On Friday morning I took a walk through parts of lower Manhattan to document a bit of the downtown area, where power has been out for several days. Hurricane Sandy slammed the Northeast coast of the US, creating a massive storm surge that flooded much of the New Jersey coast, Staten Island, parts of Brooklyn and Queens, Hoboken and Jersey City, and lower Manhattan. What a mess. This was the scene at 26th and Broadway, a few blocks up from the Flatiron building. There was a definite division between the part of Manhattan with power and the part without. Even in daylight, the buildings looked dark. You can see a policeman stationed at the intersection to facilitate cars and pedestrians crossing: all the streetlights below 26th Street were out.
This was a common scene at the edge of the power outage – a crowd gathers around a 7-Eleven store at 26th St. and 5th Avenue to charge up their cell phones, i-pads, etc. Many businesses put out power strips for people to use. My father-in-law Bernie was with me while I was drawing this, and he wanted to know why everyone was wearing black? It made me laugh, “just the style downtown” I told him. Some things never change.
There were many buildings with signs like this: BUILDING CLOSED. Try to look into the lobbies, and the dark starts at about two feet from the glass door. It’s a very strange sight to see the bustling downtown area locked down and deserted on a Friday morning. Usually you have to keep your wits about you just to avoid being hit by a car, bus, bicycle, or pedestrian texting and walking at the same time.
I know that many areas of our city – Breezy Point and Staten Island come to mind – were hit much more severely by Hurricane Sandy, but it is so strange to see the effect she had on Manhattan. Manhattanites are so used to think of their island as an impenetrable fortress – this belief cracked in half on September 11, 2001, and now Hurricane Sandy has swept any remaining remnants of that thought out to sea.
Still, New Yorkers are a tough breed and will bounce back with their determination, humor, and fiercely proud cynical spirit!
To the right, below, is the corner shop window of Fish’s Eddy, on 19th St. and Broadway.
New Yorkers have written notes on post-its which are tacked up all over the windows.
Some of the ones I jotted down:
Sandy you broke our hearts – Staten Island
Sandy – thank you for not touching Bushwick
Sandy – you’re a complicated bitch
At least George Bush isn’t President
Hey! You came to the wrong place
And my personal favorite: dear Sandy, take the rats with you!
Oh yeah, New Yorkers will fight this one, like every other obstacle they’ve had to face. Of course, we can’t ever overcome these kinds of things without help from the rest of the country, and we do appreciate that help! Below is the scene at Union Square, near the headquarters of Con Edison, our utility company. You can see utility trucks from all over the country: Virginia, Chicago, Louisiana, Michigan, Georgia, etc., etc., waiting to help. Thank you!
You can see the Con Edison building at the top left of the drawing above. The people of Con Ed (my husband included) have been working 12+ hour shifts, trying to restore service to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are still without power as of Sunday, Nov 4. (Most of Manhattan has been restored at the time of this writing.) THANK YOU CON ED! Keep up the great work we all appreciate it.
The crew from Pittsburgh is shown above, in the midst of staging the operations…after Bernie and I spoke with the crew for a while, we decided to go over to the Con Edison headquarter lobby, to get warm and maybe say hi to my husband Neil for a minute. Have hardly seen him this week!
The lobby was full of people from the surrounding neighborhood, getting warm, and powering up their phones and computer tablets. Con Edison had set up long power strips for everyone. While we were there we heard an announcement that there were free hot waffles to be had on 14th Street – Bernie and I saw the truck as we took the 14th St. bus east.
The scene at the corner of Avenue D and 11th Street, where the bus dropped us off, looked a little like a refugee camp. People from the neighborhood were lined up to receive free food and blankets. The national guard was there, watching everything and keeping order.
There was a line around the block for a hot meal, and boxes and boxes of diapers were being distributed. Can’t imagine trying to care for an infant without heat or hot water. The park where this was going on was right across the street from the Jacob Riis houses, which my father-in-law told me was one of the oldest housing projects in New York. People living in public housing fared worse during the power outage, as most of them did not have friends or relatives living uptown to stay with. The NY Times reported stories of muggings in dark stairwells and people posing as Con Edison workers or police to get into people’s apartments and rob them.
Many of the people were from the housing projects, but not all. There were some hipster couples from the east village as well. Everyone was feeling the pressure of life without basic amenities.
To the left is one of the members of the National Guard, bringing in bottles of water.
their hot meal.
The water supply from the National Guard was not enough,
many of the fire hydrants in the neighborhood had been opened up,
and I saw people filling buckets and carts full of empty bottles with
water. Water to drink, wash in, and heat up for baths.
The lady at left was walking over to a hydrant right
near the park at Avenue D and 11th Street, buckets in hand.
There was also a “NYC Water” fountain set up – I had seen them
in Union Square park in the summer, offering drinks of water
to people hanging out for the day; now their offer of water was much more serious and necessary. So glad they were there for everyone!
Some drawings from that scene below: people were lined up to fill their water buckets and wash vegetables for the family dinner. It was getting pretty cold, I can’t imagine how these people would spend the night again without heat. Very glad that Manhattan mostly got their power back by Friday night, but so many people are still without, and a cold front and possible snow are coming to NY later this week. Oh no.
As we headed over to 14th Street and back up to 1st Avenue, we saw signs of the storm everywhere. Trees down, cars left abandoned full of leaves and debris, people throwing their destroyed possessions out on the street. Hurricane Sandy seemingly came out of nowhere, but her effects will be felt for quite a while. Please consider donating to the Red Cross or other organizations to help out if you can. Thanks! from New York City.