Seaver Avenue on Staten Island was sloppy with mud, sand and curbside mounds of couches, personal photos, mattresses and sodden sheetrock. Mickey Merrell's front porch was askew, and the storm surge nearly knocked a neighbor's house into hers. Across the street a house was washed off its foundation. It was a scene of human misery -- and one of New York City's new attractions, just like the construction crane that collapsed and dangled precariously high above mid-town Manhattan on October 29.
"Sometimes it's like we're at the zoo," Merrell said. "So many people come and stop and stare at this place."
Michelle Van Tassel, a Staten Island resident who has friends who lost everything, said she tried to deliver supplies but couldn't get through because there were so many people on the street who had no business being there.
"There were a tremendous amount of people who came into the borough to take pictures, to look at the devastation themselves, and it seemed like more of a tourist attraction down there than it actually felt like people who were trying to help," she said, her voice breaking.
Peter Lisi, a renter who is fighting a landlord trying to evict him from his damaged home, said he doesn't mind the gawkers, "as long as they're not making fun". Some of them are drawn in to what's happening and help, he said.
Domenick and Kim Barone said they could tell the tourists apart from the volunteers because the gawkers' clothes and shoes are clean, and they're often snapping pictures.
"Obviously they have nothing else to do," Kim Barone said. "If this is their source of entertainment, to wallow in other people's despair, I don't have the time. I'm trying just to clean out and save what I can save. I don't really have the time to worry about them."