10/29/2012 02:57 pm ET Updated Oct 30, 2012

In Brighton Beach, Sandy Both A Threat And A Curiosity

BRIGHTON BEACH, N.Y. -- Martin Goldman and his two daughters paused at the wire mesh fence separating the wooden boardwalk from the sand.

The girls, both teenagers, are home from school today, but it was Goldman who was acting like a kid on a snow day.

"Come on, let's do it!" he shouted and then stepped over a low part of the fence where many had crossed before. His oldest daughter, Marissa, quickly followed. His youngest, Eliza, stayed where she was.

"Daddy I just got new boots," she said in a plaintive teenage voice.

A few feet away, Sergei Andropov was filling black garbage bags with sand. "For my building," he said, gesturing to one of the high rises behind the boardwalk. "To keep water out of the basement."

For many residents of this neighborhood, the storm barreling down on them is still a curiosity: a little dangerous, possibly, but right now also exciting. At the local Dunkin Donuts, at the Bay Side Deli in nearby Sheepshead Bay, and here on the boardwalk that runs south to the famous Coney Island amusement park, locals gathered Monday afternoon to gawk at the angry waves and see for themselves what everybody is talking about.

But they also filled sandbags, picked up a few last grocery items and worried about what comes next.

At the Bay Side Deli, Patty, who declined to give her last name, pointed to where water from the bay was beginning to invade a handful of low-lying bungalows. She wasn't worried about her own safety -- she lives on a high floor, she said -- but she was worried about her car, parked on the street in a flood zone, and her neighbors.

Flooding is already being reported in many coastal areas of the city. Earlier, a reporter headed to the Rockaways, a narrow peninsula that juts out into Jamaica Bay, had to make a hasty retreat from flooding roads.

But for now, at least, Sandy is still mostly spectacle.

"Fine you can stay here," Goldman said to his youngest daughter as she stood on the other side of the fence, on the boardwalk. Then he and Marissa trooped through the wind and rain to join a small crowd taking a closer look at the pounding surf.