Sandy’s Mementos: Brighton Beach and Coney Island

11 Nov

Are natural disasters the new normal?

How often have I asked myself that question after any kind of change?  I don’t know if I’ve ever come up with any answer other than:


Resilience has to be the new normal for thinking about work, the economy, personal tragedies, and especially the environment.

Especially the environment?  Without the environment, there is no life as we know it.  No life as we may want it.  Hint:  Hurricane Sandy

Election day in Brooklyn at the makeshift polling place for displaced Brighton Beach and Coney Island residents, the consensus was natural disasters are the new normal.

More of Sandy’s Global Warming Warning:

The ‘F’ train runneth! NYC’s subway system is miraculously  up and running a week later. Thanks to this amazing system, MILLIONS of New Yorkers don’t need cars, lessening our carbon footprint.
I’ll be singing the F train’s praises for weeks to come, and not complaining about its quirky service.

On Thursday, two days after the hurricane, partial F train service brought me about 1/2 mile from the ocean.

Avenue X.

Walking down this street on my way to Coney Island, everything looked ‘normal’.

Except for the towels draped on fences.

And the garbage bags.

I stopped to talk to this man and his wife.  In 55 years this is the worst they’ve seen as the ocean turned their street into a river, flooding basements.

They were lucky.  Of course they were two of the most optimistic octogarians I’ve ever met.  I was lucky to have met them.

A man we would all want for a neighbor! The dark mark on the telephone pole shows the height of the water surging down the street flooding basements, moving cars.

The new normal? Cars that find themselves new parking spaces? Less than a mile from Coney Island.  Hundreds and hundreds of cars now sit sand-dusted and abandoned, ready to be trashed!

Deciduous trees buried in sand almost as high as the boardwalk. Seen as you walk to the boardwalk between Coney Island amusement park and Brighton Beach

Brighton beach is filled with fruit and vegetable stands like this one, opened Thursday after Sandy even much of the street and neighborhood was without power, or, stood flooded. Open stores like this gave comfort that life would be, could be ‘normal’ again.

Yet, over a week later, people are still without heat and hot water, elevators that work.    Many have to walk down then up over 20 flights of stairs to shop – and on Tuesday to vote.  Needless to say, many did not make the trip.

Arriving at the Brighton beach boardwalk and looking down at the restaurants filled in summer with (mostly) Russian residents luxuriating in their ‘Little Odessa’ – it almost looks normal – but it’s not

Brighton’s wonderful Tatiana Grill weighed down by Sandy. Brighton’s residents are immigrants – from Russia – who years ago made this neighborhood their own. Tatiana will be grilling again soon I’m sure as residents drink, eat, chat and enjoy.

Coney Island still stands! Amazingly, the storm struck, leaving the amusement park sand swept but not devastated.Or not totally.   I always think of Coney Island as NYC’s last unpretentious area. Friday night fireworks delight the lower of the 99% (including me!) and a reminder that the simplest things in life can be some of the best.

“when it rains you don’t go to the beach – your garbage does”
is an MTA poster reminding us to carefully secure and throw away garbage. Does it work where you are?
It doesn’t work here…  but we can do better – I think – can’t we?


What do you think is the new normal?

How do you maintain your resilience after devastation?



One Response to “Sandy’s Mementos: Brighton Beach and Coney Island”

  1. Jerilyn Willin November 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    Linda–thanks for sharing pictures we don’t see on the news. Great reporting and thanks for offering the thought-provoking question.

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