By Ralph D. Russo
Superstorm Sandy left a five-car pileup in Jeff Nier's front yard.
In the Coney Island community of Sea Gate, the 65-year-old waited out the storm in his house.
It still stood Tuesday, but to get inside he had to climb over a mess of squashed vehicles, three cars and two SUVs. Inside, 3 feet of water filled his home, but Nier and his wife were safe on the second floor so he was in good spirits.
"Where am I gonna go?" he asked. "I got three dogs. It was just a surge, but I didn't think it was gonna be like this."
Sandy wreaked havoc in Coney Island, a place better known for hot-dog eating contests than natural disasters. But the superstorm turned houses into piles of boards and bricks, their foundations visible and water still spouting from pipes. Many houses along the water were either completely washed away or leveled. No deaths or injuries were reported.
Ocean Parkway, a six-lane thoroughfare leading to southern Brooklyn, was flooded up to 5 feet overnight. The water had receded, leaving behind sand dunes up to 4 feet high.
Many of Coney Island's landmarks, including Nathan's Famous Hotdogs and the old Cyclone rollercoaster, showed no visible damage. Sandy's high water had piled sand up to 2 feet high on the famous boardwalk.
It didn't keep people from venturing out to the beach on Coney Island to check out the damage. Strong winds still howled and the sirens of emergency vehicles wailed.
Carlo Muraco grimly assessed the damage to the arcade business he has owned for 25 years about a block from Coney Island's boardwalk. The tiny storefront is packed with classic games including pinball machines, a claw crane and a mechanical fortune teller.
Opening up his machines to retrieve tokens, the 48-year-old lifelong Coney Island resident estimated the damage would cost him $200,000.
"I got wrecked and I don't have insurance. Most of this stuff is waterlogged. I never expected this," he said.
At a home for senior citizens about two blocks from the boardwalk, administrator Mordechai Deutscher said flood waters burst through the front glass doors. The staff at the Mermaid Manor Home for Adults had moved all the residents to at least the second floor of the four-story building.
"Everything was fine and dandy yesterday until high tide," Deutscher said. "All of a sudden within five minutes it was like a tsunami. It just shot up from the ocean, it came from the bay and they met."
Danielle DeAngelis, a newlywed, recently moved with her husband into her in-laws' two-story house in the southwest Brooklyn community of Sea Gate, just about 50 yards from the beach. They went farther inland to ride out the storm and returned Tuesday to discover the surging water ripped a huge hole in the back of their house.
"The whole back of the house you can see right through, if you look from the front door, you can see the ocean," DeAngelis said.
Their belongings, from clothes to a piano, were swept out of the house by the water, leaving them to search the streets for mementos.
"We found my in-laws wedding album from Italy two blocks down, but luckily we found it," DeAngelis said.