zondag 4 november 2012

Guided by Sandy (day 4, Wednesday): Epilogue

The eyes of the professional cameras are shifting towards New Jersey, as Manhattan wakes up for its second day after Sandy. And for a reason, New Jersey has been hit severely, the damage done in Manhattan is nothing compared to that.

I decide to take one last long ride (50km, 31 miles) across the city before I would say goodbye. My route:

I see a city that's woken up to a new reality. Where yesterday the general feeling was one of helplessness, today the first signs of acceptance and even rebuilding are more clearly there.

Where there's power, people tend to share it.

And the ACE hotel even places machines where mobiles of all brands and connectors can be charged in a minute. Day and night.

Some shops don't want to wait until power gets back. They just open, even without lights. "Please pay with cash money!"

Other merchants have found new trade. Apart from batteries; flashlights, candles and generators seem to sell well these days.

The parks though are still closed and well protected.

And while the parks stay closed, small parts the subway lines reopen for the public. For free.

Most Starbucks' in town are not open yet, but one way or another their free wi-fi seems to be operating. As the usual wi-fi parasites take back their place in society, it's time for me to say goodbye.

With a great thank you to the kind people at ACE hotel (not only for lending me their fine bike, it took me where I wanted to go and despite all the debris on the roads only gave me two flats, but especially for warmly inviting the "powerless" during the first days after Sandy), I say farewell.

I'll be back, you bet.

Bart Brouwers, last days of October, 2012

First post in this series: Preface
Second post: Ignorance
Third post: Anxiety
Fourth post: Helplessness
Fifth post: Epilogue (this post)
To watch all of my 300+ photos and videos, click here.

Guided by Sandy (day 3, Tuesday): Helpless

Manhattan is not only waking up from a momentary bad dream, but the night also appears to have divided the city. While at Times Square the neon lights still burn like superstorm Sandy has never even existed, the southern part of the island is completely deprived of power.

The line between the powerful and powerless seems to be magicly bended around ACE, the hotel I am staying in.

Power limits in Manhattan after Hurricane #Sandy weergeven op een grotere kaart

Manhattan itself is an enclave. Public transport from and to the borough is dead, as most of the subway tunnels are filled with ocean water. The major access roads to Manhattan - above and under water - are closed. The city is incredibly quiet. Its residents are helpless ans inconsolable.

Midtown barely shows any visible damage. Here and there a traffic light has collapsed and on 5th Avenue, about two blocks are blocked because the scaffolding on top of a 30 story building has come down.

I am not the only one taking pictures, to say the least. New York has become a city of spectators. They fill the now empty streets of midtown.

Descending Broadway on my bike, the seriousness of the situation gets clearer with every mile I ride.

Everything that wind or water could take, has landed somewhere else. Chunks of waste flock together against the buildings. No shop is open, not a coffee bar or restaurant that can offer its guests anything. The owners of most of the affected properties are not present yet. They probably live outside Manhattan and are unable to reach their premises. Instead, people with cameras. Their targets are rather different from the normal tourists'. Today, the lenses are directed down instead of up.

Police in cars (and other car-like vehicles), police in yellow jackets on every intersection, police as guards in front of stricken buildings, police everywhere you look.

Down south, a provisional fence is supposed to keep out the curious from Battery Park, one of the hard-hit areas of Manhattan. But the fence itself has collapsed, so photographers and cameramen are swarming the park and the quays.

Camera crews are filming the park, the remnants of the ferry's departure hall, and, standing firm, the Statue of Liberty.

The departure area for the boats to the Statue of Liberty is unrecognizable. No table, no chair, no tile, nothing remained where it should be. Sandbags turned out to be as well-meant as they were useless.

The park itself is filled with fallen trees, even the playground has collapsed under one.

Shop owners near the World Trade Center have already started cleaning up. Being without electricity, they use a dustpan and brush, trying to create a little order in their small personal chaos. They realise it's futile for the moment, but still they continue, mechanically, without words.

For the merchants at South Street Seaport this is impossible. Only a day ago the shop owners had been hopeful: with sandbags on the doorstep and tape as a reinforcement of the windows, they expected to stand the storm. But the ocean came in five feet high and ruined everything. And it didn't spare Superdry Store.

