Sad Far Rockaway – A Trip to Former Beach Culture

Far Rockaway birds flying over beach

A few weeks ago I was out in the Far Rockaways on a blissful and hot April afternoon. It was a Sunday, perhaps not the best day of the week to take public transit (as it’s much slower and trains have longer waiting times than during week days). I hadn’t been out ever since I stopped by last summer, for the lovely beach and some fish tacos (read more on this adventure here). I had spent some peaceful days in June, July and August hanging out at the shore – simply being happy not having to go through the crowds at both Coney Island and Brighton Beach.

But as so many other places close to the water, the Rockaways were hit hard when Sandy came and went. And now, seven months after the devastating hurricane, they are still nowhere close to what they used to be.

When I wandered out on this particular Sunday afternoon, I was under the impression that at least the beaches had been rebuilt and that I was able to walk around, taking in life before the summer season. I hadn’t expected the train not to be working, the people still rebuilding their houses and the Far Rockaway taco shack cleaning up the shards in front of their doorstep.

Improvised MTA station
Improvised MTA station

The first obstacle I was to encounter was when taking the A-train towards Queens: It harshly stopped at Howard Beach/ JFK (which is usually not the last stop). I already wondered what to do next until I saw the signs directing me towards a shuttle bus to Far Rockaway. When stepping out of the train station, there was an improvised MTA station for those who needed help to get around and buy tickets. A small bus transported us from the JFK stop towards our destination – over land, past hideous Queens malls and KFC joints, until finally we were in the middle of the Rockaways: Mott Avenue. Never having seen the town center before, I was left to wander around. Past some run-down houses and dubious food joints, dollar stores and delis, all concerningly low in foot traffic. The rockaways are not known to be high class but I’m sure Sandy didn’t help in destroying a perfectly poor area.

Shuttle Bus to Queens
Shuttle Bus to Queens

After being blabbed at by random hoodlums and feeling a bit doubtful about my adventure, I walked off to the H-Train, which, I can confirm, truly exists. The H-Train is now what the A-train used to be back then: It extends over the “island” from Mott Avenue to Beach 90th Street and takes less than 20 minutes to ride from one end to another. It’s the only means public transport that has been rebuilt only weeks after the hurricane but, so far, its progress has most likely stayed the same. Of course buses are also active but I didn’t have the patience to look up their current schedule. At B 80th Street I hopped off and walked towards the promenade.

The H-Train!
The H-Train!

An empty KeyFoods glared at me, with boards nailed to the doors and windows, probably never to be in service again. I had to think about how tough it must have been for businesses to sustain themselves throughout the winter. In April, a few shops here and there were open, even a nail salon and bar were back to business. However, after turning the corner at 95th Street, Giovanni’s Ice Cream and my beloved Far Rockaway Taco were tightly closed. A few guys were balancing on the joint’s roof and doing construction work. I believe this is a good sign that come June they could be open again. After taking in all of this damage around me, I was ready to get away and see a clean beach.

Unfinished Promenade at Far Rockaway
Unfinished Promenade at Far Rockaway

But arriving at the promenade, or rather what was left of it, was more than depressing. Wooden stumps semi-finished in the sand. A homeless pillow left alone on the beach. Construction debris close to the sand. Only the sea, the sea had stayed the same. I felt like just taking that pillow and taking a nap, to escape this crude nightmare. The same nightmare the residents must have experienced for the past 8 months. I really have no clue as to how and when Far Rockaway Beach will be up and running but so far it did not feel like anytime soon. The demotivation and exhaustion reeked from every turned up stone I saw on my way back. A broken doll extended her arms towards me. I wonder who lost it and how it ended up in the sewage.

Doll in sewage
Doll in sewage

A trip to the Rockaways – a shock in every bit. Whatever has been damaged will take months to come to repair. Has a summer gone to waste?

Current damage at Far Rockaway
Current damage at Far Rockaway
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Post-Sandy: Reflecting on the Past 2 Weeks

It’s been two weeks since Sandy swept through our little city and took away from so many people what had been considered a basic need until then. Electricity, hot water, a house, a car – the stories of families who were hit in an unfortunate and dreadful way are until this date never-ending.

I mentioned how it looked like roughly a week after the natural catastrophe. Now more than two weeks have passed. And yet, it is still one of the most important topics talked about in this town. How could it not be? The projects I volunteered at last week now have power but they don’t have hot water and heat. We did have a snowstorm in between, which must have made it close to unbearably cold to its residents. Then Far Rockaway still looks like one of the biggest garbage disposals on the Northeast. No electricity here. A good amount of people are continuously trying to wedge the flood waters out of their houses because they have simply nowhere else to go.

