A week with Sandy – Day 6

NoHo, Saturday November 3rd

At 4am in the morning on Saturday, the apartment lit up as Christmas tree: power is back! I switch off the lights and while I get back to Morpheus’ world, my neurons start processing what I learnt through this experience:

  • Smartphones with touchscreen, apps and 4G connectivity are cool gadgets for 20 hours; traditional mobile phones with a tiny display,15 keys and GSM connectivity are useful communication tools for 5 consecutive black out days.
  • An old radio powered by batteries is more than a decorative object.
  • Candles can be used to generate light and not only to create a romantic atmosphere.
  • You can get a decent phased shower with 15 cups of water.
  • Flushing the toilet on the sixth floor of a building is a more complex and exhausting task than pushing a button.
  • A power strip can be a tool to build a community and make friends.
  • Even without lights, New York is an amazing a place to be.
  • You can survive without TV, Internet and other media as long as you can share a red wine, memories and ideas with a good friend.

A week with Sandy – Day 4, night [Part 1]

6th Avenue and Bleecker Street, Thursday November 1st

Without traffic lights and public illumination, Sixth Avenue looks more US Highway 1 than Avenue of the Americas. Crossing it after 6:30pm without a flashlight is a modern version of a Russian roulette. At various intersections NYPD helps pedestrians cross the street. Everyone crossing the street feels obliged to say “thank you” to these officers. It is not easy to stay in the middle of the street in such conditions.

Thank you, NYPD and FDNY.

A week with Sandy – Day 4, afternoon shooping

NoHo, Thursday November 1st

This afternoon Conedison distributes dry ice at Union Square. I decide to take a break from work and walk to 14th street: the food in my refrigerator will appreciate some extra cold.

University Place is under a curfew; almost all stores are shut down. Agata & Valentina is an interesting exception. The store is open and the interiors are illuminated with flashlights hanging from the ceiling. There is a sort of camaraderie among the customers who are wandering through the dark aisles: they greet each other making jokes about the black-out. New Yorkers will never stop surprising me!

When I get to Union Square, I see that black-out created new businesses and new community services. A stand selling flashlights and battery powered radios is positioned in front of a Bank of America branch, and a small crowd is lining up at a van offering free recharge for electronic devices.

A week with Sandy – Day 4, morning

NoHo, Thursday November 31st

Manhattan is broken in two. The big divide is at 39th street. Above 39th there are power and all the amenities of the third millennium. I live below 39th, on the dark side. Luckily I still have ground coffee, several bottles of water and a stovetop machine. In the morning I have my espresso while listening to WNYC radio and counting the candles that I used the previous night. At the end of the black-out the count will be above 30.

A week with Sandy – Day 3

Washingon Square, Wednesday October 31st

It is now clear that the power won’t come for a few days. After a day of panic, spent looking for a power plug for their smartphones, New Yorkers adopted new habits and daily routines. NYU gave open access to the Bobst Library facilities. A community of families, students and workers without office space started gathering there.



A week with Sandy – Between Day 1 and 2

NoHo, Monday 29th / Tuesday 30th October

The streets are empty and the lights are gone. Downtown Manhattan lost power and Broadway became Main Street of a ghost town. Every couple of minutes the flashing lights of the NYPD cars give some relief from the darkness. It feels like a catastrophic movie with the only difference that we didn’t pay a ticket to get into the theater: we will have to pay to get out of it.