Non-Political Post to Family and Friends

UPDATE:

BREAKING: Limited LIRR & Metro-North RR service will begin at 2PM More info: mta.info#sandy

Gov. Cuomo: No subway service below 34th street in Manhattan due to lack of power. #Sandy

— Matthew Keys (@TheMatthewKeys) October 31, 2012

I have some family and friends that read the blog so I’m taking this opportunity to update those who I haven’t been able to communicate with.  I am safe, sound, showered but unshaven, and well fed.  The same cannot be said for everyone.  People are missing relatives they haven’t heard from in days including my aunt.  Those who could leave lower Manhattan have left.  This is not your usual power outage. Stop lights still are not working in the busiest city in America below 39th street in Manhattan.  Traffic in midtown with electricity is at a standstill as cars grind into the lower Manhattan “wasteland.” Gothamist has an incredible, though accurate, report of the complete mess that is everything below 39th street right now:

I just returned from Manhattan. I ran for 5 hours with stops, covering 12 miles in total, scoping the island from west to east. You will not hear these stories from the Mayor or Governor; these are my observations, informed by discussions with real people who live in lower Manhattan:1) Virtually every retailer, restaurant and grocery store south of 38th street is CLOSED. This is in an area covering 8 square miles. I only observed a handful of bodegas in Soho and the East Village, along with Ben’s Pizza on W3rd and MacDougal serving customers. Whole Foods Union Square had a sign reading “because there is no electricity, we cannot open.” There is no food, other than what you have in your refrigerator.

2) To that point, there are close to 400,000 people living below 38th street without power. The mayor earlier said it could be 3 days without power; some Con Ed guys I spoke with in the East Village think it could be longer. Nobody knows.

3) No working traffic lights in this region (drivers are generally being cautious and appropriately yielding to pedestrians). Apartment stairwells are pitch black. High rises have no elevator access.

4) For now, this is an economic crisis – hourly workers cannot be paid, freelancers have no clients, small businesses have no sales, office buildings are shuttered. In my estimate, the lost output is $1 billion dollars EVERY SINGLE DAY that goes by without power for lower Manhattan. Included in this number is the shutdown of our major airports and transportation system. (Note that NYC’s economy generates $2.8 bn daily and over $1 trillion annually – which makes it the world’s 17th largest economy, if it was a country).

5) There is no running water or flushing toilets for people living in the Jacob Riis Houses and surrounding NYCHA buildings on the Lower East Side. In my estimate, this is roughly 20,000 people. One family I spoke with is packing their bags and moving to Brooklyn until services are restored. But it did not appear that all residents were evacuating, even as their toilets did not flush.

6) I did not witness a single Red Cross Truck or FEMA Vehicle or in lower Manhattan. Recall the assistance these agencies provided after 9/11 – this is NOT HAPPENING. There are bound to be hundreds of elderly people, rich and poor, who live on the upper floors of buildings with elevators that are now disabled. IF POWER IS NOT RESTORED, THIS WILL MOVE FROM BEING AN ECONOMIC DISASTER TO A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER.

7) If you think Chinatown normally has an unpleasant odor, imagine what it smells like 24 hours following no refrigeration. Street vendors were trying to unload perishables at bargain prices. I saw a fish weighing roughly 20 pounds and spanning 3 feet from head to tail go to a buyer for $1 dollar. $1 dollar!!!!! [Here’s video he sent us.]

8) The substation responsible for the outage is a huge facility. It spans an entire avenue from Avenue C to D and a length of street from 13th to 14th. If crews have to inspect every coil and wire, it might be MORE THAN THREE DAYS UNTIL POWER IS RESTORED. Additionally, the site did not appear staffed with many Con Ed workers. As a note, the 2003 blackout lasted 15 hours.9) The water from the storm surge was invariably contaminated – floating garbage, wood pieces from the dock, and possibly sewage. One Nuyorican woman who lived on Avenue C near 12th street noted the water level peaked above her waist. She was still visibly shaken this afternoon. She also recalled a huge noise at 8 pm when the substation failed. The sky, in her words, turned from black to green

10) There were some very generous things. Northern Spy Food Co. served lunch to everyone who lined up outside their restaurant at Avenue A and 12th street – polenta, pork buns, chicken, biscuits and freshly baked cookies. They get props in my book; all this food was served to locals at no charge.

I’ll do my best to keep the content high while operating from the remote location without all the data on my home computer. Stay safe everyone.

18 Comments

  1. John
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink | Reply

    Great summary and best wishes for the continued safety. Hope you aunt is able to make contact very soon. If observation (6) below is accurate it will be interesting to watch how it unfolds and gets covered by the media. Talk about “November surprises”

    (6) I did not witness a single Red Cross Truck or FEMA Vehicle or in lower Manhattan. Recall the assistance these agencies provided after 9/11 – this is NOT HAPPENING. There are bound to be hundreds of elderly people, rich and poor, who live on the upper floors of buildings with elevators that are now disabled. IF POWER IS NOT RESTORED, THIS WILL MOVE FROM BEING AN ECONOMIC DISASTER TO A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER.

