The most striking thing was the garbage. On the Saturday after Sandy struck, the curbs of Red Hook were lined with heaps of trash, like every basement had been turned out onto the street: shitty books, waterlogged luggage, cracked fish tanks, stacks of plywood. On one board on Dikeman Street, someone had cryptically spray painted “SANDY WAS AN INSIDE JOB.”
We wandered around offering assistance but were mostly turned away: lots of other people had the same idea, and plenty of those in homes and storefronts pumping out water and carrying out debris had a surfeit of helpers. The extent of the damage varied widely, almost arbitrarily: Fort Defiance was annihilated; it’ll be a while before it’s open again. (They’re selling “junk bonds” now, essentially gift certificates worth half of what you pay for them.) A block away, up a slight incline on Van Brunt, Hope & Anchor seemed untouched; the only sign of Sandy was the slightly limited menu. “A lot of our neighbors were not so lucky,” one staff member told me.
One of the guys from the Waterfront Museum told us that, miraculously, it was fine; three of them stayed on board during the storm and watched the water rise calmly, like in a bath, before the winds came. Up the block, Sunny’s was closed, dealing with flooding. Outside, a group of young people drank beer from bottles and kept warm around a garbage can, burning tree limbs for fuel. Farther north, Bait & Tackle was open, running on generators; it was full of sandwiches and other relief supplies. Sandy “flooded the place, smashed it up, tried to steal all the booze and then didn’t even pay her tab,” the owners wrote on Kickstarter. The taps weren’t working, but they did healthy business off of bottled beer and straight liquor.
We stayed there as the sun set and discovered the power was still out in that part of Red Hook. A police car was parked on the corner, its lights flashing; pedestrians carried flashlights. Several people, including some stationed on corners, wore helmets with lights attached, like miners. The street lights were bright on Van Brunt from Wolcott south, but a little ways east was different. The liquor store on Lorraine used emergency lights, flashing like strobes. People on the street toted small lights. Large lamps on poles were stationed in front of the darkened Red Hook Houses, where power only began to be partially restored on November 12. As of press time, other parts of Red Hook were still without power, Internet was still down, and people still needed help and basic goods. Visit interoccupy.net/occupysandy to get involved.