When Barbara Epler and Claudia Steinberg found this Rockaway bungalow back in 2009, Epler recalls, “we saw it and had to have it—that’s all.” Built in 1897 as a fisherman’s club (two trophy fish still hang on the walls), this two-story shack sits on a pier in Jamaica Bay. The Manhattan-based couple, who spend their weekends here through the fall (it’s an hour-long A-train ride), made few structural changes: Epler refurbished the ’70s stained-glass windows and crafted the mosaic tiles for the bathroom (its glass bottom allows those on the toilet to ogle passing plankton); and the floors, once taxicab yellow, they painted gray, while covering Epler’s study in a “bunny-nose pink.” Then came Sandy. The second floor was relatively unscathed, but the bottom, Epler recalls, “was like a washing machine, everything tumbled around.” The floorboards came up, the wall behind the staircase pulled away, and “there was shmutz everywhere.” But with the help of the city’s Rapid Repairs program and a handyman, the place is now in better shape than ever—although they don’t yet have running water and use a nice neighbor’s garden hose. The home’s biggest threat these days isn’t rising tides but development. The couple fear their beloved pier may be demolished. “There’s strange fencing,” says Steinberg. “So our shack, which survived a super-storm, may be facing new perils.”
*This article appears in the September 22, 2014 issue of New York Magazine.