The water having come that high, it's a small wonder that it disappeared that fast. But that doesn't mean that the damage is less severe. Sandy simply devastated South Street Seaport.

Mannequins afloat through the store, designer clothes packed together as large colorless bales of cotton. More pictures are taken. And where a poster lures customers for a "chic makeover", this is no longer an option for the store itself.

Two blocks further south, no mercy for a parking garage.

Near the harbor, the classical sailing ships, among them the majestic Peking, seem to have survived. Flags and road signs haven't. No parking!

As the convoy of ConEdison cars is welcomed by a group of photojournalists, I try to follow the East River bikepath north.

Trees are all around the place, there is not much left of the small park at the East River Promenade.

Sandy didn't watch the signs

Large parts of FDR Drive, the six lane highway alongside East River, are still under water. Where the ocean has withdrawn, walkers and bikers are allowed on the road. They take this rare opportunity.

I ride back to midtown, where the wind is far less than at the coastline and where damage is far from everywhere. On Times Square, many stores have already reopened and tourists are searching for the nicest souvenirs as if nothing happened last night.

57th street is still a no go area because a crane on top of a brand new skyscraper has collapsed halfway and might fall down.

Ten blocks down on 5th Avenue, the manager of the affected building I saw this morning, is filming his own havoc. Sometimes spectators are also victims.

As the night falls, 5th Avenue is still a dark place. As is everything south of 40th street.

First post in this series: Preface
Second post: Ignorance
Third post: Anxiety
Fourth post: Helplessness (this post)
Fifth post: Epilogue
To watch all of my 300+ photos and videos, click here.

(PS: today I also find time to take on an old handcraft: writing a story for the Telegraaf newspaper, and being a correspondent for two Dutch radio stations. Thanks colleagues, that was fun...)

zaterdag 3 november 2012

Guided by Sandy (day 2, Monday): Anxiety

The night seems to have been relatively quiet. No signs of damage as I walk the streets of Midtown Manhattan. There is some wind, but the night has also brought a reality check. Car parks are empty, as are the streets and avenues in downtown Manhattan.

Manhattan is anxious on Monday.

Cycling my way East, the wind increases with every block I pass. At the East River, more people have gathered to watch Sandy come. Taking pictures, making movies, touching the water of the ocean rolling in.

The only moving cars are taxis and police vehicles. Sometimes they stop to watch, as if expecting an alien invasion.

Other police cars try to evacuate people from the danger zones...

...or are just helping the homeless to find shelter

Peddling South, more water is entering the East River Bikeway.

Near the Con Edison Power Plant on Avenue C the first cars seem to be wrong place / wrong moment...

...while the power plant itself has found a very special way of keeping Sandy out.

Further south, at the South Street Seaport, more protections have been built. Some of them clumsy but very serious...

...some of them hardly...

...and one of them plainly provocative, if only by the name of the shop.

As I wonder if any of these safeguards will have the desired effect, I ride back north to midtown. I decide to come back here tomorrow, if Sandy lets me.

On my way back north, rain is beginning to pour down on Broadway. Most oddly, heavy gusts of wind are interspursed with total calms. As the hours pass by, the gusts last longer and the periods of calm become rare. On Broadway the first casualties of the street are there.

Same story on Times Square.

When I leave Times Square, the only cars left are the ones on the lighted billboards. Tourists still swarm the place by the hundreds though, as if nothing is about to happen.

When I finally reach the hotel, these guys decide to spend another couple of hours on their bikes. Until all the lights are out in downtown Manhattan.

The management of the ACE Hotel is preparing itself as well. As a total power outage seems to be getting nearer and nearer, the guests are advised "to keep their phones charged" and not to get out on the streets anymore. Light sticks are distributed to every of the 269 rooms of the 12 story building.

My tv stays on all night, as NBC's storm team shows Sandy's invasion.

When I wake up, the lights in ACE Hotel are still on, Sandy has passed and Manhattan has gone from anxiety to helplessness.

First post in this series: Preface
Second post: Ignorance
Third post: Anxiety (this post)
Fourth post: Helplessness
Fifth post: Epilogue
To watch all of my 300+ photos and videos, click here.