It’s been a shock, this occurrence so close to the end of the year. Think Katrina. Think other painful happenings around the world that most likely will always remain in our memories and hopefully also hearts. While our work now is good to go with power, heat AND internet, it still does not feel quite right. A coworker is on the road for three long hours to and fro Manhattan (totaling up to 6 hours a day in commute) just to get to work from the destructed Staten Island. Another has lost power in New Jersey for a short interval while the snow swept through the counties.

Most trains were up and running at the beginning of last week. Still, getting on that N train during rush hour was more than stressful. Once I was stuck on the yellow line for 1 ½ hours straight. A ride that usually took 20 minutes stretched out to 4 times its length because the suspended R train drew too many people into the subway cars. Imagine people squeezing against you and being in your face for 90 minutes straight. Yes, quite a torture!
The D-train, on the contrary, was half-empty and not too many commuters seemed to be taking it. At the end of the week, the subway had somehow leveled out. First the G train was back in service. And then the L-train was restored late Wednesday evening. Finally the Willamsburger crowd had a means of travel when getting into the city and back. Cut off from Manhattan for one and a half weeks – it must have been an exceptional time for that otherwise so trendy and hip crowd.

One problem that has remained up until yesterday: The gas shortage. Following Jersey’s Governor Christie’s tactic, Bloomberg decided to ration out gas to New York. Depending on the license plate ending in an odd or even number, you were allowed to fill up your tank at certain days of the week. Ridiculous, it seems. Nonetheless, a crucial means to control a mass panic under some heated up cars in New York.

The Path train that connects New Jersey to us now runs but only until 9:30 at night (it used to work 24 hours/ 7 days a week). I believe most people have been able to return back to work. Except for my roommate, he works down at Battery Park. Lucky him can do some work from home, but most likely he is tired of that by now. For the same reason his work place is closed, the R-train only runs until Jay Street-Metrotech, which is one of the last stops in Brooklyn before the R goes into Manhattan. The tunnels are still being restored. No subway to the Staten Island Ferry. The video below might illustrate how insanely flooded this speck of earth was during the hurricane.

Hurricane Sandy on Bikes

We are getting back to normal. Slowly but steadily. The wounds are closing and leaving behind some nasty scars. No one will easily forget what happened during the last few days of October in 2012. How the city of cities was forced to face mass destruction, life changing circumstances, and once again truly the worst and best of people.

Dealing with Sandy’s Aftermath: A Week of Chaos

A dark Lower Manhattan in Sandy’s Aftermath

This week is slowly coming to a close. However, the wounds caused by the hurricane that hit New York, New Jersey, and other states are still wide open. The full extent of the storm was well hidden to us at the time of the last two posts.

Wednesday morning I was supposed to report back to work. Such as thousands of other people all throughout the 5 boroughs. Since the trains were not functioning, our job asked us to take our own cars or cabs they would reimburse us for. Flagging down a taxi proved to be harder for everyone else, except for me. I had one down in only 5 minutes. Seeing the traffic all around the Barclay’s Center made me feel a bit queasy. And trying to get out of Brooklyn was simply hell. Driving over the Manhattan Bridge was almost a piece of cake compared to the bumper-to-bumper scenario in downtown Brooklyn and before.

We drove through a somewhat less lively but nonetheless depressing Chinatown. Unkempt people, no matter what ethnicity, waiting in a long line for the bus to Uptown. Students trying to get a ride out of this city. Then the ghost town of the West Village and the rest of Chelsea. A family with two small girls, evidently not having taken a shower in days, with desperate looks in their eyes and even sadder expressions while waiving their hands for a cab. An angry woman shaking her fist at us because I was the only passenger in an otherwise empty cab.

After one hour I was finally in Midtown – way sooner than most of my coworkers. The horror stories from them piled up one by one: People from Queens were stuck in traffic for up to 2 1/2 hours before they made it to work. Other Brooklynites paid 75 bucks for a 2-hour cab ride which would have cost them 20 bucks max under normal circumstances.

That one morning by itself was the beginning of an endless frustration reaching throughout the entire week. The Empire State Building had its power up, alright, thanks to its own generators and what-nots. However, ConEd had turned off the heating. We sat bundled up in our winter coats, trying to get some work done and being hit over the head when pictures from Staten Island, Breezy Point, and New Jersey reached us through the online news. A heartbreaking story of a coworker who had lost his house and car all in one night. Another who was scraping sewage water remnants from her basement walls. And yet another stuck without electricity in Staten Island.

