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Red Hook Was Crushed by Superstorm Sandy, but Dusted Itself Off and Came Back Better

Published on 12/16/16

Inside Liberty Warehouse, an event space that abuts the Buttermilk Channel in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, General Manager Jeff Torem showed Commercial Observer a line, about four feet above the ground, that ran across the bottom of an antique mirror.

This is the water line, the mark that shows how high the water rose during Superstorm Sandy.

“You can see it here. This is a really expensive mirror that got destroyed,” said Torem, who also pointed out sections of the wooden floor that have been replaced in a piecemeal fashion.

“Some of [the floor] still comes up, so we replace it,” he said. “We’re replacing patches [a bit] at a time.”

Superstorm Sandy seriously impacted New York City, the suburbs and Long Island. Nearly 50 people died in the Big Apple and others lost homes, vehicles and businesses. Red Hook, Brooklyn, falls in the hurricane evacuation zone. It was a neighborhood that—despite the fact that it was separated from any subway lines—had become more desirable in recent years, with restaurants and businesses slowly popping up. But given its proximity to the water, residents were forced to evacuate, and businesses left with no choice but to shutter.

To commemorate the storm’s fourth anniversary, CO spoke to business owners in Red Hook about what they went through that fateful day, and how their companies not only survived but in many cases came back stronger and more prosperous.

Torem had been general manager of the two-story, 30,000-square-foot event venue for weddings, bar mitzvahs and location shoots for projects including Netflix’s Master of None, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and the Colin Farrell film Winter’s Tale for a year when Sandy hit.

As the storm raged, he saw water pouring over the space’s six-foot railing via security cameras. When he returned five days later, the entire first floor had been destroyed.

“Most of our equipment was washed into the harbor. It was as big a mess as you could imagine,” he said. “The building was here, but the paths leading here were inundated with debris, rocks and stuff that came in from the ocean. Our big roll-up gates were all bashed in.”

He describes the space as resembling “the equivalent of D-Day—there was such destruction everywhere,” Torem said. “I remember seeing the doors bashed in, the windows broken, the walls destroyed, the electric hanging out and all the floors downstairs up in peaks in different areas. It was like a bomb hit it—just complete destruction.”