#NYCtransit update: bus bridge will run from Barclays Center, MetroTech & Hewes St station, special lanes up 3rdAve & return down Lex
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) October 31, 2012
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.