Sandy hits New York Irish Arts


Downtown Millburn, post-Sandy. Dark.

How It’s New York: This is about Hurricane Sandy, which hit us here big time on October 29. The world was watching.
How It’s Irish: Many of the people hit are Irish and Irish-Americans living here, particularly in Breezy Point and the Jersey Shore.

As everyone who reads this blog surely knows, those of us in the tristate area were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy on October 26. I posted a lot about it on our Facebook page. I’ve also written a few stories about it for The Montclair Times: here’s one on  supply shortages— a pub ran out of Guinness! one on me buying a generator, and one on keeping animals warm.
I could go on: I wrote about gas rationing and shortages, and then the messy trick of trying to vote when voting places had moved. But you get the idea.

The worst of it is over now, and I’ll be putting up more on FB and in the newsletter (if you’re reading this on the web, subscribe to our newsletter too– it’s where we do our ticket giveaways!). One post cannot by any means tell the whole story, but here is how the hurricane hit some of the people we know–there will be more to come, and announcements about relief concerts and benefits. Stay tuned!

Half a tree

My mother and I lost power for nearly nine days. On the first day I made brownies (heat the house with the oven), played the fiddle, lit candles…. it was only 3 p.m., now what? On day two I was able to drive out of my neighborhood (it had been impossible to before) and go to work in Montclair, where several other papers in our company were using the office, because they had no power, including the Millburn Item and the Glen Ridge Voice. On day six we went to Mountainside to stay with my aunt and uncle, and I’d come to the house in Millburn twice a day to feed the (cold) kitties. On election day evening we got power back. My town of Millburn, New Jersey was like a ghost town at first: completely dark. No street lights. No traffic lights. No lights on any houses. No synagogues, churches, schools or library with power to charge or heat to warm you. No cell service.  It was beyond creepy. 100-year old oaks down (4 on my street). Some torn up by the roots. We had a basement storm window blow out. One tree in back was chopped in half, but fortunately none fell on the house. We tried many things to keep it warm: because we have a gas oven, we heated up pots of boiling water for steam, setting off the smoke alarm. We ran hot showers. We lit fires. But when it got to 55 degrees in the house, we left. When I returned Tuesday a.m. to feed the (cold) kitties it was down to 46 degrees.

Books Editor Michelle Woods talked to us today  from a conference in New Orleans, and yes, we heard a trombone playing in the background of the cafe where she was skipping a panel, grading papers. She is there to give a paper on translation and Czech Literature to the Association of East European and Eurasian Studies. She told us that the village of Cold Spring was underwater by the river. They declared a disaster zone in Cold Spring and Putnam. “I actually bumped into two FEMA agents the day before I left; they’d come to the village to sort things out.” A couple of her students at SUNY New Paltz who live in Long Island lost their houses, she says, and she cancelled heer classes the first two days. Her husband Michael Reisman was unable to get to the city and the Attorney General’s office near Wall Street was closed for a week, due to lack of power, so he had to work in Poughkeepsie.

No boards on Spring Lake’s boardwalk left. (@Mike Farragher)

Writer Mike Farragher, who recently wrote about Clannad here, and writes about Irish music for Irish Voice as well as authoring This Is Your Brain on Shamrocks, lives in Spring Lake Heights, NJ– down the shore, which was particularly hard-hit by Sandy.   Like me, he posted some updates to FB while it happened, and said OK to our using them. I particuarly like this one, posted on Oct. 30:

Dig if u will a picture: my bath by candlelight using pots of steaming h2O boiled on the stove. Reminded me of the “When Doves Cry” video only with Larry the Cable Guy standing in for Prince! LMAO!!

And this… which is JUST how it was… he posted this on 11/4. The thing about being very cold is that it makes you sleep a lot and eat a lot. It’s true; you need it for fuel. 

Been awake for 20 minutes trying to mentally prepare myself to tear off the covers and face the cold house. Yes, I’m grateful I still have a house after the storm, yadda, yadda..but it’s day 7 with no electricity and this shit’s gettin’ OLD….

L.E. McCullough, who recently did a piece on Pearl River (I’m working on one for Irish Music Magazine, but due to Sandy so much fell behind, including those, though my intentions were good. Irish Examiner USA skipped a week of publication) writes:

I work in the Mayor’s Office in Woodbridge, NJ, a township of 100,000 residents where there was widespread power outage, lots of tree damage, long gas lines and significant flooding in the parts of the township bordering the Arthur Kill, Raritan Bay and Woodbridge River — but, fortunately, no loss of life. Town Hall itself was running on emergency backup generators which allowed the offices to be open throughout; Mayor McCormac opened shelters at the Community Center and Evergreen Center and kept residents informed via Reverse 911 calls, youtube videos and web page updates. The Public Works Dept. was on the streets Tuesday morning Oct. 30 disposing of damaged trees, clearing roadways, etc. The Housing Dept. was out inspecting homes and buildings to determine extent of structural damage to the hardest-hit. The Health Dept. and Division of Aging tended to the township’s population of frail elderly. The Clerk’s Office managed the Nov. 6 elections without a hitch. It was pretty much what local government does on a daily basis, albeit with a bit more urgency. Mostly, I answered phone calls from residents and fielded questions about aid sources.

As for my wife, Rev. Lisa Bansavage, who is an Interfaith Minister:  she had been booked to officiate a wedding at a beach restaurant on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright — which as of Oct. 29, had ceased to exist. The bride and groom would not be deterred, and the wedding was held at Paulmbo’s restaurant in Tinton Falls, which had power.It was a poignant ceremony, because the couple had met and courted at the Jersey Shore, which held very strong memories. The seating cards were all seashells with the guests’ names written on them (see photos); the one bore the message “Revive Rebuild RECOVER!!”. It was the first time Lisa could remember doing a ceremony where, as part of the wedding vows, the couple included a pledge to help restore a town.

