The Gorilla Cheese truck dispenses free toasted-cheese sandwiches to the storm-beleaguered of Brighton Beach.
Bad as things are in Coney Island, they’re worse in Sheepshead Bay, as my bike ride Friday demonstrated. The concrete-lined bay and quarter-mile-distant town center have a restaurant economy based on seafood. The perfect arc of inland Sheepshead Bay Road is lined with sushi parlors, Turkish and Armenian restaurants, hero shops, and diners. All but one were closed due to the storm and work was proceeding sluggishly on about a third of those, as generators continued to pump — two weeks later — what seemed like an endless supply of bilgewater. The sides of the street were lined with garbage in glistening black bags up to the level of your eyeballs.
The grim scene in Sheepshead Bay: The curbs were lined with garbage bags, almost no restaurants were open, and the electricity had yet to be restored. Below, fishing boat sunk! Turkish seafooder Liman in the background on the pier: Work is proceeding there, but reopening is still a long way off.
The story was the same on the bay itself, where the line of restaurants facing the fishing-boat piers have a citywide reputation for great seafood at bargain prices, many favored by the Voice. Iconic and ancient, Randazzo’s Clam Bar remained closed (though @kkrader tweeted it may be open by the end of the month), as did Liman and Yiasou Estiatorio. Most strangely of all, since it sits on a sort of promontory overlooking the bay, Greek diner El Greco stared blankly down on the scene without the usual complement of patrons in its windows.
Jimmy’s Famous Heros — one of Brooklyn’s most venerable sandwich establishments — was down for the count, too, and so was Café Istanbul and the Armenian restaurant formerly known as Garden Bay Café, but now called Royal Bay. Baku Palace, an Azerbaijani banquet hall, and the Russian beer garden U Sweika were both shut down, with virtually no activity taking place. Of the 50 or so restaurants I surveyed, 95 percent were still shuttered and often in the earliest stages of cleanup.
Electricity had yet to be restored. About half the fishing boats — which take day trippers opposite the New Jersey shore for some ocean fishing, but also do a little commercial fishing on the side — were still in their slips, but the missing boats were an ominous sign, and at least one was seen sunk. The little footbridge that connects Sheepshead Bay with Manhattan Beach had been breeched in the middle, and workers in yellow slickers, assisted by a pair of boats, were trying to repair it.
Still closed: Randazzo’s Clam Bar, the quintessential Sheepshead Bay seafood restaurant. Below, still closed: V & S Pizza. Below that, still closed: El Greco.
Work proceeds at badly damaged Turkish seafood restaurant Liman.
Next: the state of Brighton Beach
Above, Distribution of food and clothing by the National Guard at Brighton Beach. Below, Voice favorite KeBeer was closed, but a sign in the window said, “Will Open Soon.”
Over in adjacent Brighton Beach, the post-Soviet enclave in the middle of the island called Coney, things were also bad, but in a different sort of way. Power was still out in much of the neighborhood, but it was on in other parts in a strange mosaic. There were restaurants open, but also lots still closed. KeBeer had a sign in the window promising to be open soon, and the Uighur restaurant Café Kashkar had reopened already.
Of course, the Russian cafés along the boardwalk were extensively damaged, but work was proceeding. The boardwalk itself was in fairly good shape, though covered with a thick layer of sticky sand, with snow on top of that.
Just by the boardwalk at the tail end of Coney Island Avenue, a Gorilla Cheese truck dispensed toasted-cheese sandwiches made with American cheese free to a block-long line, while National Guardsmen distributed military meals and winter coats to an even longer line. The composition of the line reminded us that the permanent population of the neighborhood, at least near the beach, is mainly aged retirees, and the suffering could be seen in their faces. Flushed from their electricity-free buildings along the boardwalk, many sat disconsolately on mud soaked benches, trying to catch fitful rays of sun.
Above, you’re looking at the boardwalk, which now has its own sand dunes. The Rockaways could be seen on the horizon. Below, boardwalk cafés like Tatiana were badly damaged. Below that, a bicyclist suns himself under a sign warning looters.