Homes and businesses were not the only places that Sandy destroyed.
Gateway National Recreation Area, which encompasses parts of Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Monmouth County, New Jersey, is also still recovering from the storm and has yet to fully reopen.
The effects that Sandy had on the area can now be seen in a new exhibit, “Hurricane Sandy: Before and After,” at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.
“These [photos] are snapshots in time. It’s the chance to see a historic event,” said Charles Markis, a park ranger and the exhibit’s curator.
As part of the storm recovery effort, the National Park Service (NPS) Incident Management Team went around the area taking photos to assess the storm damage. The team, one of the largest assembled in NPS history, even had access to aircraft for aerial pictures.
After looking through those photographs, and receiving inquiries from the public on what had happened to Gateway after the storm, Markis saw them as more than a remediation tool.
Using those photos, as well as shots from the NPS already had of the area’s condition before Sandy, both from on the ground and satellite imagery, he put together the “Before and After” exhibit.
He describes the 30 photos, some of which are side-by-side comparisons, as sad, yet interesting and beautiful, and has received a similar response from those who have seen it.
“My point was not to celebrate the disaster but to tell the story of what happened,” said Markis.
The photos show scenes of structural destruction at Jacob Riis Park, boats thrown onto land away from Great Kills Harbor and parking lots buried in sand.
The pictures also illustrate resilience through recovery progress maps, and that’s the ultimate message that visitors should take away from the exhibit.
“While these pictures demonstrate damage, the take-away message should not be one of doom and gloom, but rather one of resilience,” said Gateway superintendent Linda Canzanelli. “There is still a lot of work to do and some things have changed forever. But the park is reopening, the natural areas will rebound and park visitors will be welcomed back.”