By Der Kosmonaut
There has been a virtual media blackout about the devastation of
Hurricane Sandy along the ocean front areas of the city. There are many
reasons for this. First and foremost, The Rockaways is a working class
area. The local, national and international media have focused their coverage
of the damage done to Manhattan. While damage to Manhattan was
considerable, it pales in comparison to the wreckage caused on the
Rockaway peninsula. The affluent areas of Chelsea, Midtown and the
Financial District have received the most attention. Another reason for the
lack of coverage on Rockaway stems from the fact that it's the most
remote part of New York. It lies at the furthest distance from
Manhattan in the entire city. Since most of the journalists in New York
aren't from the city originally, many have not heard of the Rockaways and
most have never stepped foot out there. The closest most of them have
come to the Rockaways is JFK Airport northeast of the peninsula. The only
time journalists have ever set eyes on Rockaway was by looking out the window of
a jumbo jet making its final landing approach to JFK. Moreover, the
vast majority of life-long New Yorkers from Brooklyn, Manhattan, The
Bronx and Staten Island have never been to the Rockaways. For many
residents of New York City, Rockaway is simply the name of the
destination of the A train.
The Rockaway boardwalk was upended by the 13 foot (3 Meter) ocean surge.
This image shows the support pillars are all that remains of the
boardwalk. Before Sandy, the boardwalk was on Terra-Firma. The boardwalk
stood between the dozens of apartment buildings and the beach. Here the
beach has been washed away as the sand blew meters inland. Rockaway
Beach and its boardwalk was one of the triumphs of Robert Moses
Rockaway Beach was the greatest gift Moses had bestowed on the New York
City working class.
From beachfront to ocean front. The Atlantic Ocean now moves right up to
the apartment buildings flooding basements and causing serious damage
to their foundations. The concrete pillars of the boardwalk are all
that's left. It's very likely that all the apartment buildings pictured
heading East along the horizon will be demolished. Thousands of working
class families risk being made homeless and permanently displaced. One of
the things which made New York the most unique place in the world is
that the working class was provided with prime real estate beach and
ocean front housing. There is no other place along the Eastern Seaboard
or Western Seaboard, for that matter, where the working class was
housed in such a manner. This was the result of Robert Moses. This is
the main reason why Robert Moses remains maligned and hated. It's not
due to his nasty personality or his 44 year dictatorship over New York.
Moses is hated because of his revolutionary approach to private
property. The cardinal sin under capitalism is to appropriate private
property from the bourgeoisie and turn it over the working class. Even
worse, is to provide the working class with the best recreational and
housing facilities on land which is highly valued and prized.
The day after. This scene looks as if New York had been struck by a
nuclear warhead. Indeed, during the Cold War it was believed that in the
event of nuclear war, the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan
would have been ground zero. The Rockaways are located 24 KM from
Midtown. This is very likely what the Rockaways would look like after a
strike by a Hydrogen bomb circa 1963. Today's nukes are much more
powerful than the ancient H-Bomb. The sky is a glimpse of what a nuclear
winter would look like. Man's folly knows no bounds.
A section of the washed out Rockaway subway line in Jamaica Bay. Given
the remoteness of Rockaway from the rest of the city, particularly as it's separated by more than 3KM by Jamaica Bay, the subway was
the lifeline to the area. This was originally the tracks of the Long
Island Railroad. In 1964, the New York City Transit Authority took it
over. Prior to 1964, the Rockaways had no access to the subway system.
One cannot overstate the importance of the Rockaway extension for the
New York working class. Not only did the Rockaway line connect the most
most isolated working class with the rest of the city but it provided the
working class with cheap and direct access to the ocean. Before 1964,
the working class had limited access to the ocean within New York City. Coney Island in
Brooklyn is on a bay but not directly on the ocean. The opening of the
Rockaway subway gave the working class an alternative to Coney Island. I
was never personally keen on Coney Island Beach nor Brighton Beach as
the inlet waters provided no waves. Rockaway Beach is the best public
beach in NYC and arguably on the East Coast of the United States. The extension of the Rockaway subway firmly placed New
York as having the largest subway system in the world. This made the A train
the longest subway line in North America. The Northern Line
is only longer by virtue of its myriad of branches. I
believe that it's cheating. By nature of that system, the blue lines of
the NYC subway (A,C,E), if considered one line as the Northern line,
would be the by far the longest subway line in the world. But I digress.
The Rockaway extension had one more important feature. Since it's an
old railway line, it allowed the A train to reach a cruising speed of 60
MPH (100 KM/H). This stretch made the A train the fastest subway line
in the city.
Whatever floats your boat. Sandy throws a boat on the tracks.
Missing Foundation. Sandy decimates the foundation of the Rockaway subway line.
The fencing between the tracks and the trees is uprooted.
A section of the most damaged stretch. A wooden boat dock crashed upon the tracks. Notice how the salt sea water rusted the rails.
