Jewish Enclave Devastated by Sandy's Wrath

Historic Storm Leaves Brooklyn's Sea Gate On Its Knees

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published October 30, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page
Video: Nate Lavey


Hurricane-force winds and historic flooding from superstorm Sandy have devastated the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sea Gate, a gated community on the western tip of Coney Island that is home to several hundred Jewish families.

Many homes facing the Atlantic Ocean were gutted by floodwaters. A few were absolutely flattened by the raging winds. Broken windows gaped open. In one home, rising tides pushed furniture out through two bulging garage doors.

Razie Lefkowitz, whose home is still standing, said that she was watching the waves with some of her five children at around 6:30 p.m. Monday when the water started rising quickly.

“We basically just ran away,” she said.

Water rose to three or four feet deep on Surf Avenue, the main street, which is now impassible in some places. Lefkowitz said that one neighbor hung a white towel out of her second-story window to signal for help after the first story of her house flooded.

Lefkowitz, like many others here, rode out the storm. Despite the widespread severe damage, there are no reports so far of deaths or injuries in Sea Gate.

“The captain doesn’t leave the ship,” said Pinny Dembitzer, president of the local homeowners association, when asked via telephone Tuesday morning whether he had stayed the night.

Police were preventing cars from entering the community Tuesday afternoon. Pedestrians came and went, taking photos of crushed cars and damaged homes. Humming pumps were working to empty basements filled with water.

The streets were covered in sand blown in by the storm. Residents walked around in a daze, stunned by the historic disaster.

‘No One Knows’ Residents of Sea Gate were asking why the media ignored widespread devastation in the oceanfront Brooklyn community.
nate lavey
‘No One Knows’ Residents of Sea Gate were asking why the media ignored widespread devastation in the oceanfront Brooklyn community.

Sea Gate is one of the most exposed spots in New York City and regularly bares the brunt of gales and Nor’easters. But residents never expected Sandy to be as bad as it was.

“This is the worst it’s ever been,” said one resident, who gave his name as Randy, as he walked near the gate.

Standing in front of her home with two of her children, Lefkowitz said that she could tell which houses the muddy piles of debris had floated away from by looking at the photos washed up on her lawn.

On Beach 47th Street, at the western end of Sea Gate, a handful of members of the Satmar Hasidic sect gathered around a devastated home, removing boxes of belongings. A window facing the ocean was gone, leaving a gaping hole. It looked as though water had knocked away some part of the home’s foundation.

“Everybody’s OK,” said a man who would give his name only as Mayer. He said the home belonged to his uncle, who owns a bakery in Boro Park.

Mayer said he was shocked that the media and broader community seemed to be ignoring the devastation in Sea Gate.

“There’s no news crews in here. No one knows about us,” he said.

Even hours after the worst of the storm receded, it was still difficult to even reach Sea Gate. The entrance on Neptune Avenue is blocked by flooding. The road to the Surf Avenue gate is muddy but passable.

On Beach 28th and Surf, a few blocks from the entrance to Sea Gate, dirty splash marks ran six stories up the inland side of one building. Cars caught in the surge last night were sprawled in strange positions – one on its side, others in the middle of streets.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.