From the heart of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation three Facing Change photographers – Alan Chin, and Andrew Lichtenstein – relate their stories in the wake of the one of the most devastating storms ever to strike the eastern seaboard.
Alan Chin in Queens and Staten Island
What’s struck me about Hurricane Sandy beyond the tragic loss of life and massive destruction to property in coastal communities is how the nation has responded. The big picture — President Obama, FEMA, Governors Cuomo and Christie of New York and New Jersey, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City — all arguably reacted with far greater urgency and dispatch than their predecessors during Hurricane Katrina.
It’s the smaller details that have proven frustrating and telling. In the Rockaways and Staten Island, the Red Cross and National Guard were hardly to be seen even a week after. A gasoline shortage on top of the paralysis of public transit has left millions without the transportation necessary to get back to work quickly. Instead, local residents spontaneously organized to provide emergency food, clothing, and supplies. Their efforts are admirable. But they are no substitute for efficient, rapid action on the ground to implement well-meaning directives. And that’s meant that many people feel abandoned and forgotten.
Some discomfort is inevitable, and if the long-term recovery proceeds effectively, Sandy will become a historical footnote rather than a disaster of the first order like Katrina. The real test is in the weeks and months ahead, as winter descends.
Andrew Lichtestein in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens
All week it has been disconcerting to be living two lives in the same city. My neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn was relatively untouched by the storm. Some very large, old trees came crashing down in the park and on various blocks, but we never lost power. The only minor hassle has been trying to keep my children busy since school has been closed while at the same time rushing out the door to photograph or staying up all night to file the pictures. Red Hook is just around the corner, Coney Island a twenty minute drive south, the Rockaways just beyond that. These coastal communities have been devastated. No heat, no power, no food or water, everywhere I looked, heartbreaking stories of destruction and loss. Often it has felt like the efforts to reach people has been completely community driven-neighbor helping neighbor. Unlike other disasters I’ve photographed, most of the week I’ve been surprised by the lack of official response. And then, in the evening, back to my neighborhood, in all of its untouched security, the lights blazing, the kids running around in their Halloween costumes like any other year.
Photographs and Text by: Alan Chin, Andrew Lichtenstein and Anthony Suau
Editor: Daria Bonera