The oddity of oddities. The A train is the most important subway line in
the city for many reasons. It's the most important subway line in the
history of Black New York. However, the A train is the last remaining
place in New York where one can find authentic social life free from
corporate commercialisation. The A train, particularly when it runs
beneath Brooklyn is an bizarre bazaar. Many Brooklynites make their
daily living on the A train. One will always find peddlers selling
merchandise. Anything from toys to watches, to fake jewelry, to radios
and mobile phones. Whatever one needs, it can be found on the A train.
The line is home to many creative people peddling hustles. After the
peddlers pass through the cars with their merchandise, the hustlers come
through peddling a scam. The scripts and lines they come up with are
very original. From the panhandlers who will tell you how they escaped
from the Bellevue Hopsital psychiatric ward after being falsely sent there to the crafty tricksters
offering games of 3 card monty. There are comedians and magicians
as well who perform on the trains. After they pass through, come the best musical and dance talent
America can showcase. From rappers and beatboxers to soul singers with
terrific voices and ranges. Unfortunately, since the 1980s with the
introduction of totalitarian neo-liberal capitalism, the A train is the
home to hundreds of people. Many homeless people sleep on the A train to
pass the night away. Overnight, the journey between 207th Street and
Far Rockaway takes 3 hours. A round trip journey is 6 hours. At night,
the A train is packed with the sleeping homeless. On the bright side,
there is always free food on the A train. Many Black churches and
community charities walk the trains 24 hours offering free sandwiches
and food. One can never go hungry on the A train. The A train is home to
the strangest phenomena in North America but this washed up boat on the
tracks is the top winner.
Above are snapshots of the scenery of Jamaica Bay. When travelling from
Manhattan to Rockaway on the A train, one has to endure the tedium of
meandering underground through Brooklyn. One gets bored and restless.
However, the torture pays off. As the A speeds across Jamaica Bay one
is just stunned with the maritime beauty of the landscape. For visitors
to New York it's nothing less than a pleasant surprise. One enters the A
train in the concrete jungle of Manhattan. For for than one hour, you
endure interminable boredom. Then finally, you are in a different
country, nay another planet. Jamaica Bay and Rockaway is by far the most
beautiful and most scenic part of New York City. Even lifelong
residents of the Rockaways stop reading or staring blankly to turn
around and look out the windows. The change in the social atmosphere on
the subway train is noticeable. While underground, people are withdrawn,
afraid and anti-social. But as soon as the train crosses Jamaica Bay, the faces
brighten, smiles crack away the austere countenances. Everyone looks out
the windows. It is this stretch which makes the New York City subway the
most interesting and frankly the best subway in the world.
Nature is no joke. It will take a long time to rebuild the Rockaway subway over Jamaica Bay. Let's hope by the end of 2013, it will be back in service.
A track worker holds an 8 foot (2.4 m) plank. The plank is used to measure how deep the flooding went into the roadbed. The waterline indicates 6 feet (1.8 m) deep. Sandy buried the Rockaway subway and left it for dead.
Well I just about seen it all. We all know the expression "your boat is
sunk". However, I would have never have come up with the saying, "your
track is sunk." There you have it. Sandy sunk a section of the track.
There is a silver lining. The tracks more or less held steady and
straight. The third rails also stood standing. Alright not even nature
can overturn the tracks of the New York Subway. Perhaps on planet Venus
but so far not on Earth. However, if we continue to destroy the
environment, Earth may indeed turn into Venus. Forget about the subway,
life will have no chance.
Poseidon's vomit. Debris from the Atlantic Ocean defecated the Rockaway
subway. As a poet, I tell the following story. After the BP Deepwater Horizon oil
spill, Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, fell gravely ill. He became
so violently ill that he churned the Atlantic Ocean. He then surfaced in
Jamaica Bay and threw up all over the Rockaway Subway. Why not? The
subway is filthy and already filled with vermin. Poseidon is not the first to vomit
on the New York subway.
Ending on a positive note. MTA workers lift the R32
cars off the tracks and putting them on flatbed trucks. The elevated
trestle on the Rockaway peninsula survived. The MTA plans to resume
limited shuttle service between Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park. This
will enable residents to move around and also to connect with buses
which will carry them over Jamaica Bay to Queens.
I must commend
the MTA for providing these photos to the public,
as well as doing their
best to resume and rebuild subway service. It's a testament to the
democratic nature of the authority. By releasing photos and videos of
the damage to the system, they have let the public know the full extent
of the damage. The MTA could've easily withheld the photos and not
have provided any information to the public at all. In the post 9/11 climate,
they could have easily made the claim that showing damage would
compromise security. The New York City subway system remains the most
open and democratic institution remaining in the United States. I have
complained and have made many criticisms about the MTA over the decades, as
every New Yorker has. However, the MTA has showed its competence and
professionalism, not to mention its priority for the welfare of the
residents of the city. Closing down the subway nearly 48 hours before
the arrival of Sandy was a wise and practical move. Despite the damage
down to the Rockaway line, South Ferry and the East River tunnels, it
could have been much much worse. A special word of praise and gratitude
to the MTA workers. They are the most important sector of the working
class in the city, if not the country. Their hard work and dedication
should be commended. They are more heroic than the firefighters of 9/11.
They deserve a raise. So MTA, how about giving the workers a proper pay
raise, full health benefits and a comprehensive retirement package.
They sure as hell deserve it.