Kathy A Callahan, who recently reviewed Julie Feeney in concert, lost power for a few days in Bergen County, NJ. She and her sister went to her parent’s condo in Old Tappan. “We pulled it together like a lot of people,” Kathy said. But:

You feel for other people. I grew up down the shore, and through my adult life, my whole family goes for 2 weeks during summer up until last summer. ” 

Kathy said they would go to Long Beach Island, Ocean Grove…

@Mike Farragher

 “The Ocean Grove pier, and Boardwalk, are destroyed. It had a gorgeous pier,
gmuch like the  rides in seaside winding up in water. I feel all kinds of grief and for people who ere stranded.”

Kathy said she wants to bring things down for people, and that she will need to see it to believe it.

N.J. was very badly hurt. Lots of people in NYC lost power, but most got it back before we did. Of course, Long Island had (has) it very bad. Most of the Manhattan and Queens folk weren’t too badly off:

Dan Neely, whose review of Marie Reilly’s The Anvil we just put up, and who runs the Lillie’s session and writes for Irish Echo, was able to play tunes to keep warm as well. He writes:

Out in Sunnyside we lost a bunch of big, old trees (and some people lost their cars when these trees fell on them) but we were thankfully spared a good deal of the destruction meted out on other parts of the region, so we considered ourselves fortunate.  Since there wasn’t much to do the afternoon after Sandy passed, we organized a session over at Murphy’s (corner of 49th and Skillman), which was great fun. Donie Carroll and Liz Bradley made stew, lots of neighborhood musicians came out, and many folks who were out surveying the hurricane’s effects stopped in to enjoy the music – it was quite crowded for a bit, there.  The session was a nice way of relaxing after the stressful buildup, and it had a nice “community” feel.

Photographer Ray Foley, who recently reviewed Tift Merritt at City Winery, wrote:

I live in TriBeCa on Desbrosses and Greenwich. We watched the water quickly rise to Greenwich Street. We live on the 4th floor so we were safe.

Writer Orla O’Sullivan, whose last review was of the film Jump, and who also reviews for Irish Echo, wrote that she felt very solitary, in the dark for nearly a week.

Dancer Darrah Carr, whose new dance piece from her company ModERIN opens tonight, lost power for a while, which impacted the new work that opens tonight at Irish Arts Center:

 Considering the utter devastation in parts of our beloved city, I feel very lucky that the storm spared me and my loved ones from its worst effects.  I lost power for six days and I am still negotiating the gas shortage and the irregularities of the train, subway, and bus schedules.  While lack of power and inaccessible mass transit have been highly disruptive, these are temporary inconveniences, when compared with a good friend of mine who lost her entire house in the Rockaways, for example.  On a professional level, the storm certainly threw a major wrench into Darrah Carr Dance’s plans for our annual season at the Irish Arts Center (upcoming from Nov 16 – 18).  Although ticket sales were robust before the storm, they, not surprisingly, have ground to a halt since then.  Furthermore, it is very challenging to navigate our marketing efforts right now.  While parts of the city are eager to return to normal and to attend things like performances, other parts of the city (especially the heavily Irish American neighborhood of Breezy Point) are facing overwhelming problems.  As a New Yorker and as an Irish American, my heart goes out to those most affected by the storm.  At the same time, as a small business owner, I fear that the storm is going to leave us with a financial loss.  When I extrapolate our potential loss by hundreds of thousands of small businesses throughout the region, the economic impact of the storm (not to mention the emotional and physical distress it has caused) is absolutely mind-boggling. 

John Lee, who also writes for Huffington Post, and recently wrote about an iconic photo. heard some scary noises and lost some WiFi but was otherwise fine:

Little to complain about on the Upper West Side, well above the flood zone. Wind shook the building and rattled the windows, lights flickered, there was crashing and banging as one of the omnipresent building shed scaffolds fell apart, many great old trees went down and internet went down too for a couple of days.  In another words, no problems whatsoever.  Good to see lots of small scale relief efforts coming together in the neighborhood.  

Anita Daly, who represents many fine Irish acts, including Finbar Furey, Celtic Tenors and Barleyjuice, lives on Long Beach Island, and had to be evacuated. Cahir O’Doherty at did a story about it on Nov. 7.  here’s an excerpt:

Unlike many who made the fateful and dangerous decision to stay in their homes and try to weather out the storm, Daly and her partner Jim Leavitt knew that it would be wiser to get out of the area that was predicted to fare particularly badly once the storm hit.
“Thank God we left early that morning,” she says. “Some people had to swim to safety out of their homes to higher houses.”
Leaving her home was hard, but coming back and seeing the damage the storm had done to her property was heartbreaking.
“We lost our whole first floor, furniture, kitchen, clothes, washer and dryer and — the list goes on,” she says.

Read more:–177629571.html#ixzz2CPnciDPu

Unlike many who made the fateful and dangerous decision to stay in their homes and try to weather out the storm, Daly and her partner Jim Leavitt knew that it would be wiser to get out of the area that was predicted to fare particularly badly once the storm hit. “Thank God we left early that morning,” she says. “Some people had to swim to safety out of their homes to higher houses.” Leaving her home was hard, but coming back and seeing the damage the storm had done to her property was heartbreaking. “We lost our whole first floor, furniture, kitchen, clothes, washer and dryer and — the list goes on,” she says. Read more:

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.