Charles Smith

Older than I once was, younger than I will be

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A tale of two Rockaways

I’ve now made four trips out to the Rockaways with supplies and I’m just now starting to understand the enormity of the logistical challenge facing NYC as we face this recovery.  The challenge varies from neighborhood to neighborhood and the contrast is stark in the Rockaways. 

It’s no secret that there is a vast income disparity in the Rockaways- The western end has an annual median income of $67,393 while the eastern end’s median income is $29,059.  These two Rockaways are facing vastly different challenges now:

The west end consists of single-family homes close to the beach and many of these homes are destroyed completely. Those that aren’t still face a complete recovery- there is water and sand everywhere, the electronics are shorted out and the cars are flooded.  In this part of the island, I’ve been met with tears from a woman when I hand them a shovel.  This part of the Rockaways faces a long recovery.  There’s fear here, but there’s also hope. 

The eastern end thankfully didn’t see the amount of personal property damage (at least that I saw) that the western end did.  The issue here is more basic.  Without power and heat and with nowhere to go, the residents are facing a long winter of fear.  Here, I was met with weeping when I delivered a flashlight.  Here, you can feel the panic as it creeps closer to dark and the shelters have to begin turning people and food away because if they don’t close at four, it gets dangerous for those manning the shelters.  That’s right; deliveries of hot food are turned away because it is getting dark.  You can feel the fear of those in line for food- if they don’t eat by four, it may be the next day before they do eat.  If they don’t get a flashlight, it’s another night of climbing a dark staircase 8-10 flights up to your apartment. 

I’ve often said that there’s no index on grief.  Individual pain is immeasurable- all of the Rockaways is feeling this pain, but the cause of the pain is different for these two distinct neighborhoods within a geography. 

It’s heartbreaking either way. 

I’m heading out again on Tuesday- check out this list and see if there’s something you want to contribute- let me know and I’ll try to get it out there (smithc at gmail):  

Thanks for reading.  

  1. sandersak said: You seen the sandy stories on Backspaces?
  2. winenutnyc posted this