The pictures I’m posting here were taken in sequence as I traversed around the city post Hurricane Sandy last week. Most of the words were also written last week or over the weekend. But I’ve waited until today to post so it reaches more people. My power and hot water is working again, but a lot of people are not so lucky.
I woke up exhausted last Wednesday as I’d stayed up far later than planned at the Soho Grand, working on images, writing and taking advantage of the internet service. I was extremely grateful for the hospitality the amazing Soho Grand staff gave me in the aftermath of the hurricane. And not only me. There were others working from the lobby bar as well. But I’ll write more about that tomorrow. That morning I tried taking a cold shower at home but dived out after the first spray hit my body. As someone who showers every day I wasn’t happy about being dirty, but I really couldn’t deal with the cold water at that point. The temperature had dropped quite a lot since the Hurricane on Monday.
I had some fresh organic veggies I’d bought on Monday before the Hurricane hit and realized I had cook and eat them sooner rather than later as they were not going to keep long in a dead fridge. And I was taking the announcements that power would be restored within a couple of days with a regrettable pinch of salt. But more on that later.
After steaming the vegetables I took a big bowl of broccoli, cauliflowers and carrots down to Elsie, the 85 year old on the floor below who has lived in the building for almost 70 years. Her elder sister lived on my floor until she sadly passed away a couple of months ago and I’ve been keeping a closer eye on Elsie since then. She was happy to get the food and after eating, it was time to head back out into the apocalypse.
After I’d posted in FB on Monday night that I was going out to take pictures, my friend Derek sent me a FB message saying interesting things were happening in the East Village. He omitted to mention Avenue C was a foot deep in water. Otherwise I would have probably gone over there. And I say probably because it was seriously windy on my bicycle on Monday night and I was happy enough to only travel as far as the Soho Grand.
This time I went east instead of west as by now I’d heard the East Village had been hit pretty hard. I cut across Chinatown where I came across groups of men, women and children outside in the parks playing cards and gambling. Which is where I took my first pictures of the day. A little further down the road I came across a mob of men huddled together outside a shop. Curious, I got off my bicycle to check what was going on only to see they were waiting to see if the generator in their midst was going to start. Some guy was messing with it and once he’d got it going, the men scattered. It appeared that it was the only entertainment going in the hood.
Riding the bicycle in this kind of situation really reinforces it’s the best way to get around NYC. The buses started running again on Tuesday and apparently the subway was working Wednesday. But only above 42nd St.. Downtown was still without any real transportation. Long lines were commonplace at the bus stops and many people resorted to walking everywhere. Even those on crutches, like the guy with one leg I spotted crossing Grand St..
By this point the traffic lights weren’t working anymore either. Anyone who saw my first Hurricane Sandy blog might have noticed the traffic lights were still functioning on Canal St. on Monday night. That all changed on Tuesday and after that most intersections featured at least one cop controlling the flow of traffic. It made riding a bicycle a lot safer as cars were much more cautious and respectful when they approached the intersections.
Williamsburg Bridge was packed with walkers and bicyclists as it was one of the three entrance/exits between Manhattan and Brooklyn. As I rode up I spotted three guys waving and shouting up at one of the project buildings south of the bridge. Some guy was leaning out of a window and waving back at them. Jokingly I asked if they were going to walk up fifteen floors to deliver what he wanted. They laughed and answered no, they were not going to walk up just to walk back down again. He could come and get it if he wanted it. I didn’t ask what they had for him, but got the distinct impression it was not necessarily legal.
Our exchange made me realize the projects are potentially a serious problem if the power isn’t turned back on soon. They are full of people with no hot water, heat or power, so their fridges are dead and their food has gone bad. And a lot of them don’t have the money to replace that food.
Sitting at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge was a very cool Cookie Monster aka Susie and her beautiful dog, Chuck. With all the madness following the hurricane I’d completely forgotten that it was Halloween, which in the USA and Canada is regarded as an opportunity to dress up for the day and have a massive party for everybody. Not just children. But there really weren’t many people on the streets who’d made the same effort as Susie. Certainly nowhere near the numbers normally out to celebrate this huge holiday.
I rode up through the Lower East Side and made my way into the East Village. Avenue A and Avenue B looked fine. A little bit of debris on the sides of the road, but not much to show for a Hurricane having passed through a couple of days earlier.
Avenue C was a different story. I’ve spent a lot of time at Nublu over the last few years, which is on Avenue C between 4th and 5th. It’s one of the more interesting venues in NYC and I’ve written about it in a previous blog. Petar Timotic is a great artist who painted the interior and has used the basement as his studio for many years. When I’d heard that Avenue C had been hit, it was my first port of call because I wanted to know what happened to his artworks.
When I arrived Petar and Kenji Shimoda, the resident Nublu sound genius were working outside stacking garbage bags which were full of what was now debris from the basement. I asked Petar what had happened to his paintings and he told me that Ilhan, the owner of Nublu had come downstairs and rescued most of them before the floodwaters reached Nublu. I was relieved for Petar as it would have been a devastating blow to have lost his artwork after his recent trauma of being arrested in Texas as an illegal alien. He’d been released a few days earlier and will now be battling it out in court as he is officially stateless. Hopefully he will win as he is an important part of the fabric of the East Village in NYC.
A garbage truck pulled over to the side of the road further down the block and the driver was in the midst of a conversation with a street sweeper as the few cars on the road drove around them. Around the corner the colorful Sixth Street Community Center had obviously flooded judging by the water being pumped out next to the steps leading into the building.
Zum Schneider on the corner of Avenue C and 7th St had been hit really hard. As well as the basement, the water had flooded the bar, which ended up under a full foot of water. The owners and workers were busy throwing out everything that had been contaminated and washing everything salvageable thoroughly. That whole block took a really bad hit as Arcane, which was next door was also flooded badly as was Kafana across the road. There was a slightly surreal moment as a group of Halloween revelers dressed to the nines gingerly made their way through the debris outside Zum Schneider.
On the next corner a couple of ConEd workers were busy pulling wires from the manhole in the middle of the street so I left them to it and passed some pictures with an open door on 8th Street.
The Museum Of Reclaimed Space was established by some of the people involved with Occupy Wall Street and they were doing a fantastic job supplying cell phone charging by using pedal power. Volunteers would pedal the tandem bike out the front which would create the electricity for the phones chargers on the table which were crowded with people desperate for power so they could communicate with their loved ones from the few cell phone hot spots left in the area.
The Museum also had a fine soup kitchen set up on the street from which they were feeding locals. I bumped into my friend Nadette who runs the Peace Parade outside the Museum. She was dressed ready for Halloween with her dog perched in the basket.
The Alphabet Café on the corner of Avenue B and 14th St lost its awning in the winds that came with Hurricane Sandy. But that was nothing compared to what happened just down the block. The East River rose up and flooded into the East Village and Lower East Side, damaging cars and turning Avenue C into a waterway for a while.
The greatest damage was caused by the explosion on Monday night at the ConEd substation on 14th St and Avenue C. A couple of the transformers blew up, cutting the power to lower Manhattan, which we all dealt with over the next few days. And some are still dealing with it.
These are not all the pictures I took on Halloween and if you want to see these and the others at full size then visit this gallery in the reportage section of the website. I will be posting more pictures over the next couple of days, so come back to visit then.