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Nathan’s Famous has been dark for nearly two weeks — perhaps for the first time in its 96-year history.
Today, I took a bicycle tour of Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Sheepshead Bay. Those areas of Brooklyn along the Atlantic Coast are more devastated than has been reported. One stumbles on parking lots where long lines wait for warm clothing and military-style pre-packaged meals. Here and there, vending trucks normally found in Manhattan give out free food under a city relief program. Garbage and storm detritus are still everywhere, and so are dunes of sand blown under the boardwalk by the hurricane. In the background, the perpetual hum of the gas generator.
The waterlogged display window of Williams Candy, perhaps the neighborhood’s last saltwater taffy stand. Can it return?
In Coney Island, the electricity is still not on, and cops stand at important intersections, directing traffic. Great damage is to be seen to the housing stock, too. It’s a rare apartment building that doesn’t have a mountain of black garbage bags and discarded furniture out front, and one place we passed had lost its façade.
The iconic restaurants of Coney Island are all still closed. The window gates are pulled down at Nathan’s Famous, and a couple of guys could be seen inside the dining room working on the electrical wiring. For a place that has been open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year forever, this two-week hiatus is historic. A phone call to the restaurant reached a permanent busy signal — often an indicator of landline service being knocked out.
So, too, Totonno’s, the city’s greatest pizza parlor and our historic link with the pies of Naples, is shuttered, with water still oozing out under the gate. No work appears to be going on. This place was nearly destroyed by fire a couple of years ago, but it bounced back. Will it be able to bounce back again?
Old-time red-sauced Italian restaurant and catering hall Gargiulo’s (founded 1907) is also closed. A spokesperson for the restaurant told me they didn’t expect to reopen until December 1, at the earliest.
Totonno’s still closed, alas. But hooray! The little bald man on the boardwalk survived.
If McDonald’s can’t get it together to reopen, the situation must be dire. Below, dunes of sand blown inland
The massive Russian banquet hall Riviera was shut down, and even the McDonald’s opposite the subway station on Stillwell Avenue was entirely boarded up.
Of an estimated 30 places examined, only one was open — a diner right by the Belt Parkway/Cropsey Avenue exit.
The Rigelmann Boardwalk mainly escaped the storm’s fury, and so did the little bald man who holds a hamburger aloft. Nevertheless, sand covered most of the wooden thoroughfare — sometimes also topped with snow — making a walk by the sea difficult.
Meanwhile, a line waiting for food and clothing bisected the Raymour and Flanigan parking lot, which was dotted with pieces of furniture, set out in the afternoon sun to dry off.
Above, the furniture-store parking lot with its opposing gangs of people and furniture. Below, a storm-damaged house in Coney Island, which wasn’t in great shape to begin with