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A Look at the Post-Sandy Cleanup in the Rockaways

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Welcome back to Camera Obscura, Curbed's series of photo essays by photographer Nathan Kensinger. He's visited Red Hook, Dumbo, and Gowanus, Rockaway Peninsula, and Staten Island. Now, a look at the post-Sandy cleanup in the Rockaways.


[Jacob Riis Park, in the Rockaways, has become a collection point for household debris created by Hurricane Sandy. All photos by Nathan Kensinger.]

It has been three weeks since Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City's waterfront communities in BrooklynStaten Island and the Rockaways. As Thanksgiving approaches, many homeowners have been hard at work gutting their houses and disposing of their storm damaged property. Much of the debris from these homes is being moved to an impromptu dumping ground in the vast parking lot at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways.  Mountains of personal belongings are amassed and sorted by a small army of workers before being transported to the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island. 

The enormous amount of destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy is plainly visible here, and will only be increasing. The cleanup, which the Times describes as "a 24-hour-a-day, military-scale operation," will soon include new material. The city has announced plans to demolish at least 200 storm damaged homes, according to the Times, along with "200 houses that are already partially or completely burned down, washed away or otherwise damaged." Thousands of New Yorkers whose homes were flooded will remain displaced during the upcoming holiday. 

Mattresses, bicycles, clothing and other personal belongings are piled into enormous rows of destroyed property.

Workers in the collection zone wear full protective gear, including respirators.

Using rakes and hoes, they sift dangerous chemicals out from the debris. 

The piles are organized by their materials - wood, sand, homes.

Seagulls circle the rubble, picking through CDs and photographs. 

Heavy machinery chips away at the growing collection of materials.

A constant stream of trucks is loaded and driven to Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island. 

From Fresh Kills, the truckloads of debris will be sent to landfills outside of the city. 

The mountain of destroyed homes stretches out to the horizon.

A mix of sand and household items collected from the streets of the Rockaways is piled up 30 feet high.  

From the top of the sand pile you can see past the destruction, to the skyline of Manhattan.

?Nathan Kensinger
· Official site: Nathan Kensinger Photography [kensinger.blogspot.com]
· Surveying Sandy's Damage in Red Hook, Dumbo, and Gowanus [Curbed]
· Surveying Queens' Rockaway Peninsula After the Storm [Curbed]
· Surveying Sandy's Damage to Staten Island One Week Later [Curbed]
· Nathan Kensinger archive [Curbed]