Images from hurricane Sandy, with audio by Jen Poyant
"How high did the water come at your place?" was the common refrain among neighbors, friends, even strangers, across the Rockaways in the days after Sandy struck.
The storm's seventeen foot surge pushed across the peninsula, leaving behind water-logged basements and first floors, their remnants piled in front of home after home, block after block. The boardwalk, which nearly ran the length of the peninsula, was severed from its concrete foundation, slammed into shorefront homes and deposited on cars. It was an unprecedented disaster in the Rockaways and countless other coastal communities, where the scale and scope of the trauma, suffering and uncertainty would unfold slowly in the following weeks and months.
Every person had a storm story.
People told tales of survival, digging out, rebuilding, and hoping for things to get back to normal. Each person's story reflects a long history of settlement along the peninsula, from the close-knit Breezy Point community on the west end all the way to Far Rockaway on the east. The floodwaters united the disparate populations of the peninsula through shared trauma and struggle, yet as they receded and the clean-up dragged on, longstanding differences resurfaced.
What are the Wild Waves Saying documents the lingering aftermath of the storm and the individuals that comprise the complex community of the Rockaways. The audio interviews and photographic portraits delve into each subject's storm story and uncover the deep connections to the land and the sea.
The Rockaways are at a turning point, one faced by ocean-front communities in the age of climate change. Questions of rebuilding and future development loom, while lives are sustained by memories of golden summers and the boardwalk that once bound the Rockaways together.
What are the Wild Waves Saying: Storm Stories from the Rockaways is a collaboration between senior WNYC radio producer Jen Poyant and photographer Susannah Ray. They are both Rockaway residents.