Traffic in Brooklyn on Thursday

It turned out that a total of four people lived in Brooklyn, and since we were pretty much all on the same route (Park Slope and Sunset Park), a coworker with a car volunteered to drive us to and from work until the day the subway was running again. While driving down the FDR, we passed the East Village, or rather, the depressing sight of ultimate darkness of what had once resembled a carousel ride.

On Thursday, subways resumed partial service to Uptown Manhattan and from Queens to the City (stopping at Times Square). Brooklyn was still cut off from Manhattan. The MTA started engaging shuttle buses from the Barclay’s Center to Manhattan. The lines were a total chaos: People waited as long as 3 1/2 hours to get onto their “ride.” As we drove past one of those horrendous lines, we saw people lined up around more than 6 blocks. Traffic was still dense in the morning. Police officers were checking if the minimum of three passengers per car was met. Whoever had less persons was asked to pick up waiting hitchhikers on the side of the bridges or to turn around and not enter Manhattan.

We decided to evade “rush hour” traffic and drive home at 3 o clock already. A wise decision. Subways started resuming service throughout Brooklyn, but still not into Manhattan. The buses were still a complete chaos. Much more pedestrians than usual could be found on the bridge throughout this entire week. Horror stories from the working subway lines in Queens were discussed at work: People were fighting over seats and shoving others from the benches. Passengers were smashed against the train windows but at least they had gotten on.

The updated MTA map that was valid until Saturday

More stories from residents of Lower Manhattan made the round: Supposedly their Uptown brothers and sisters denied them access when they went into hotels and asked if they could at least charge their phones. The discrepancy between this city sometimes still baffles me: Only one block over and it could have been you without power for 5 long days, 40th Street!

On Friday, the ESB started having problems with electricity in certain rooms. Our Internet gave up. We basically were simply incapable of doing our work because of these technical issues. Electronic heaters were bought and put into our offices so that we could take our winter coats off. It was pretty much a wasted day.

Horror news of a snow storm hitting us next week made the round. All of Lower Manhattan was still darkened out then. I started asking friends if they knew someone who was still stuck there and that they should get out before the second storm hits. Work asked a few people to come in on Saturday, only if the power and Internet was working again, of course. When I told my friends, everyone was shocked. In a state of chaos, we need a weekend without having to go through the excruciating pains get to Manhattan. Everyone needs these two days off to recover from the bad news, the frustration, and the shock that surrounded everyone who had to return to work and go through disastrous traffic or deal with half of New York still being out of power.

Traffic jams everywhere

Another crisis was slowly creeping up on us: The gas shortage! When we drove home once again on the last workday of this week, we found a line of up to ten blocks long leading from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to Atlantic Avenue. People must have been waiting for hours already! The news reported a man pulling a knife at someone cutting the line at a gas station in Queens. We had enough of this chaotic week and just wanted to be left alone with our own worries, not having to bother with getting to and fro the City.

It also happened to be my friend’s birthday yesterday, so I ended up walking those 1 1/2 hours from the Slope to Williamsburg. Since the cabs were now charging outrageous fees due to the gas shortages, I tried a bus first, but two crowded ones drove by without even halting. After 30 minutes I had enough. As it was still early in the evening, I made it to the isolated part of Brooklyn safe and sound. A short stint past the famous Marcy Avenue Projects, but it was still early at night. At the same time, power was restored in almost all of Lower Manhattan. From over half a million households, now only 5,000 are left powerless. What a true wonder ConEd performed last night! The happy Facebook posts on my friends’ walls were endless and heartbreaking at the same time.

And then this morning finally some more good news: The 4 and 5 were the first subway lines to go all the way from Brooklyn through Manhattan to the Bronx! Hourly updates poured in: The Q to be restored by the afternoon, the 2 and 3 by tomorrow. The D up and running on Sunday. Now the only trains that are missing are mostly in Williamsburg: The G and L lines will most likely take until sometime next week to function properly again. The L is underground and all the tunnels have been flooded. Seeing pictures on the Gothamist really makes me appreciate that at least a few subway lines are up in the running this weekend. I will not yet take advantage of them but hope to get to work on Monday that I have more options than a car or a cab.

New York finally announced that they won’t hold their marathon this coming Sunday. One of the sanest pieces of news I have heard do so far in this matter. It had caused a lot of disgruntlement and even hatred when it came to this topic. How could a marathon be carried out when Staten Island, Manhattan and other parts were still struggling to digest what had happened to their destroyed homes? Luckily, hypocrisy did not prevail, even though Bloomberg’s initial argument was that the marathon would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars revenue… So everyone who flew out to run can help as a volunteer if he or she really wants to support this city!

