NEW YORK—In Brooklyn’s DUMBO Tuesday night, the gently lapping water, and the cold, still night air was a world away from one year earlier.
A small group of a couple dozen New Yorkers ages 6 to 60 gathered at the base of this affluent neighborhood’s Main Street, where the East River meets Brooklyn Bridge Park, to reflect on Superstorm Sandy at the same hour the storm surge hit landfall Oct. 29, 2012.
Holding small electronic tea light candles, they informally shared thoughts and stories of Sandy.
One young boy recalled witnessing the utter destruction that first morning, and called it a “sad” memory. A man remembered the outpouring of helping hands and cleanup support that was at one point more than was needed.
The group was one of many that gathered around the city—in Red Hook, Staten Island, the Rockaways, the Lower East Side, and Coney Island—as part of a loosely organized commemoration called Light Up the Shore.
The glow of the park’s famous Jane’s Carousel on the water’s edge was an eerie reminder of the night that Sandy struck. The carousel was flooded during the storm surge.
Main Street, the initial entry point for most of the 13 feet of water that flooded the area, made an ideal place for the evening’s candlelight vigil.
Still, the impact in DUMBO was not as severe as some other areas.
“We consider ourselves very lucky,” said Alexandria Sica, executive director of the DUMBO Improvement District.
Only about a dozen homes and as many businesses were flooded in the neighborhood. The businesses each suffered between $25,000 and $300,000 of damage. Only one failed to recover.
“The impact for DUMBO was nothing on the scale for other communities,” said Sica. “But for those dozen businesses and those dozen homeowners the impact was unimaginable.”
The recovery of almost all of the businesses, many with the help of tremendous neighborhood support that included cleanup and fundraising, has something to do with a strong spirit of community, according to those in attendance.
For New Yorkers, it’s a bittersweet part of the city’s character.
“Thinking about the tragedies the city has endured, I’m so stunned and appreciative of how community comes together,” said Jennifer Aks-Neuman, an area resident.
Aks-Neuman had come to the vigil with her husband and two young children. As the group shared remembrances of Sandy, she said she realized everyone was looking at the part of the city’s skyline that was hit on 9/11, where the twin towers used to be.
“The whole city came together [after 9/11],” she recalled, and added that it happened again after Sandy.
“It makes me feel proud to live in New York.”