CONEY ISLAND, NEW YORK—Despite rumors of looting in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there was no evidence of mobs near the area’s famous boardwalk this afternoon. Instead, the neighborhood around the usually bustling landmark was eerily abandoned.
Cars throughout the neighborhood had been lifted up and moved by flooding, often half or fully onto the curb. Because of the high water, their windows had rolled down automatically, a feature meant to ensure that passengers can escape submerged vehicles.
It’s hard to overstate how strange the streets felt. Cars lay at sharp angles to the curb and, despite the wind and clammy rain, sat open as though it were summer (and not Brooklyn).
Within miles of the beach, cell service was nonexistent. At approximately 12 long blocks to the ocean, traffic lights had stopped operating.
Worst was a sedan that had exploded and been torched completely. Its owners stood on the sidewalk looking at the wreck; an old couple, they told us they’d woken up in the morning to find their car a burnt-out shell.
The super of a nearby building showed us an underground garage that had been swamped; luxury cars were stranded in the inches of water that still remained. He pointed at a water line on the wall — the cars had been almost fully submerged at one point, floating freely. He talked to the owners, he said, then added, “But what is there to do?”
In addition to personal vehicles, the effects on the city were evident. BuzzFeed counted three MTA buses abandoned, one in the middle of Neptune at West 8th. Its doors were opened, the driver’s seat covered in leaves.
Police cruisers were littered around the area as well. Some, carried by the floodwaters, had collided with other cars, and others were finally being towed at 3 p.m. in the afternoon.
The police had established an incredibly heavy presence, with sirens wailing on just about every block.
Many shop owners couldn’t open their stores due to inches of water. Joe Dweck, the proprietor of DII on Neptune, said he’d opened briefly to drain out flooding.
With his family, he was selling candy and some supplies, but his store was out of bottled water, flashlights, and D batteries.
Jonathan, a building manager, told BuzzFeed that surrounding housing projects were without power. He had upwards of two feet of water in his building’s lobby and was using a generator to pump it onto the street.
A man standing with him said that earlier, two cars could be seen stacked one on top of the other, like slices of bread.
Surrounding the neighborhood’s many high rises were signs of the devastation, including uprooted scaffolding. An air conditioner had fallen stories from one of the buildings, a realization of a phobia shared by many New Yorkers.
Here, a garage and designated fallout shelter is fully underwater.
As we neared the boardwalk, the smell of carbon and burning rubber became chokingly thick. Police raced by, but their destination was unclear.
When we arrived at Coney’s famous amusement park, which was flooded overnight, sand had seeped in, covering many rides in an inches-thick coat.
Beyond the park, the beach had consumed the famous boardwalk.
At the water’s edge, the storm erased years of erosion control. The surf had deposited a jet ski, soggy and ruined, 20 yards up the beach.
But the centerpiece of the neighborhood, the amusement park, appeared mostly undamaged by the storm, its roller coaster and Ferris wheel still standing proud.