What is the situation right now? The gas shortage and frustration connected to it still persists and most likely will for a long time. While Manhattan is almost restored to its old self, the often forgotten and in this case even neglected borough of Staten Island is struggling to keep up with restoration. New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester are mostly still powerless and have no heated water. Whenever this will be back to normal – who knows!

Currently I am simply thankful for living in one of the lucky areas and having had the option of a ride to and from the city. The initial state of frustration is giving way to depression and sadness at all the damage caused in this city. We survived but the wounds are still fresh and nowhere closed to being healed.

Hurricane Sandy: Day 2 – Over But Not Really – We got Hit!

Boy, what a night and day we had! While I was snuggled up in my Brooklyn apartment, all ready to fight the storm but essentially falling asleep over some old seasons of “Revenge,” the rest of New York was in the midst of a true battle.

Queens extinguished fires all night long and saw houses get washed onto the tracks. Staten Island also had some extensive burning and flooding going on. Lower Manhattan lost power at some point in time during the evening, starting at 7 PM. The first blocks to be affected were the Lower East Side and Financial District, city parts which are close to the water. Now it has jumped over to all households and buildings below 40th Street (or, better to visualize, anything south of Times Square). The Bronx had some destructive winds rage up there in the North. And New Jersey, poor New Jersey is completely screwed over with its extensive flooding and curfew zones. While Hoboken lies right on the water, it was not the only town to be evacuated. Jersey City is also still fighting its rivers of overflowing water in the downtown area. All the smaller places close to the water are basically destroyed. The same is going on with Long Island, which looks similar to New Jersey picture-wise. Power is out in 90 percent of the households. Flooded apartments and houses. Within one night people have lost all of their hard-earned savings, belongings, and memories. It is very sad to see such heartbreaking news on TV.

For once I am truly glad that I live where I live. I am happy that I am not anywhere close to Manhattan and what is going on over there right now. All those celebrities who paid millions of dollars to live in the Meatpacking District and around Gramercy must be really frustrated with the lack of electricity they are experiencing together with the average struggling citizen of New York. Well, as rumor has it, the power is supposed to be out for another 4 days. ConEd is having a hard time catching up. Some parts will even be shut down for another week. How people will manage to survive through the dark – I have no idea.

Today I walked through Park Slope and met up with a friend from Crown Heights. Many more people were out on the roads, picking up their little remnants of the storm (I forgot it was a tradition to collect fallen twigs from the ground after a hurricane). We went past over-crowded bars. Businesses were opening up slowly. Brunch in our favorite but packed Irish pub in Fort Greene. Just another frustrating day after Sandy. Everyone was happy to be around people again. Cabin Fever, is what you call it. Staying inside and being bored for too long. It was refreshing to walk back to Prospect Park and look at the fallen trees throughout the Slope. One giant hit the ground and took a few cars with it … Ouch!

While the MTA had been up and running only one day after Irene hit, this year it will take at least another 3 to 4 days to get started, as Bloomberg announced in the morning news. Because of flooded tunnels and power being out in the entire subway system. I wonder what happened to the rats… As of now, we don’t have any further updates on this matter.

In case you didn’t know or forgot: The MTA is the thriving force that holds this city together. If not subways and trains are functioning, people are stuck. They cannot go anywhere or leave to anywhere. The busses have already started limited service this afternoon and are scheduled to pick up within the next few days. However, a subway ride that would have taken me 16 minutes from here to my work will now take me 1 and a half hours on two different busses which have yet to start service yet. All of this is a huge mess! Or as my friend puts it: “This is crazy!”
She is stuck without electricity in Westchester, a county above New York City. While they managed to get out of Jersey City in time, they have no power and no connection to the outside world (well, except for an occasional update via text message). Unfortunately, even if she manages to swim through the still closed and flooded Holland tunnel, the PATH will not run for another 7 to 10 days! That’s over a week without any public transportation means. This city relies on it so bad!

I have already started to feel some de-motivation when talking to friends and my roommates. No one I know has a car. No one here needs one (except for now, I suppose). So if the only means of transport is not running, what else is left to do? Work has required me to come in tomorrow. They will reimburse us for the cabs we will have to take. Of course the Empire State Building is possibly the only spot below 40th Street that has power. But my friends have also been asked to come in. Some won’t be reimbursed for the cabs they take so they are thinking about bussing it (2 hours back and forth equals 4 hours of wasted time a day). It’s basically a huge disaster but I guess it could be worse. Let’s hope it will be running this weekend again.

