It’s all too strange. There is half of the island that is running as normal, buses and trains moving, shops open and electricity working. And then there is the other half which is plunged into darkness: no electricity, no cell phone access, barely any running water. You can walk north then west from Delancey to the West Village and then north up Sixth Avenue and be surprised when the traffic lights start working and your phone starts pinging around 27th street, because you had started getting used to not seeing or hearing them. It’s like walking through a ghost town back into the city, but so strange because it’s a ghost town that is usually bustling with people and noise and bars and shops and restaurants.
I was really lucky. I live in an area of Bushwick that isn’t in a flood zone. I also live in an area where there aren’t that many trees (usually something that I wish were more of). My power didn’t go out, nor did my cable internet. I wasn’t even sure that Hurricane Sandy would hit us that hard to be honest, not after Irene last year, where the city was spared the brunt of the storm, and we didn’t really suffer that much damage, compared to New Jersey and upstate New York. We closed the restaurant at 4pm on Sunday and I really was expecting to be back at work as normal on Tuesday. Beth and I huddled up with a couple of friends in the apartment on Monday morning and watched the coverage on TV, texting friends in the city, watching as bridges and tunnels were closed down, listening to the wind get louder and louder and eventually really started to worry when all of the transformers in the Con Ed substation exploded and we pictures of major flooding in the city began appearing on the TV and on Facebook.
On Tuesday morning my friend Henna and I couldn’t stay in the apartment anymore. We walked from Bushwick over the Williamsburg Bridge amidst some spurts of heavy rain and a few gusts of wind and walked down Orchard St to assess the damage. Apart from scaffolding that had fallen, shop awnings in the street and the complete lack of any type of power, both my places of work were intact and undamaged. No signs of flooding. We walked through the West Village, encountered many lost tourists along the way, and went up towards Midtown in the search of an Irish pub for Guinness, Powers and lunch. We met up with friends and everything gets a little hazy after that, pubs full of people trying to charge their phones, walking around the West Village completely lost in the pitch black where everyone looked like ghosts or axe murderers until I made it into a cab back to Midtown where light and life appeared to be normal again. There are so many stories of friends not being able to go home because their apartments are still flooded, and I still have vivid images of huge trees squashing cars and houses in Queens and Brooklyn. My mum’s old home in Mastic Beach had at least 3 feet of sea water flooding, and her neighbours who lived nearer the bay came through unscathed but with a lot of damage to their houses, damage that may or may not get covered by insurance, because, well it was a flood zone after all. For all of the people who don’t live here and are commenting on how people should know better than buy a house in a known flood zone, well, I have friends who have actually lost their apartments that were NOT in any flood zones. It’s not like we often have hurricanes or tropical storms heading straight towards NYC every day.
Now it’s Thursday and I still don’t know when I will be able to go back to work, and how long it will take for the power to come back in Lower Manhattan. The subway system is back up in a limited fashion, still no trains below 34th street and roads are still gridlocked with cars, people trying to get into the city to work, or to find out when and if they can actually get back into work. Night time is so eerie below 34th street, some bars are reopening with candlelight and selling liquor and bottled beer, some places are running on generators that probably won’t last forever, and all you can see when you are walking in the streets are headlights from cabs and cars driving around slowly. There are lines of people waiting for buses into the city, so I think I will remain in Brooklyn until I know I definitely have to work again. I’m just glad that everyone I know is somewhat safe and alive.
And now to find a decent pint of Guinness in Bushwick.