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Annals of Sandy: Brooklyn Historical Society mounts photos exhibiting deluge devastation

October 28, 2013 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A car lies marooned amid mountains of sand. The parking garage it’s in proved unprotective.

Half a house stands desolate after an onslaught of wind and water; lead-gray waves loom frighteningly close.

Hurricane Sandy’s foul handiwork is captured in unforgettable images on display at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

A new photo exhibit, “Documenting Sandy,” depicts the devastation the Oct. 29, 2012 storm unleashed in Brooklyn neighborhoods – and the stoic resolve and wry defiance Brooklynites mustered to battle back.

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“Against the backdrop of the city’s vibrant and contentious politics, culture, media, its built and natural environment, these photographers, amateur and professional alike, documented not only a storm, but what it means to be a New Yorker,” curator Julie May wrote in an intro to the show, which opened in time for the one-year anniversary of the killer storm.

Sandy-related photos submitted to the 150-year-old Brooklyn Heights museum and library will be “an invaluable resource for years to come,” the intro notes.

The photos in an upstairs gallery of BHS’s newly renovated 128 Pierrepont St. headquarters are a combination of digital images in an electronic display that were collected from emails and social media and large prints on paper.

The shot of the sand-swamped parking garage, taken by professional photographer Ben Yomtov, is one of many haunting images in the digital slide show. Another, from VR Photography 2012, shows a piano lying flipped on its side in the street like gargantuan roadkill.

A third poignant slide-show photo, by digital designer Mark Forscher, depicts a charming little house in the far distance, nearly obscured by an almost endless stretch of debris.

And the half-house by the looming shoreline is a color print mounted on the gallery wall, shot in the private community of Sea Gate at the tip of the Coney Island peninsula. The photographer is Charles Denson, the executive director of the Coney Island History Project.   


Another shoreline image of terrible foreboding is a large black-and-white print by Yomtov shot on Coney Island Beach near W. 5th Street on Nov. 3, 2012.

It depicts storm clouds blackening the sky over apartment buildings and the Parachute Jump, as if ready to unleash their wrath at any moment. The beach in the foreground, lit up with lurid storm light, is dotted with so much random debris and driftwood that it looks like it could never be clean again. The few human beings in the photo are dwarfed by the hostile sky and shore, and are nearly invisible.

Other images in the show are more optimistic – including several depicting the cleanup of the iconic Coney Island Boardwalk.

A color shot by Greek photographer Margarita Mavromichalis taken Nov. 11, 2012 shows a young woman with a determined expression and a shovelful of sand marching straight at the viewer in the bottom right corner of the photo frame. Her companions move with similar purposefulness. In the background, the sky above the Wonder Wheel glows bright blue.    

A bracing bit of Brooklyn attitude is in evidence in David Tropiansky’s photo of a rowboat on an abandoned shore, beside a cylinder with the message “F— U Sandy” painted on it.     

“Documenting Sandy” is on display until next spring. Suggested admission to BHS is $10. Its museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon-5 p.m.

The historical society is also commemorating Sandy’s anniversary with a Wednesday, Oct. 30 panel of storm survivors including River Cafe owner Buzz O’Keeffe, who will engage in a “public story circle” with an oral historian to guide them.

O’Keeffe, who has spent millions to rebuild his famous waterside restaurant, will be joined by Canarsie homeowner Andrea Hodge and others impacted by the storm. The event is free, but registration is recommended. See for more info.


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