One Month After Sandy – Closed for Business

It’s one month after Hurricane Sandy, and much of downtown Manhattan seems to be getting back to normal…except for the stores near the East River. The water damage has yet to be resolved for many of the businesses on the last three blocks of Maiden Lane (below Gold Street). Some of the signs are professionally printed.

Flowers of the World

Others are not.

First Republic Bank

Others have no sign at all…but the message is still clear.

Au Bon Pain

One business is open because of major external support.It is a little sad with so much shut down like this. Hopefully the city will do what it can to get things back to normal.

Holiday Star at the Federal Reserve.

At least that’s a start.

Hurricane Sandy in The Hamptons

Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects have been well documented in New York City and the surrounding environs. The New York Times published a fascinating map on the flooded areas just today. But Hurricane Sandy’s damage is even more far-reaching, as it goes all across Long Island, to the Hamptons and beyond.

Flying Point Beach, Southampton, October 13, 2012 (Two weeks before Hurricane Sandy)

Flying Point Beach in Southampton, shown above, had been some 40-50 yards wide, all of it long and flat. It has since been pushed back at least 30 of those yards, right up into the dunes in parts. It has torn out fencing and grassroots, leaving behind a dark black residue. And while the ocean still breaks at the same edge, the water now flows across a wide shallows where there once was sand. There are also hundreds of trees down all over the region There is a certain beauty to all of this, even if it’s broken scattered, or just detritus. But even if it isn’t appreciated by all, as they say, life does go on. 

Prius on Maiden

I took Biba out for her morning walk the day after Hurricane Sandy. We found this car on Maiden Lane just below Pearl Street, a Toyota Prius, most unfortunately parked.

October 30 – One day after Hurricane Sandy

I didn’t think much about it except that I would hate to have found my car hit by one of the few trees in Downtown Manhattan. I imagined the owner was still in his apartment, calling his family, telling them that he was all right.

Biba and I came down Maiden Lane again the following morning; the car was still there.

October 31 – Two days after Sandy

I thought about how it would almost be worse to see the smashed hood and windshield without the tree still on it. I thought that the owner – let’s call him Tim – had probably come down to find it, cursed, and gone uptown to power his computer and email pictures of his afflicted Prius to the family. They could forward them to the insurance company for him.

A day later, three days after the storm, and the car was still there.

November 1 – Three days after

I figured that Tim had realized that there was nothing he could do about this and decided to deal with everything else first – water, power, food. If the city towed it, so much the better.

One week later, a day after the Nor’easter, the Prius was unmoved.

Tim had probably left town to get away from everything. Maybe he had got a ride with his girlfriend to her parents’ place in Virginia. He could have a proper shower there, sleep, and forget about all of this. That made sense.

Days turned into a week and then some; nineteen days in all; the Prius remained..

November 17 – Nineteen days after Sandy

Did Tim leave New York altogether? Was he not coming back? Was he that upset about it? Was it even Tim’s car? Or had he borrowed it from his girlfriend without asking and now he couldn’t admit it? Had he abandoned it just to get out of a lie? Didn’t he realize that the police would tow it eventually, and she would find out then?

November 18 – Twenty days after Sandy

No, he didn’t realize that. He was leaving it here. He didn’t care. He didn’t really love her anyway. It wasn’t worth the hassle. At least he had had those few good warm days in Virginia. The truth was that he had never even liked her or her Prius that much. I mean where had all of this environmentalism gotten him in the end? It had got him here. He had always dreamed of something else, something exotic and incredible. The Mercedes Sedan CLS…now that was a car!

Mercedes Benz CLS

He knew that he could really love that. (Poor Tim.)

Downtown Manhattan: Guts on View

Downtown Manhattan has been under invasion for three weeks now. I’m not talking about the wind and tidal surge…but rather the vehicles and machines that followed. It started sensibly, almost innocently, with the official Disaster Response vehicles in tandem with the water pumping trucks and fuel tankers. There were also the portable generators and tractor trailers.  But then, the vehicles became ominous and strange.The streets began to look less like Manhattan and more like Terry Gilliam’s dystopic film Brazil. And so I began to ask myself: Just what are these daemonic vehicles and contraptions? Are they taking over? The answer wasn’t as mysterious as I had imagined. After a pittance of research, I learned that these imposing, brooding machines are generally one of three things. They are either mobile – albeit massive – generators, mobile – albeit massive – boilers,

Go Giants!

or mobile – albeit massive – dehumidifiers. In other words, the guts of the buildings are no longer hidden in the basements but outside, naked, for everyone to see. Yeah, I think you get the picture.

