Hurricane Sandy destroys Roxbury: The news in your backyard

Homes lie in a tangled pile of rubble in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

The eyes of the world are on Breezy Point, N.Y., after the community lost 111 homes in a devastating fire at the height of Hurricane Sandy.

And so it was with that in mind I went out to Breezy Point from Stony Brook – I wanted to see the firsthand what Sandy’s wrath was, and tell the story in pictures.

It wasn’t intended to be my only destination – Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn were also places I wanted to check out.

A LIRR train ride, cab ride, walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, subway ride and reluctant car service drive later, I was at Breezy Point. Getting back involved the same, minus car services and cab rides, since all were short on gas and there was no cell service in the area to call one anyway. Some hitch-hiking was involved.

When I say arrived at Breezy Point, I mean Breezy Point-ish. I was actually stopped at Roxbury by police officers, who were only letting residents in, though they welcomed me to go anywhere but Breezy Point. I wandered into a place I – and it seems most others – had never heard about: Roxbury.

It sits right next to Breezy Point, just a few miles away. Technically, it seems to be considered part of Breezy point, but the residents here refer to it as a separate place in conversation.

Which brings me to the residents – this is a tight knit, mostly private community. It’s hard to find clear numbers online for Roxbury, but residents put the population at about 200 to 400 families living in just a couple of square miles, depending on who you ask. When I talked to folks, they would mention their parents’ house down the road, or a grandparent’s summer home around the corner. There seemed to be a mix of part-timers and full-timers in the community. All seemed to know each other by name.

Which makes the devastation wrought by Sandy that much more painful to the community. Entire lives here, along with houses were turned upside down.

Trees and power lines lie on Woodlawn Ave. in Ronkonkoma on Tuesday, Oct. 30 after Hurricane Sandy brought high winds to the area on Monday. You could look at this shot and say it’s a bad storm, and you’d be right, but there’s more to it than a few trees down.

This entry is filed under the “News in your backyard” header because it, like my previous entry about Occupy Wall Street, is precisely the kind of story that Stony Brook University journalism students should be covering – it’s literally our backyard, and it is a story that needs to be told. It’s one thing to walk around campus, take a few photos of fallen trees and call it a bad storm. It’s another thing to get off the campus, see the damage to the world outside the confined (and incredibly safe) walls of the University and call it a bad storm. Here’s the news in your backyard – go cover it.

So while the rest of the media universe is focused a few miles west on a burned out Breezy Point, here are the photos and stories of the people I met in Roxbury Thursday, as they picked up the pieces after Hurricane Sandy.

Susan Tardugno cleans up seawater from her house in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. She and her husband, Nick, have owned the home for 30 years as a seasonal residence. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

Susan Tardugno picks up a photo of her grandaughter that she found on the floor of her house in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. She and her husband, Nick, have owned the home for 30 years as a seasonal residence. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

Homes lie in a tangled pile of rubble in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

Residents chat in the street while cleaning up debris from their homes in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

Walter Cook, a Roxbury resident since he was born in 1943 removes belongings from his home in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

Walter Cook, a Roxbury resident since he was born in 1943 removes belongings from his home in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

One resident left a message for Hurricane Sandy on a piece of discarded furniture in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

Jean Hanretty strips the wall from her home of 29 years in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. She wanted to make sure that mold wouldn’t take hold in her house. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

Sunshine Smith strips down the wall of her friend Jean Hanretty’s house as Rob Hanretty looks on in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Jean Hanretty wanted to make sure that mold wouldn’t take hold in her house. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

Jean Hanretty strips the wall from her home of 29 years in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. She wanted to make sure that mold wouldn’t take hold in her house. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

Debris lines the streets in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

Homes lie in a tangled pile of rubble in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

Homeland Security officers patrol the streets in Roxbury, N.Y. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Hurricane Sandy blew through through the area on Monday, bringing with it high winds and flooding for residents in the Roxbury neighborhood of Queens. By Thursday, there was still no power to the area and residents were busy cleaning up the mess the storm left behind.

12 thoughts on “Hurricane Sandy destroys Roxbury: The news in your backyard

  1. My 86 year old grandmother lives in Roxbury along with my Aunt and her family. Their houses have been destroyed by the hurricane. Thank you so much for this article! This community is where I grew up playing on the beach in summer and winter! Dressing up for their Labor Day Mardi Gras as a child and hoping to win the monetary prize that would always be donated to the Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department! I would love to post this on my facebook page but you don’t have a link! Thanks again for writing this!

    • I lived my summers in Roxbury for many years and loved every minute. I was president of the Moonshiners a great group of guy’s and we loved the Madri gra every year. I am 89 years young now but still have my memories of Rpoxbury. If anyone remembers me give me a shout my e-mail address number1fluke@optimum.net

  2. Thank you so much for this article. It gives a face and a voice to so many that have been forgotten. My family is in Breezy Point, my heart is in Breezy Point and I am glad your article focused on Breezy Point!
    Mike

  3. Thank you for this article. My aunt and cousins lived there in the 60s and 70s and I have great memories. So sad but I know the community will come back they are strong! I have been praying but living on the other side of the country I didn’t expect I could find out about “Roxy” My heart goes out to the people of Breezy and Gerittsen Beach and all areas of NY and NJ.

  4. This article was very enlightening. I have family friends that live in Roxbury and was very concerned for their safety. Thankfully no-one was hurt although the houses were badly damaged. Seeing this on tv does not compare to seeing it live. Our thoughts and prayers go out to this community and all those effected by “Sandy”. God Speed

  5. Thanks for this article. I had several friends in Roxbury. (We endearingly called it Bumblefuck because of it’s remoteness) Sadly, I lost touch with them and this article helped me get some information about how they were doing. I hope everyone recovers from Sandy.

  6. Thank you for this article. My husbands family lived in Roxbury for decades. Our prayers are with all the families of Roxbury and Breezy. Nice to see Walter Cook again.

  7. just got back from seeing things first hand and all i can say is WOW!!!!!!!!! if there ever was a place that could come back from something like this its my home town of Roxbury!!!!!!!!!! to anyone who recognizes me from this e-mail my thoughts and prayers are always with you all. i look forward to the day when we can once again share good times and march in the mardi gras parade lead by the gladiolas. in the meantime take my dads advise and always smile because without a smile you are not completly dressed. look forward to seeing you all soon. scott ball

    • Hi Scott, Mary Lou here. I haven’t been back home in 10 years. I am actually going the second week of June. My heart is broke just seeing it on tv and hearing the stories. Growing up there you always knew it was a possibility but you never thought it would happen. You and I both lived through Hurricane Donna back in 1961 I believe and that was childs play compared to Sandy. That community is one big family and I have no doubt in my mind that Roxbury will once again thrive and be better than ever for many years to come.

      • would you by any chance be mary louella louise??????????? if not which mary lou are you. call me 510-710-5114
        Scott Ball

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