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As Red Hook Braces for Hurricane Sandy, Some Hit the Bar

By Alan Neuhauser | October 28, 2012 11:01pm

RED HOOK — Residents and business owners in the mandatory evacuation zone along the South Brooklyn waterfront boarded up their windows and hit the road ahead of Hurricane Sandy Sunday.

New York City Housing Authority workers went door-to-door in the Red Hook Houses during the afternoon, telling more than 8,000 residents of the city's second-largest public housing development that their elevators and heat could be shut down by 7 p.m. Dozens of buses lined the streets surrounding the project, waiting to ferry residents to shelters around the city.

"I'm getting out of here," said resident and teacher Erin Burns, 26, as she walked with her husband, Marcus, 27, and their children toward a waiting taxi. "I'm going to my grandmother's in Flatbush."

A quiet calm pervaded Red Hook and Sunset Park throughout the day. The streets stayed largely empty, save for pedestrians carrying loads of groceries from nearby stores or bags of belongings to waiting cars.

"It switches between, 'This is really happening to me? What a pain in the ass,' and, 'Oh my god, I hope nothing happens to my stuff," said Red Hook resident Emily Garrison, who was preparing to depart with her husband, Greg, for her parents' home in Pittsburgh.

"At the end of the day, it's just stuff. But still."

Along Van Brunt Street, Red Hook's main commercial strip, neighbors helped each other seal sidewalk cellar hatches with plastic tarps and hang wood over store windows.

"I should have sandbags, but, you know, I don't," architect Jim Cameron, 42, said as he placed a black square of tarp over the cellar door outside his building on Van Brunt Street.

"My kids have already evacuated to a friend's house. I'm going to stay tonight, see how ridiculous it gets."

Three blocks away, kitchen designer George Monos hung wood planks across the front windows of Waterfront Kitchens. "I was going for something classier this year," he joked. "I think I nailed it. No pun intended."

At Fairway Supermarket in Red Hook, shoppers stripped the shelves of bread and water, leaving behind only onion rolls, hamburger buns, and a few stray bottles of Evian and Poland Spring. By nightfall, workers were hanging plastic covers over refrigerated shelves to help keep them cool when the store stays closed Monday.

"This is the second time we'll be closed," manager Jose Delarosa, 41, said. "The first time was Irene."

In the apartments behind and above Fairway, doorman Henry Ortiz and resident Sophie Frey prepared to stay through the night.

"Whenever there's a situation like this, I stay over," Ortiz said. "I weather the storm — scary, but exciting. Something to remember."

Frey said she was staying because, "We have no place to go, and I'm not sure if I'll be more safe anywhere else. We're going to close the windows and we'll see."

Aside from Fairway, bars were perhaps the most crowded businesses in Red Hook, where residents and friends from nearby neighborhoods shared a pint before they catching a bus or hunkering down in their apartments.

"I wanted to make sure Ikea is secure," joked Carroll Gardens resident Nixon Thelusmond, 38, as he nursed a pint at Red Hook Bait & Tackle. Nodding toward the six or so other patrons who shared the bar with him, he added, "We're not afraid."

Douglas Calhoun, a server at Fort Defiance Cafe and Bar, offered his own assessment: "Most of these people are pirates and rednecks. They're going to stay no matter what," he laughed, adding that he planned to spend Sunday night in Red Hook to ensure he makes it to work Monday.

"I came to an evacuation zone to stay," he said.

Others were even more nonchalant. Justin Anglero, 12, and Stephen Torres, 17, played catch outside the Red Hook Houses, attracting grins or worried looks from neighbors carrying bags to and from the buildings. Both boys said their families were planning to stay through the storm.

"It wasn't even that bad last year," Torres said. "It's going to be the same thing this year."