Hurricane Sandy: Coping with the aftermath

One of the neighborhoods subjected to the most devastation by Hurricane Sandy is the Rockaways, in southern Queens. I rented a car and went to the Occupy Sandy Hub in Brooklyn to ferry supplies and volunteers. We loaded the car with food, diapers, cleaning supplies before heading out through the traffic and confusion. The Rockaways is a very long peninsula, spanning some 180 streets; many of the houses have been badly damaged by flooding; power remains out at most intersections; and the sand and detritus is everywhere. We drove slowly through the streets – slowed by emergency vehicles and construction equipment everywhere – and made our delivery at Inglesia Pentacostal Rehoboth.There was a gas station with no lines across the street, however I had rented a car with a license plate ending in zero (which counts as an even number in the current gas rationing system) and therefore was not supposed to have access to gas today. (The rule is odd number plates on odd number days). I thought about this and the fact there were not only no lines, but there were absolutely no cars either. It seemed like a good rule to break. I left my volunteers at the St. Gertrude Parish.

Directions from St. Gertrude Church

I returned to the Occupy Sandy hub for more supplies. I re-stocked with blankets, batteries and volunteers – three moderately hip 20-somethings from Brooklyn – and was directed out to Coney Island.

Coney Island’s iconic Wonder Wheel

Coney Island, a geographical neighbor to the Rockaways and yet separated by many miles of roads and traffic, appears to be doing better than the Rockaways, but is still struggling with a lack of power and an excess of sand

Neptune and Surf

and muck. We delivered food to a small apartment building, climbing the cold dark staircase, knocking on doors and doing our best to communicate with the mostly Russian inhabitants. I was brought into the apartment of an elderly Russian lady who showed me how she has cleaned up after the six inches of flood water. She didn’t need food or water. She had been provided with those. She needed her power to be turned back on. I couldn’t do that. We hugged instead.

Manhattan – After the storms

It was cold and ugly last night: a mix of freezing rain, snow and wind, all in all, utterly lousy.

7th Avenue and 20th Street, Manhattan

Fulton and Gold Streets, Manhattan

It was just a storm like so many others, not that bad, but I went to sleep with a feeling of dread, thinking about the people in Staten Island, the Rockaways, along the Jersey shore, everyone hit so hard. This was anything but just another storm for them.

It was cold this morning, but the wind and rain were no more. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. Battery Park was quiet and peaceful. And people were pouring back into the city. The tourists were here too.

At the Stock Exchange

Everything seemed the same, like this storm had never happened, like it was just another hyped event, just more news to cover. But it did happen. It really did. And so now what? What do we actually do? There’s a mountain ahead, overwhelming, almost impossible…but perhaps we might follow Governor Christie‘s advice (via his mother): “Do the job you have in front of you and the rest will follow.” I know that I’ve got to get back to my book. It’s time for the final edit.

Election Day – Eight Days After Hurricane Sandy

The problem with us humans is that we tend to forget. And most of what we like to forget is all the bad things that we’ve done. This planet is in trouble and we are to blame. There is no doubt about any of that.

Con Edison truck acting as temporary barrier to the Stock Exchange

Sadly, we have stacked the cards badly against ourselves and it doesn’t look good…but at least we can try. And today there is a choice for American voters. Barack Obama on climate change: “The issue of climate change is one that we ignore at our own peril. There may still be disputes about exactly how much we’re contributing to the warming of the earth’s atmosphere and how much is naturally occurring, but what we can be scientifically certain of is that our continued use of fossil fuels is pushing us to a point of no return.”

Mitt Romney on climate change: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Kepler 22b …and only seven hundred light years away!

It is true that Obama has a long way to go on this issue, but he is the only option…unless we’re thinking of taking a starship to another planet so we can fuck that one up too.