Oh, and airports? JFK is scheduled to open up tomorrow again. La Guardia and Newark will be closed but maybe this will change again soon. Things change so quickly the day after the hurricane.

This is possibly the worst New York has been hit. But its spirit is what makes this city out: Dwell on it for a minute and then move on. There is work to do!

Hurricane Sandy – Day 1: Still Before but Somehow in the Middle

Frankenstorm has finally arrived. I decided to walk around Park Slope at around 1 PM in the afternoon…. Luckily I did my laundry yesterday already, because, alas, the only laundromat close to my building was closed, of course! They decided to call it the quits yesterday around 6 PM. By that time, the MTA had made the decision to shut down and the bus system was scheduled to ride at 9 PM for the last time. No trains and busses for almost 24 hours. I suppose this is what New York feels like during just another one of their hurricanes… This time it actually is not as bad as the year before. I have a ton of bar and restaurant options to choose from.

So I walked up to 5th Ave, since the bars on 4th Ave were closed down and no bodega was open. However, 5th Ave rocks! 5 bars in my vicinity and all of them are defying the storm that is safely picking up to its predicted speed of 90 MPH.

Of course I picked Uncle Barry’s, which was a deserted place early in the afternoon. However, the bartender came up with the one and only justifiable drink during that day: The hurricane! Made of 4 types of rum and a pink juice topped with a sweet cherry. Looked girly, tasted sweet, and hours later I am still feeling its effects.

Rightfully earned Hurricane drink!

After this, I walked past the packed Alchemy, which offered Sunday brunch and great Bloody’s. Then the rain started to pour down, so I sprinted back home. Just in time for some breaking headlines on the news at that time (actually, they are still reporting about it): Construction crane collapses in midtown!
Supposedly a crane on top of a 95 million dollar real estate project had not been lowered in time and is still dangling over 57th street, threatening to hit passengers who shouldn’t be out on the street and taking pictures with their iPhones in the first place. So beware of the bad crane, it might hit you people walking underneath it on 57th Street and between 7th and 6th Avenue…

Seeing some wet pictures of Long Island and Long Branch Beach made me slightly uneasy. I felt sorry for the poor reporters who had to waddle through knee-high water just to get the real shots of the day… Long Island always seems to be the main target when it comes to flooding (sorry, Queens, you are always screwed!). This is why I decided to keep my millions to myself and stay safe and sound in North Brooklyn!

Other than this, friends seemed to be more bored than usual on the one and only other option to mingle – Facebook. I have the choice between answering my worried friends in Germany, who, after these dumb headlines from a German newspaper, are freaking out even more than I am. Not to mention the rest of America who is avidly praying for… us? We are okay, people, we are just fine!

My one friend has been baking cookies in the Upper West Side and invited her neighbors over for a party. My other friend is bored up in Dykman and keeping us updated about “rats climbing trees in Staten Island.” Those rats are wonder creatures! My cousin has been roasting a whole chicken and baking pies in Philly. I hope they are going to be okay, they don’t even have bars open to celebrate.

Wet streets in Park Slope

Other friends are just waiting it out in Crown Heights. I heard someone talk about wanting the subways to run again and return to work. Oh by the way, some jobs are even more incredible than mine: A friend was required to come into work because she lives “only” 20 blocks away (Manhattan). Others have been asked to do work from home. Excuse me? Possibly the power shutdown will prevent employers from coming up with more nonsense. ConEd has turned off the juice in Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn already. People received a lame voice message on their phones before they were left to the dark. Which is why I want to bring this post up before the real deal goes down and I cannot roast my own chicken anymore.

So here I am, about to cook up some dinner and watching more breaking news with the roomies. Sirens howling in the background, winds gushing past our window. The tree across the street swaying dangerously towards us and the small car parked beneath it… Hurricane Sandy, bring it on! Luckily the fridge still has some beer…

Again?! Hurricane Sandy Threatening to Destroy the Big Apple!

Once again New York is fighting one of its annual hurricanes bursting through the Tri-State-Area… Hold up! And I thought after living in Florida I would have been in the state the most threats when it came to hurricanes, floods, alligator bites…?! While when I was there, I had not witnessed even the tiniest storm in the sunshine state, New York is offering its second (!) hurricane sweeping past the city within just one year! Yes, one year!

