Let’s not let Sheepshead Bay fall through the cracks

Steven Kopchinski of Sheepshead Bay. Photo by Anna Jacobson

While everyone is out doing their best to help the neighborhoods ruined by Sandy, it’s almost inevitable that some fall through the cracks. Although being championed by our pal Allison Robicelli, Sheepshead Bay is still without power, subways, heat, fresh food, water – or media/relief attention. I visited this weekend.

Upon arrival in Sheepshead Bay, you notice two things: growing piles at the curb and dark traffic lights.

The air is loud with water pumps and properties are adorned with rugs and clothing hanging to dry. Everyone is throwing out the contents of their flooded basement.

“There was a 5-foot river of water out my window,” Steven Kopchinski remembers. Kopchinski has never left the area since moving to Sheepshead as a child. “One way or another, I always stayed by the bay”, he says in front of the Waldbaums.

Waldbaums is the only open grocery store, although shops in nearby Brighton Beach are receiving shipments of fresh produce. The Sheepshead store smells of rotten food, and all the shelves dedicated to perishables are empty.

People arrive with large shopping carts, eager to replenish supplies. They leave with tiny plastic bags, filled with a few needed canned goods. ”At least I’m picking up some peanut butter for protein,” Kopchinski laughs.

Like many, he is grateful things aren’t worse. ”The water came this close,” he gestures a distance of roughly a foot between the flood line and the first floor, “If it went any higher, I would have left.”

Kopchinski estimates that – with no heat, power, or gas to sustain them – most have left Sheepshead Bay. In his apartment building and the surrounding area, he thinks three-quarters of his neighbors evacuated to friends and family in the region. “And half the cars are gone, too”, he says.

Of the cars that are left, many are severely damaged from the storm. Without traffic lights, drivers and bikers rely on each other to navigate intersections. Unlike Manhattan or other affected areas, there are no policemen directing traffic. In fact, there are no police at all (that we saw).

Along normally-busy Emmons’ Avenue, the main drag of Sheepshead Bay, the restaurants have also laid everything out to dry.

V and S Pizza crew. Photo by Anna Jacobson

Many family-run restaurants are waiting to hear from insurance companies about how much will be covered. ”Who ever expects this?,” asks Dominic from V&S Pizza (now, “izza”). He and his childhood friend, Joe, opened the pizzeria in 1986, which is now staffed by them and their children.  The partners’ lively, Italian-Brooklyn accents pepper their assessment of the severe damage to their restaurant. They keep up the spirits of their families, standing around them with mops. “This is certainly not a time to be happy,” Dominic confides, “The tears are in our hearts.”

They hope to be back in a month. Their neighbor’s restaurant, Istanbul, will take more than 2 months to recreate the hand-made designs throughout the restaurant.

As Sheepshead Bay begins to pick itself up, the real test will come when everyone returns. Hopefully, by then there will be power.

If you want to help Sheepshead Bay, you’ve got a chance  tomorrow. You can distribute supplies around the neighborhood from a 24′ truck that just came up from North Carolina (tomorrow and Thursday between 4pm and 6pm). Go to the Nostrand Avenue entrance of PS 52, between Voorhies Avenue and Avenue Z. They can use people on foot and on bikes.

Occupy Sandy also has a list of places nearby and what they need:

ICNA Relief: Brighton Beach – Shama Restaurant, 232 Neptune Ave – volunteers to help clean and distribute food and blankets

Warebasse High-Rises: Coney Island – 2770 West 5th street – Room 4V able-bodied volunteers to carry supplies upstairs for homebound seniors in Brighton Beach, grill/gas hot plate, hot and canned food – no more toiletries

Tabernacle Church (Iglesia El Tabernaculo): Coney Island – 2769 Stillwell Ave. – fruit, toothbrushes, TP, blankets, mops, cleaning supplies, gloves, deodorant, shovels
Coney Island Geriatric: Coney Island – 2904 Neptune Ave – garbage bags, have no gloves, need volunteers

Coney Island Geriatric: Coney Island – 3109 Brighton and 7th St. – water, blankets, food

Red Cross Supply Truck: Coney Island – 35th and Surf Avenue – cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, bleach

Red Cross Supply Site: Coney Island – 23rd and Surf Avenue – blankets, water, flashlights, medical supplies

Gravesend Houses: Coney Island – 31st and Surf Avenue (3030 Surf Ave) – hot food for 200+ people, blankets, toothpaste/brushes, soap, batteries (C,A,D), flashlights, candles, TP, shampoo, conditioner — no clothes

NYCHA Housing Project and Community Center: Coney Island – 2315 Surf Ave – volunteers, baby and adult diapers, female sanitary needs, toiletries, blankets, wipes, non-perishable edible food, soap, socks – no clothes

FEMA: Coney Island – W. 19th St and Surf Ave – diapers, wipes, water

Coney Island Houses: Coney Island – 3030 Surf Avenue at W 30th St – utensils and paper plates, blankets, hand and foot warmers, batteries, flashlights, buckets, medical supplies (insulin, inhalers, painkillers).

City Economic Development Corp: Coney Island – 1904 Surf Ave. at W. 17th St. – volunteers

Gravesend House: Coney Island – 27-93 West 33rd – hot food, warm clothes, flashlights

O’dwyer House TA President: Coney Island – West 33rd/ Surf Avenue – flashlights, batteries, candles, matches, water, pajamas, soups, cleaning supplies, hot food and sandwiches.

Sidelines Bar: Coney Island – 1932 Stillwell Ave – food, serving trays

Resurrection School: Coney Island – 2750 Gerritsen Avenue – hats, blankets, warm clothes, batteries, urgently needs socks and underwear