Hurricane Sandy – a city of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’

3 Nov

Yesterday (Friday), I managed to do some more volunteer work in lower Manhattan.

This time it was to help with JASA, an organisation which, among many other activities, runs sheltered homes for low-income elderly and vulnerable people. I went to their residence in the East Village, armed with some flashlights and basic foodstuffs.

The place was dark, cold and felt like it was in shut-down, with no lifts working.

The aim was to distribute food and water to residents who have been without power or running water for nearly four days already. Some had aides who were able to come downstairs to pick up the supplies for them, but others (some with limited mobility) were stranded many floors up and were relying on volunteers or staff to bring basic supplies to them.

I went up to take supplies to some of the residents on the lower floors. It felt like I was anywhere but Manhattan, the centre of the ‘developed world’ when I saw a staff member giving out water via a hose-pipe to residents lining up with buckets so they could flush their toilets!

JASA was also trying to pick up blankets from local hotels, as with the brisk chilly New York autumn now in full swing, the residence was feeling pretty glacial without any central heating.

The one piece of good news was that residents I met told me that they had received messages that Con Edison (the power company) was planning on restoring electricity by tonight (Saturday), 11pm. So I REALLY hope that they will be back on the grid tonight and no later!

Then it was back home. I had to walk back up to Penn Station, about a half-hour walk, as the subway doesn’t work below there due to the power outages.

It was very strange to observe how Manhattan became literally a tale of two cities because of Sandy – with the haves living above around 34th St, and the have-nots living below.

Under the demarcation line, everything felt dead – all the shops shuttered, no traffic lights working, subway stations closed, and everything felt asleep and quite eerie. And then suddenly you’re over the line, and there’s activity, light, power, noise and all the usual Manhattan buzz.

Here are a couple of pics showing life in the have-nots’ part of town:

Free cell-phone charging in the street for residents without power:

Near Union Square, some store-owners were asking passers-by to ‘write a note to Sandy’ on post-it notes, then sticking the notes up in their shop window! (I like one about the in-laws ):

Particularly like the one about the Bronx:

In other developments:

– There has been zero post in our mailbox all week – has the US postal service closed down?!

-The public library is operating on a VERY limited capacity – twice – yesterday , and the day before – I went to try and get some books, and both times, I was not allowed to take any out! Apparently the library computer system is totally down, so you can’t even check out books.


2 Responses to “Hurricane Sandy – a city of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’”

  1. amhausman November 4, 2012 at 19:46 #

    Great post. Love the photos. The US Post Office which faithfully promises: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” is backed up due to Hurricane Sandy. I managed to get mail up to NYC via UPS that was scheduled for delivery on Monday and arrived on Thursday. I thought that was pretty impressive.

  2. Ben November 5, 2012 at 08:02 #

    Really interesting, touching, and very well written! It’s easy to forget how lucky one is. Looking forward to reading future posts. SK

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