Martha Bowers, executive director of Red Hook's Dance Theatre Etcetera, spent the week knee-deep in muck. She arrived the morning after the hurricane to find that her second-floor offices had avoided flooding—just. The waterline showed that the water had gotten as high as eight feet the night before, leaving a mess of driftwood, garbage and, oddly, olives. The Fairway below her had been obliterated, and by Wednesday, the smell of rotting food was overwhelming. After hours in the mire, she drove home to Clinton HIll, where children were trick-or-treating.
"I've been up to my knees in mud and toxic water all day, and this neighborhood is trick-or-treating!" she said Wednesday by phone. "Life should return to normal, it's just—only a couple of miles away, it's a disaster zone."
Such astonishment was common this week, as those who have worked in the affected areas contend with the city's overwhelming desire to forget and move on. Wednesday was technically Halloween—the holiday-moving Chris Christie has no power in Brooklyn—and Bowers was not the only artistic citizen of Red Hook who spent the holiday impersonating a relief worker. At a restaurant near Bowers' offices, the instructors from Cora Dance scrubbed the kitchen with bleach. At the Waterfront Barge Museum, Lava Dance Company assisted in clean-up, a favor to the couple in charge, whose children have taken Lava dance classes for years.
"All artists are making art by cleaning right now," Bowers said.
Their space secure, their street clear of olives, Dance Theatre's concern is for the schools where they run dance education programs, and who provide most of their funding. "I went to one school today," Bowers said, "and its whole basement was underwater. We work in another school at the Rockaways, and I don't even know if it's there any more.
"Financially for us, this is gonna be really devastating, but already, people are talking about doing benefits."
On Halloween, while the children of Clinton Hill gorged on candy, the restauranteurs of Red Hook organized a massive barbecue, cooking off meat, veg and anything else that might otherwise spoil. Residents who were unable to evacuate ate well that night. If nothing else, the smell of roasting meat provided a welcome change.