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Brooklyn Residents Rail Against Red Hook ‘Disaster Porn’

A new, unwanted kind of tourism in Sandy’s wake.

They are everywhere in Red Hook: In front of flooded homes, ruined businesses and whole stretches of battered waterfront.

No, we’re not talking police officers, Con Ed employees, or better yet for residents and shopowners in this battered neighborhood, FEMA workers.

“It’s people taking photos of other people’s misfortune,” said Chris Piscitelli, a Red Hook resident and employee of Sunny’s Bar on Conover Street. “It’s disaster porn. It’s disgusting. If you’re going to come down here, then help.”

Since even before Hurricane Sandy made landfall swamping much of this coastal enclave with as much as six feet of water, people have descended on the neighborhood with iPhones and cameras in hand to document the destruction.

That has Piscitelli and other longtime Red Hook residents and workers increasingly irritated.

“I saw a car the other day honking at emergency services because they were trying to get down to take a picture of where all the damage was,” said Coffey Street resident Lissa Wolfe.

Indeed, there are plenty of places for a quick photo-op with Red Hook’s disarray in the background.

For example, there’s the 12-foot boat grounded on Beard Street. Or the stripped-out shell of David Banner’s set design business off Van Brunt. And it isn’t hard to find a resident on any Red Hook street throwing another waterlogged and useless possession on a mountain of trash with a face resigned to the grim task at hand.

Piscitelli likened people’s newfound morbid fascination with Red Hook to similar waves of photographers descending on Ground Zero after 9/11 and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s not a sight to see,” he said.

Talking in front of Sunny’s over the sound of whirring water pumps, Red Hook social worker Kenan Juska joined other residents to tell outsiders to either lend a hand or get out of the way.

“It’s totally disrespectful to people,” Juska said. “They’re not helping, they’re just straight gawking.”

Ed. Note: If you’re looking to lend a helping hand for the people of Red Hook and other battered parts of our city, check out this list of volunteering opportunities.

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