Natural disasters

What can we learn from Sandy?

Beach season, at least officially, is over. But don’t tell the new Rockaway Hotel, which opened on Labor Day Weekend. With all the classic trappings of hipster boutique hotels—the Scandinavian-meets-midcentury design, a rooftop pool, and in-house workout classes—the property is trying to capitalize on the popularity of the peninsula among the DFDs, a.k.a “down for the days,” a.k.a. the Brooklynites who come to go to the beach and eat fish tacos, a.k.a., me. If they’re willing to spend $200-250 a night to stay there.

The opening of the hotel feels like a natural next step in a gentrification process that was accelerated when Hurricane Sandy decimated the peninsula in 2012.

As CityLab writer Laura Bliss explains in this 2019 story:

Parts of the 10-mile peninsula have gentrified in recent years, especially since Superstorm Sandy ripped apart the boardwalk and numerous homes. A wave of reconstruction funds and disaster relief brought the far-flung community wider outside attention. “To this day, people tell me they never heard of the Rockaways until the storm,” a real estate agent told The American Prospect last year …

After Sandy, relief funds served the more affluent sections of the peninsula, leaving many poor residents unable to rebuild or remain. A study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice comparing Rockaway’s post-storm recovery to that of low-income communities in Manhattan’s Lower East Side found that the latter neighborhood was better able to advocate for funds, thanks to established network of anti-gentrification activism. Isolated and segregated, the Rockaways experienced more of a shock.   

And behold my media timeline, beginning six months before Sandy:

As we approach the 8th anniversary of Hurricane Sandy later this month, I’ve been thinking a lot about how that disaster reshaped New York, and how the catastrophe of the pandemic will remake the city. Perhaps, as many have argued, this will be a chance for a reset: lower rents, more room for experimentation. Or, as more mom-and-pops join the the thousands that have already closed, and eviction protections for renters expire, the developers and corporations with the resources to take advantage of a crisis will move in. While this post from Columbia University’s Earth Institute was written about Sandy, it’s also a useful warning right now:

Economically, areas impacted by natural disasters tend toward two extremes, according to separate research by Yung Chun, a former masters student in Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. The first outcome occurs when investment in real estate is seen as too risky, resulting in disinvestment. In the aftermath of Sandy, the properties in the Staten Island community of Oakwood Beach sank in value, threatened by repeated flooding. Ultimately, the community’s residents decided not to rebuild, choosing to sell their property and move away.

The other post-disaster outcome, Chun writes, is heavy investment leading to gentrification, or the shift of largely lower-income neighborhoods to the middle-and higher income bracket. In these instances, the natural disaster results in an opportunity to rebuild what is seen as underdeveloped property


$27.9 billion

Amount in sales from New York’s arts and cultural institutions lost just 4 months into the city’s shutdown. (NYT- this “One Lost Weekend” package is worth a read, esp. in light of the news that Broadway will not reopen until May 2021.)


Around town…

-In Borough Park, an an ultra-Orthodox Jewish populist is leading violent protests against COVID lockdowns: “We are at war! You are my soldiers.” (Gothamist)

-A euology for one of the the city’s last Chinese hand laundries: ""When you see baseball players, they step into their batter's spot and dig out a hole. Think of a laundryman standing there eight to 10 hours a day, for an excellent number of years. If you went to Mr. Lee's laundromat, you would see holes on the floor,” (NBC News)

-Oh and if you didn’t hear, the developer scrapped the plan for Industry City rezoning I wrote about in the last newsletter. (Brooklyn Paper)


Can you guess the location of this lesser-known Lady Liberty?

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