    • NHConservative
      Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Where’s the outcry with the lack of FEMA support? This was front and center for Katrina. If this continues, you know Bloomberg won’t keep a lid on it.

  2. TTK
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This will make it difficult for people to vote next Tuesday. Many people will just simply stay home to take care of their families and relatives. And as far as the government is concerned, I don’t think they will move the election date. They’ll just tell people to go to another precincts to vote.

  3. jvnvch
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great reporting. Take care. Things may get rough.

  4. Freddie
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for the update on NYC. I have a friend at mid town who was posting emails yesterday. Near the upper east side.

    South Florida after Wilma (?) had the three biggest counties with power off for a week and much of it two to three weeks. The biggest problem is water and sewer. The sewer sub pumping stations need power generators. In S FL, big generators where retrofitted to grocery stores in a day. Small stores and restaurants got smaller portable generators and were back online in a day.

    Bloomberg is more worried about Slurpees and Big Gulps. Idiot. They need to get the big portable generators to grocery stores and get food and water shipped in to those stores. ASAP. People do not need fresh food, meat etc. If they have to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a week then it is not a big deal.

    Get the water and sewer back online. The rest is will get fixed eventually.

    When I lived down in FL back then, my power lines were fix by electrical linemen from one of the power companies in Toronto. Most of the power in S FL was reconnected by good old boys from all the power companies in the SE, South and Texas. These guys were working day and night. Real heroes.

    These people at Northern Spy Foods in NYC sound like angels.

  5. Jon
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for the update. God Bless everyone. Talked with someone from jersey shore today. It’s just that bad.

  6. rcl_in_va
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    My mom, sister and her family live on Long Island on the Sound near Port Jeff. All are safe and sheltered. Talked with my sister last night and she said the storm damage is the worst she’s ever seen; trees down everywhere and one fell on the house next door to my neice. No telling when power will be restored; lines down everywhere. I may have family coming down to VA for a visit. Prayers to all caught up in this.

  7. valleyforge
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    20,000 people without running water in one building alone? Stories of the Superdome during Katrina come to mind. Hard to believe no humanitarian aid has reached lower Manhattan yet when the other half of the city is fully functioning. My company is headquartered at 38th and 5th and has been without power since Monday (I fortunately am in Pennsylvania) and most of our staff is without power or sheltering with friends.

  8. wholefoodsrepublican
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    hope your aunt is safe…

    where is FEMA?
    we see pix of Obama in the “situation room”
    heckuva job, barry, mikey, and andy.

    will christie do a better job in bringing NJ back to order?

    wonder what giuliani has to say about this? his recommendations?

    ps. bloomberg speaks spanish worse than a high school sophomore.

  9. David
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    May you continued to stay safe and well, and hope you (or your family) will hear from your aunt soon.

  10. Porchlight
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I don’t understand why more people didn’t evacuate.

    • Diane Fleming
      Posted October 31, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Area A was a mandatory evacuation but many people did not heed the warnings. Personal choices do lead to consequences, some of which are fatal. We should be taking responsibility for our lives without assuming that FEMA and the National Guard will be able to save us. Having grown up on the Jersey shore, I learned to prepare for these events with non perishable food, camping equipment (battery operated Coleman lantern, Coleman stove,a dynamo generated B&W TV , radio, lantern and a portable toilet.) While in the military, stationed at Homestead AFB,we learned to fill up our bathtubs to provide water for flushing toilets. I hope more folks will learn from this horrible disaster how to prepare for more of the same in the future. Forewarned is forearmed!!!

  11. margaret
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is heartbreaking. Can’t they call out the National Guard for food/water distribution and to prevent any looting?

    • margaret
      Posted October 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I just read an article that the National Guard is out in Hoboken NJ, doing rescues and distributing vital supplies. I pray that they will be out any time in NYC.

      • margaret
        Posted October 31, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        Uh-oh. I just read an AP article where the mood of the people in Hoboken is getting ugly. The National Guard is there but food and water is slow coming in. If this spreads to NYC, there could be some unrest. Hope not.

  12. Posted October 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The fact so many commenters above instantly thought of Katrina and the false rap the media pinned on President Bush tells me that it will be impossible to keep a lid on criticism of Obama once the scope of the human tragedy becomes apparent — well before election day. God bless and help those poor souls trapped in this concrete jungle. FEMA may indeed become the center of a new “hurricane.”

    • Svigor
      Posted October 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Indeed, the media made their own bed on that one. As you say, they laid the false rap on Bush, and now the public will naturally turn and pin the tail on the 0bama. Too bad most of the blowback will fall after the election.

  13. easternimm
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    God bless NYC.

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