On the Waters of Oblivion

Just about as far as one can get from the trendy Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Park Slope is Gerritsen Beach, a small neighborhood of cheek-by-jowl houses with small yards and great access to the water. Few have heard of it; fewer are paying attention to it now.

A week ago today, when the storm surge came, the residents were hunkered down like the rest of us whose homes are in Zone B (and so, had not been told to evacuate like Zone A), awaiting the blow. For them, it came (we were spared, in nearby Marine Park). Water rose with startling rapidity, leaving basements submerged, first floors waist deep, and cars pushed hither and yon.

We walked over there yesterday, after depositing the bottled water and batteries we hadn’t needed in the storm (along with paper plates, plastic cutlery, can openers, toilet paper and paper towels–all things in desperate need, along with warm clothing) with our neighborhood youth soccer group (AYSO 266–good for you!). If you also want to help, here is a bit of information on how to do so.

After checking on the pet-supply store we use (it is down a few steps from the street, so must have been completely flooded–there was no one there, but people had clearly been cleaning it out, for a few ruined displays and bits of merchandise were stacked on the street–it is called Bargain Bow Wow), we helped sort clothes for an hour or so at a distribution point, then went down to the Resurrection Church to see what we could do there–not much, it turned out, but we will try to help once more. The real need is for power and shelter. Then food and clothing.

It’s getting cold. There’s no power, as of yet, and not even gasoline for generators. One woman, in tears at the distribution point, was picking up a little food and a couple of sweaters. She told me she was used to giving, not getting.

People’s yards were filled with belongings set out to dry, and the sidewalks were high with material that had to be discarded. Cars with windows misted from the moisture still in the seats and carpets and looking like they’d been parked by drunks attested to the power of the water.

If things don’t change soon, if real help does not arrive, I don’t know what the people will do (here’s a link to a Times article on all of the people in all of the neighborhoods in similar circumstances).

As we walked through Gerritsen Beach, lines from Bob Dylan’s “Too Much of Nothing” kept coming to my mind:

When there’s too much of nothing
It can cause a man to weep
He can walk the streets and boast
Of what he’d like to keep
But it’s all been done before
It’s all been written in the book
And where there’s too much of nothing
Nobody should look.

But we all can help or, at least,  keep attention on the needs of these and all of the other people whose homes are unlivable because of Sandy, not just in Gerritsen Beach, but in the rest of New York City, all along Long Island, on Staten Island particularly and, of course, in New Jersey.