEMA recovery center crackled into the night, but no one really paid it any mind, its inaudible message sounding more like background noise in a scene for a post-apocalyptic movie. And then the reality of the situation quickly sets back in.
“It’s like the end of the world out here,” said one of the men as we exited what was left of the yard and headed back to civilization in Brooklyn.