Southern Brooklyn

In Emmons Avenue’s Hard Hit Waterfront Bungalow Colonies, No One Pays A Visit

Port Sheepshead Marina, nothing but rubble.

Despite more than a week of cleaning, Emmons Avenue’s eastern end, a strip of waterfront condos, bungalows and boating clubs, remains in shambles.

We visited Emmons Avenue’s two waterfront bungalow colonies earlier this week, and, though Hurricane Sandy destroyed several homes and left families for the streets, there had been no visits from FEMA, Red Cross or any examples of the volunteer frenzy other neighborhoods have received.

In the absence of outside help, neighbors banded together to help each other.

The day after the storm there was a “lot of laughing, a lot of crying,” said Peggy Sigcha, resident of the Greenlawn Bungalow Colony, a grouping of 40 or so one- and two-story bungalows on the waterside of Emmons Avenue, near Batchelder Street. We met Sigcha while in the home of another resident, who preffered to remain anonymous for this article. Sigcha and her mother stopped by to drop off hot food for the neighbor, just one of the ways neighbors here are caring for each other in the wake of the storm.

“Your Jack-and-Cokes probably saved me the first night,” Sigcha joked.

Like a handful of other residents of the colony, Sigcha chose to ride out the storm in her home, just two houses in from the waterfront. She said that Hurricane Irene only stirred up ankle-high water in the colony, and she thought it would be no different.

But it was. The waves crashed in from the southeast, tearing apart the colony’s defunct boathouse, a decrepit wooden structure at the end of a 40-foot-long pier that collapsed and swept into the colony, crashing into its front-most houses.

“The first thing we saw go was the boathouse. The second thing we saw was a sailboat [that floated up the colony’s alley].  It was coming right up in our yard,” Sigcha said. She glanced away from the sailboat, she said, and when she looked back it was gone – and so was the corner of the house directly across the alley from her. “We think it took a sharp left and took out the house on the corner before going back out.”

Additionally, two of the three houses closest to the water collapsed almost completely. The third, in the middle of a renovation, was saved – but the renovation will need to start anew.

“The debris was shoulder height, and the waves were like surfing waves,” Singcha said. “Someone’s roof landed on my deck. Someone’s front door was on my roof.”

Half the colony remained without power on Tuesday, but neighbors strung extension cords through homes to help set up dehumidifiers, lights and electric heaters. They also dodged Department of Buildings inspectors, who were booting those from unstable houses and telling others that jerry-rigged electrical systems were unacceptable.

While the Department of Buildings became ever present, the police did not. One resident complained of frequent looting. Several homeowners said that opportunists had gone through their belongings for days after the storm. They also witnessed groups of young men checking car door handles along pitch black Emmons Avenue. There was no police response, though they saw plenty of lights and sirens across the Bay in Manhattan Beach.

“We had no cops down here,” said the anonymous resident. “We did not see police at all.” He griped that the cops could have at least done more to comfort residents. “If you know there’s going to be a communications blackout, reach out to the community and reassure them.”

The resident said looting dropped off by itself, as some neighbors have returned and looters have taken all that’s worth taking from other homes.

It’s a similar story down the road at Port Sheepshead Bay at Webers Court, just south of Nostrand Avenue’s terminus, a half-block long bungalow colony that ends in a small marina where visitors could rent jet skis, and where the landlord operated a small boat repair shop.

As in Greenlawn, every house flooded to about five feet of water in the first floor. Family heirlooms were lost, and the home nearest the water was boarded up on Monday.

And the repair shop? Shambles. It collapsed completely, and jet skis and boat parts were tossed over it like roses at a funeral, another Sheepshead Bay business lost to Sandy’s wrath.

Still, the residents of these two waterfront bungalow communities say they plan to rebuild, not abandon. Many were already ripping out drywall and insulation, and even though the Department of Sanitation had already made a half dozen pickups, debris packed the curbs and alleyways.

Despite two evacuations in two years and widespread damage within their colony, residents are buckling down, not running away.

“We’re staying,” said the unnamed resident. “It’s our neighborhood.”


Comment policy


  1. I was down there this morning on my way home to Brighton Beach. I prayed for those living here in Sheepshead Bay. The National Guard finally reached my area today in Trump Village to check on our elderly. Some of us here called twice so it helped even if it took over a week. Homeowners here may have to call too and let the Red Cross and National Guard know there are hundreds of others who are in need of assistance on this island as well.