I have no clue as to why all of a sudden I am preparing for a natural catastrophe on an annual basis. But sure enough, after the devastating Irene of last year’s August heat (read more here), we are now on the run to fight hurricane Sandy (whoever comes up with these names, I like Sandy a lot better than Irene). While Irene had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit the City in 2011, Sandy is predicted to have gained in strength comparable to two storms. And on top of this it is rumored to have a diameter of 1040 miles, meaning it will reach far into the countryside. Once it is close to the Canadian border, experts believe it will mingle with the colder atmosphere to create a vicious mix of snow, ice, and wind…

Now if this does not sound like bad news, I don’t know what will. The fact that the news spread right when the weekend started certainly did not help in terms of New Yorkers believing in taking extra precaution. While a few coworkers had fantasized about an extra day off on Monday, we were all too absorbed in our daily routine to really think about what to do if it really were to happen.

But then it became more and more apparent in the news on Friday and Saturday that indeed New York is not likely to dodge this bullet. “I am buying tape to plaster up my windows,” my phobic friend announced at a pre-Halloween party on Friday. Both my other friend and I looked at each other, rolling our eyes at her expression of anxiety. “This is the closest I have ever lived to the shoreline, I am not taking any chances,” my friend went on, nervously chewing her nails and probably thinking about all the other precautions she could be taking.

The insane line of hurricane-panicked people waiting outside of Trader Joes in Brooklyn…

Then, on Saturday, the roomie got me hooked on bunkering a few necessities, such as water and food. As I made my way to Trader Joes, I could hardly believe my eyes: A line reaching over half of a block was forming in front of the huge store in Brooklyn. “Wow, three days before the actual occurrence, not bad!” I thought while I annoyedly stood in line waiting for my turn. Luckily, it only took 5 minutes. Apparently Trader Joes just wanted to make sure that not too many people were swarming around their store, so they made the customers wait outside until the inner capacity was well-balanced. And even better, there was still plenty of food, liquids, and what-nots for me to shove into my basket before I went off to the bodega. 2 gallons of water should be more than enough, I thought yesterday. Now, after hearing the reports worsening, I am actually not too sure anymore.

We will see how things go. Plenty of rain is predicted. Flooding is one of the big hazards, as in last year. High winds could leave substantial damage. Which is why Bloomberg called it a day when he shut down the MTA at 7 PM (which happens to be right now). The last train has left the station and whenever the danger is over, New Yorkers will be able to commute safely again. Or such is the original idea.

And what cannot be amiss during a once twice in a lifetime hurricane? Absolutely right, a hurricane party, of course! Bars around the corner started drawing their first Sandy-related ads onto the black boards until they decided to put the sign back inside due to the strong winds outside. Nonetheless, I got to shoot this fine picture at Alchemy, advertising for Dark and Stormies and Hot Bloody Mary’s. Perhaps I will have to drop by at some point in time today or tomorrow…

Alchemy’s fabulous sign during the hurricane!

Because, after all, no one in New York will be working for at least one day. Hopefully two. A wishful three, if worse comes to worse. But let’s be happy with a labor-free Monday! Unless you work in the hotel industry… That indeed will mean busy 36-hour shifts, I dare say.

Until then, I will once again keep you updated on how this storm will coin my life in New York! Cheers to Sandy! And Irene! And all the other hurricanes that decide to drop by in the beginning of the week here in the Big Apple!

[To ready more about Hurricane Irene go to:
Stories during the hurricane: Day 1
Stories during the hurricane: Day 2 ]

Stories During the Hurricane: Day 2, During and After

Hurricane Irene – have you been downgraded to a tropical storm when you hit us sometime during the night (exact time still unclear) or where you indeed doing the things a normal hurricane of category 1 does? Because if you were, you seem to have been the most harmless hurricane ever witnessed.

I woke up today around noon, after cramming in some extra night time to get things done before the electricity was supposed to go out (and as everyone thought it would). Puzzled because I did not hear the rain falling down on me, I peered out of my window and saw an almost clear sky. Still greyish and a bit windy, but clear compared to the past 24 hours.
Confused about the treacherous peace and silence outside, I opened my door and met my enthusiastic roommates, who were dancing around the apartment and screaming : “It’s over, it’s over!

Then, the first text messages came in from friends saying “most boring hurricane ever,” writing about their deep disappointment of not having witnessed the storm of the millennium. Next time, folks, next time! And what a typical reaction for a New Yorker to have, by the way.

