Rockaway After the Hurricane

This summer we met filmmaker Sam Fleischner in his hometown New York and shot a portrait that not only featured him, but also the wonderful neighbourhood of Rockaway Beach. We started the day in his Prospect Heights’ apartment and drove along Linden Boulevard towards Rockaway Beach, where he owns a little shared house with some friends.

When hurricane Sandy hit the Carribean and the American East-Coast two weeks ago, Sam‘s neighborhood and the community, which he is deeply rooted in, was greatly affected. Since Sam has always been an active member of Rockaway Beach, more than ever he is now investing his time and power to rebuild the community. With this post we want to draw attention to his dedicated project.

Would you say that you didn’t take Sandy as serious before it actually hit, considering the exaggerations of last year’s Hurricane Irene?
I didn’t take it very seriously, and could have done a lot more to prepare. It was a classic “boy who cried wolf” scenario.

What was your thought when you first saw the destruction that was caused by Sandy?
I went to sleep and woke up in Rockaway Beach, one block from the ocean. The landscape of my neighborhood had been transformed overnight. There were lots of thoughts but I guess I was happy to be with my home when the storm passed through it. There is no place I would have rather been.

What do you think will be the consequences of this natural disaster?
I think it’s the beginning of the paradigm shift we’ve all been anticipating. It was strange because the city was affected in so many different ways. Some places are apocalyptic while others are alive and vibrant as usual. It’s really surreal to travel between these places.

What did it feel like to walk among the streets after the storm?
It was pretty exciting the morning after, I think lot’s of people were giddy about the spectacle, but as the day(s) passed, the real heaviness of the situation set in. It is going to take a long time to recover, and the more work we do, the more work we uncover.

What was the most surprising thing that happened?
The saddest thing was losing my neighbor and buddy, Bill. He has lived his whole life in Rockaway, which sort of became like his wife. His home was flooded and his corner garden, where he would watch the days, was wiped away. The storm broke his heart and he checked out. We will have a memorial for him in the spring and will keep the garden going in his honor.

Was there anything positive in connection to the hurricane?
True growth comes out of destruction. The storm forces us all to question our life priorities. Many more people could have been hurt. We are stronger as a community and we will rebuild together.

How can people help the affected areas?
This is going to be a long and focused effort. There will continue to be opportunities for people to help out and it’s vital that people keep Rockaway and other affected areas in their minds and hearts.

If you want to get involved, please have a look at the following organizations:
Giveforward
WePay
598 Acres
Citymeals

Thanks to Anna Rose, Sam Fleischner and Jean-Christian Bourcart for the pictures.

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