  2. As I have posted on the other thread about Lake Ave: I think this comment deserves to be mentioned here:

    The city should allow developers (i know, i know it is a dirty word), to purchase and redevelop areas like Lake Ave. Rezoning such area will allow developers to build multi-story (>4 floors) luxury condos which in my opinion, if designed properly will be a much better solution to the flooding problems in such low lying areas.

    We should think forward and move forward. There’s a huge potential in these areas which will remain forever unlocked if we are not open to new, constructive ideas.

    In return, the residents of such low lying areas in SS Bay could trade up for one of these condos in exchange for their land. A big WIN-WIN for all parties involved!

  3. Big LOSE-LOSE for the community. In fact, there is a protected zone already on the other side of Nostrand to protect the bungalows on Haring Street from the effects of over developmemt.

  4. Building condos 4 plus stories high will not solve the flooding problems. It seems like the city should put the brakes on any over development of water front property. A new condo is just as susceptible to the effects of a nor’easter as a small home is. The developers will make their millions and walk away and then the community and the suckers who buy into the condo will pay the consequences.

  5. I think that should be the person’s choice. If there’s a market for such condos, they should build them. I am not for the city having the right to ” put the brakes” on people’s choice. Let the market determine the desirability of such land. But nor should the city pay for flood insurance or otherwise guarantee the property.

    This is sad that a once in a lifetime event is empowering people to demand no shorefront development. Shorefront property is traditionally the most valuable land, can generate very much revenue. Only in NY do we store buses (coney) on such land.

    Then again, in light of the recent election, I suspect a lot of such empowerment in the future. Well, as you sow, you shall reap….

  6. You clearly don’t understand how local government works, and why population density, ecological concerns, and so on are important matters to a city, and they have the DUTY to ‘put the brakes’, as it were, on the people’s choice. If the people’s choice will cause health problems, infrastructure problems, ecological problems, environmental problems, economic problems, then it is the government’s duty to stop it from happening. This is how our government works. And I hear that buildings that were finished when I left Brooklyn are still empty/half empty, so I don’t think it is ‘the people’s choice’, is it?

  7. Yes it took national guard 2 weeks to show up in trump village. Dont know why they even bothered. It would have been useful in the days after while we still did not have electricity, heat etc. Today it was just for the show if you ask me.

  8. the question is, how much power do you give the govt? According to your post, I assume total power. Welcome to the new reality. The trend is in your favor, I admit it. Wait till you see what you get. I’m going to enjoy watching…

    It’s ludicrous that every city enjoys huge revenue from lucrative oceanfront development. New York stores buses and builds low income housing on theirs, robbing the poor, in effect. As far as half empty condos, you know that’s because of the housing slump and you know it, has nothing to do with oceanfront location. Las Vegas has half empty communities ( I vacationed in one), should we KO development there? Should we KO development on the entire coast of California, Florida, North Carolina. You can always come up with SOME “concern” to obstruct development, and that is precisely what New Yorkers do.

    When that big government and its choices turn against you, I’m sure you’ll be singing a different tune.

  9. Waterfront development is fantastic… until a big storm like the one we had comes around. The issue isn’t government; the problem is insurance. If the risk is too high, developers or insurers won’t invest in a low lying area. We’ve already had two big hurricanes in two years that caused a lot of damage.

  10. Funny, but it is the 4 storey apartment along Nostrand (at the end of Lake Ave) that helped the residents of low lying areas such as Lake Ave from the hurricane’s flooding and potential drowning. Lake Ave is about 6 feet below Emmons Ave, any flooding across Emmons Ave will devastate the area greatly.

    As mentioned by Guest below, the decision to develop this area should fall on the owners of the properties and the market forces. Of course, with consultation with various sources to adopt the industry’s best practices. To deny the residents and owners of those properties the right to seek a better future for themselves is not right, and is a hallmark of a totalitarian society.

    Those detractors should put the money where their mouth is. If you want to reserved the right top maintain the status quo on properties that you don’t owned; pay for it! Don’t just shout no. This is no difference from those greenies who are against developing nations who wants to industrialize and upgrade their living standards.

    I envisioned SS Bay area to be a mini Miami downtown waterfront. It can be done with private money, balanced government oversight and perhaps on a sustainable Private-Public Partnership model.

    PS: The current treatment by private and gov. entities, such as Con Ed towards the recovery of SS Bay, besides technicality, is a direct testament of the relevance of the this area. SS Bay, you are getting old, you don’t innovate, you don’t move forward, you are forgotten.

  11. Been walking down on Emmons for a couple of years, it is quite sad seeing the destruction. But the optimism side of me says: stay strong and rebuild!

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