Sandy Cripples The East Coast

10.30.12

Residents in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Assess the Damage After Sandy

Five feet of seawater tore through the streets of the low-lying Brooklyn neighborhood Monday night. While the owner of one flooded bar is pledging to stay open, a teary billiards-hall proprietor says she’s ruined. Eliza Shapiro reports.

“That’s it, I’m done,” said Irene Irizarry, wiping away tears as she surveyed the damage to Bomba Billiards, the bar she owns in Red Hook, Brooklyn, which was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy on Monday night. “Forget it,” she said. “Everything is done.”

Red Hook, a low-lying area on the water that was in a Zone A mandatory evacuation region, was among the hardest-hit neighborhoods in New York City, where Sandy killed at least 18 people and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands.

Irizarry and her neighbors in Red Hook awoke Tuesday morning to find their homes and businesses flooded and badly damaged—some entirely destroyed—by five feet of seawater that rushed down the neighborhood’s main streets at around 7 p.m. Monday, according to eyewitnesses.

Irizarry opened Bomba Billiards 10 months ago, and now says she fears she may never be able to reopen. “I was just getting started,” she told The Daily Beast. “We were struggling to make ends meet with the opening costs, and we just finally got it going.”

The bar’s basement was entirely flooded, and beer bottles floated to the top of the stairs. “There’s thousands and thousands of dollars worth of stuff down there,” Irizarry said, including refrigerators that can cost up to $5,000 each.

“There’s no way I’m gonna make money now,” she said.

Irizarry spent the morning mopping the floors—“it still smells like fish everywhere,” she said—and taking stock. The water was so high that her pool tables, couches, and bar stools were soaked.

The panic at Bomba Billiards was replicated at storefronts and apartments all along Van Brunt Street, Red Hook’s main commercial drag, on Tuesday morning.

Across the street, Emily Powers and her boyfriend hauled most of their ruined furniture out of their apartment and into the street, which was quickly filling up with soaked and ruined mattresses, couches, and chairs.

“Everything in my apartment was destroyed,” she said. Powers stayed in her home despite an evacuation order and had to run upstairs to her neighbors’ as floodwaters rushed into her front door. “We’re going to move into a new apartment tonight,” she said.

“There were waves in the street that came out of nowhere. At 10:30 last night I just opened the front door and let the water flow out into the street.”

Further down Van Brunt Street, volunteers with generators went into flooded basements to help the cleanup effort. Several streets by the water remained flooded on Tuesday afternoon, and the sidewalks were slick with oil. The entire neighborhood smelled of gasoline.

Notes to Hurricane Sandy were spray-painted on boarded-up windows and construction scaffolding. “Oy, Sandy! Enough Already!” one read. “Give It Your Best, Sandy,” read another.

Residents poured buckets of water out into the streets from their basements and apartments, and avoided downed power lines and fallen trees. Several National Grid and ConEd trucks were on the scene by early morning.

A few blocks down from Powers’s apartment, employees helped clean the Red Hook Bait and Tackle Shop, a neighborhood bar that opened in 2004. Owner Barry O’Meara said the bar flooded “in just 15 minutes” on Monday night. “I was here. I saw it happen,” he said. “There were waves in the street that came out of nowhere. At 10:30 last night I just opened the front door and let the water flow out into the street.”

O’Meara kept the bar open until 5 p.m. Monday. He tried to stay positive Tuesday as he emptied water out of glasses and cleaned out ruined stock. “We needed a new floor anyway,” he joked with his co-workers.

He said he hoped to open the bar Tuesday night. “I’ll be here if people want to get together and talk about their stories. There are a lot of us screwed out there. Not just me.”

Both O’Meara and Irizarry said they didn’t believe they would get much support from flood insurance.

“But that’s for tomorrow or the next day,” O’Meara said. “Right now I’m cleaning so I don’t have to think about how bad it really is.”