The Burden at Rockaway (the beach streets)


What remains of the rockaways is measured in inches but felt in miles. Perhaps as the city returns more and more to light each day, we will consider the rockaways less and less.

But in the spirit of sustaining the recent call to action, I hereby submit my little referendum, my catologue of images to remind you of the efforts that will continue on throughout the impending winter. As we shop for gifts and decorate the newly furnished lawnspaces, and as we cook the turkeys and count down the new year with a sigh of relief that the worst of this mess is cleaned, they will still be cleaning up the rockaways.

I will preface my most recent images with a short collection of old ones, taken back in february of this year.

while I hate sound ominous, I have to say that it never crossed my mind while taking these pictures that none of the things featured in the entire series taken that day would still exist in 9 months. The first pic is of a brand new housing development. they are now indistinguishable from the piles and planks of wood that scatter the beaches.

Here is what remains of the boardwalk... 

Hereis what remains of the streets...

Do not pause here by these photographs of dismay and take in only the dismay. Note the quality of the light. Inspect the churches that illuminate the darknesses. You will find more smiles in these rooms than frowns, more jokes being cracked than horror stories, you will feel the only frenzy is of shared compassion and well wishings. If only that warmth could light up a stove, or heat the remaining shells of houses. But, sadly, as in a jungle, when night falls, its darkness calls predators toward opportunistic prowling, and the volunteers must disappear with the sun. The uncertainty gets very real, and the fear hangs like a thick fog. The night falls hard. The bulldozers cease their dozing, and the sounds of mild crashing waves and police sirens plume through the air in short gusts. Nothing but scuffling feet are heard in the empty sidewalk's distance. And yet beyond it all, the glow on the horizon is a resurrected manhattan who'se people are busy trying to get busy.

 St. Camillus church, Beach 100st was our station. the beach itself had crawled into every useful corner, haunting the building like a tranquil demon. Gas-powered generators buzzed and moaned on the frigid muddy curbs. Dozens of bundled volunteers prodded away at the heaps of donated care packages, ripping them to shreds, then organizing them into neatly portioned isles and departments, like some  medieval costco. Wandering residents bumbled in slow droves circling the room, and then to each table sifting carefully with tired eyes, and in polite gestures shuffling back out into the cold stranded street taking only what could be carried over hunched shoulders, down the road, back into the eerie hum of bulldozers in the distance.

there are years to be built here in the rockaways but in weeks. There is electricity to be yearned for, and the warmth of family and neighbors to be held closer and closer. If you're in new york, please find your heart and feet in the rockaways, and this year may it not just be only at the brightest summer noon.