My worst episode during this “hurricane” was when water came crashing down into my room from a hole that had formed in the ceiling (as we are directly beneath the roof). At 7 AM short I was awakened by a drip drip drip drip drip. Sleepy and irritable, I didn’t know what was going on at first. Then I grabbed two buckets and was swarming around, desperate as to what to do if this devious hole would not stop letting down water soon. Somehow, after emptying two buckets, the drain did become less and I was able to go back to sleep, wishing that the rain would stop of course and fearing more outcomes of this storm. Well, as described above, there really were none, and that episode was and stayed the worst that had happened to me during the hurricane.

Most people took this entire weekend with a great amount of humor. One friend posted hourly updates on Facebook about how he would be waiting in front of a bank to see its roof come off and then steal its money (Very funny indeed! Who would ever come up with this?). Some voiced what they thought of the safety precautions taking 3 days ahead of time (They didn’t think too much of these). And then again others were just mad for buying those huge amounts of food for no reason. Yep, seems like this is the right city to be in for a hurricane.

The Hudson was the only river which eventually overflowed and caused some flooding in the West Village and along 12th and 11th Avenues. Hilarious, if you think about it! The beautiful village under water… I also wonder how many rats might be swimming in that sewage. Staten Island and Queens have power outage problems, once again a reason why I live in Brooklyn (Well, it does sound like a good reason I considered this location 9 months before the hurricane!)

The MTA is supposed to be running tomorrow again, albeit not in the morning, meaning I might not be able to go to work (No, I am NOT taking a cab just to get there!).

Today afternoon I packed my camera and walked outside, into a neighborhood that was up on the streets, doing the same thing I was: Taking in the fresh air and estimating the damage Irene had left. I have rarely seen so many happy and peaceful faces at once. Supposedly, the big thing to do was to collect fallen tree branches as a souvenir of the hurricane (always in for a trend, these people).

The following are a few pictures I took while out and about.

Now the only problem I might have is JFK and its backed-up flight schedules, but I supposed Thursday is still long enough away to have those difficulties figured out by them. Then it indeed will be time to wave this city good-bye, at least for a good amount of time!

Stories During the Hurricane: Day 1, Still Before

It’s Saturday, August 27th 2011, and New York is officially the City Without Subways. Bloomberg shut down the entire transit system at a punctual 12PM and, as cited in this article, the last train went out at 12:14 PM short. This means until Monday or later there will be no way from my house in Brooklyn to anywhere else, least say Manhattana, or back.

A busy 7th Avenue on the day of a hurricane

Since these warnings were made clear yesterday already, I didn’t even bother to hop on to stock up on extra food or make a trip to Manhattan. Instead, I wanted to get some last-minute laundry done and went to the one close-by in my neighborhood. Because the Roomies’ boyfriend had said that the YMCA one and a half block away was acting as a shelter, I thought it might be fun to take a few shots of what was going on in the hood. So, with my camera strapped around my neck, I wandered around, first asking the laundrOmat (yes, it’s called laundrO-mat here, not laundrY-mat, everything is different in New York) about its opening hours and getting one weird answer after another. After finally clarifying with the Latin lady that they would keep it open until 3PM for sure, I then quickly went up to 15th St and peeked into the YMCA. There was one pathetic school bus parked in front, maybe the typical evacuation bus these days, and as it turns out I only got to take this picture.

YMCA, the shelter!

Because as soon as I stepped in, some older ladies made sure to voice their opinion of how highly inappropriate a photograph would be and I got their subtle hint of not utilizing it at all. The so-called volunteers did not volunteer to give up much information pertaining the matter other than stating that this shelter was meant for the elderly evacuated from Coney Island and other risk areas. In my head, I could see the imaginary bubble pop in front of my eyes, as I had considered the idea of using it for our own benefit and jumping into it once our apartment was set under water. O well, we are in safe heaven now anyways, lucky us.

After this episode I sprinted back home, grabbed the laundry and went to the same location, again. This time an old, bitter Latin woman yelled at me for trying to wash my laundry as they were closing down soon. I guess she didn’t recognize me from when I had walked in 10 mins ago. Stubbornly and fighting for my right to be here I finally managed to convince both Latinas that I would indeed have all of my clothes done within one-and-a-half hours and that I really had asked them about this not too long ago. They let me stay, even though I got the evil eye once or twice. 5 mins later roomie no. 1 walks in with her boyfriend and is attacked by the same mean lady mentioned above. She tries to insult here back and then they walk away, both sorta looking at me in a confused way (why does she get to stay and not we?). Roomie no. 2 enters 5 mins after this, the mean lady is gone by now, and the other Latin woman clarifies that they will close at 2 PM (getting earlier and earlier with these folks). She then pops open her fancy iPhone and googles another location, being sent to 6th Ave by me and to 14th St by another laundry-washer.

6th Ave laundromat

Well, as it turns out we have a laundrOmat only two blocks away whose owners don’t give a blinking wink about hurricanes and other catastrophes but who do care about making their $2 a load until the last customer is out. That is where both went; maybe I should have done the same.
So, first day of rain, and I got my laundry done, what an accomplishment!

In the course of the afternoon, the Roomie stocked up on fruits and while doing this saw bunches of people populating the restaurants on 7th Ave. We were all pretty much bored out of our heads by then. The laundry was done. The house was clean. The bathtub was filled with a necessary amount of water (in case the toilet needed to be flushed during the outage). We had enough of sitting inside and thus shoved in 2 chill hours at the Steinhof.
The Steinhof used to be our bar of choice during those cooold, cuddly winter nights because it is only two blocks from our apartment. They also have a great happy hour deal going on every day of the week from 4 to 7 PM, including all draft beers, wine and some mixed drinks, which cost $3 only. Every day of the week surely includes Saturday and there were a few people sharing our thought when we walked in. Supposedly the bar plans on being open until the power goes out, so if you still want to jump into the fun, go ahead, they are not closing anytime soon.

Hurricane Specialty
Us having fun at the Steinhof and before the hurricane

The waitress recommended a hurricane drink (what these people come up with in such a short time), which is a cocktail based on three liquors and clouded up with orange juice to resemble Irene. Uhm, yeah, it was the strongest drink I had in a long time and I stuck to my draft beer after this. We sat inside, chatted away, made fun of the precautions, and watched the rain turn into a more and more worrisome drizzle within an hour or so. Then we parted, as one group wanted to go to 5th Ave and get some tacos and I went home, to save some files and write this down. As it turns out, though, the taco place was closed anyways, so I didn’t miss out on too much.

The rain has become more dense and intense as I am speaking. New York is trying to get everyone off the streets by 9PM the latest. And even though no one can really foresee the actual outcomes of this disaster, the news were advertising a power outage, even in areas not prone to flooding. To top this all, the latest I heard was an outage that might take three weeks to be fixed. Three weeks! I really hope this will not come true and I am hoping even more that flights will go out regularly on Thursday, my day of travel.

Probably this will be my latest update in a while (well, because of the power outage = internet cutage = whatever else you can think of), so chin chin! Keep on tuning in!

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, and Other Natural Disasters

Hurricane Irene

This has been going on in the media all week long already and I think it deserves a post – before it’s over and everyone forgets about it. Two natural occurrences have followed each other within days, making me never forget this last week of August of 2011.

Last Tuesday at noon New York City experienced an earth quake. I was in my office on the fourth floor and I didn’t feel a thing but shortly after it had occurred my coworkers started to stream into the office, excitedly blabbing about how everything had shaken and how they had felt the shutter. I supposed the higher up you were, the more you felt the jitter. What was quite surprising to me was that almost every single one of my New York friends wildly posted tweets or updates of this “natural disaster” on their social networking sites (and mostly in such an irrational way I was afraid they had lost their head and mind in the shake). The earth quake was being said to have originated in first Ohio, than Virginia, and then a third, unidentified spot. Until it was clarified two days later that the quake had indeed come from Virginia, wild speculations of its origin were uttered throughout the entire City. I guess the people of Washington D.C. had felt it to a higher extent than we had, being four hours down south and closer to the source.

Following this first mood of nature, it is now being said that we are expecting a hurricane coming up the East Coast and hitting the Tri-State-Area by late Saturday or early Sunday. Not to forget, these are the major party nights here in the City and I am very upset I will be missing out on my last weekend of fun here before I am going overseas. But I guess sometimes you have to take sacrifices when it comes to your safety. The New Jersey and New York parts are divided into specific zones ranging from A to C and a “no zone.” I happen to be on the verge of a B zone and a no zone, so I don’t know what to make of this.
The areas right next to the water are the typical A zones, which means the people there will be the first ones asked to leave and look for alternative living solutions.

Despite the chaos and backwards organization, I find it quite exciting that I am able to witness this tragedy, because it is something that usually never occurs back at home. First it was the Blizzard of the Millenium in December that added to my adventurous list of nature’s quirks. Now it is a small shake of earth and even a full-blown hurricane heading up to New York. I wonder what else this year will have in storage for us…

Wish us luck that nothing too bad happens, but I seriously doubt we are in big danger. Major floods will be the main concern the city will have to fight. Bloomberg is straining to get his once great reputation as a risk manager and New York’s safeguard back and understandably he is being overly precautious during this weekend. Several hospitals and senior care homes have been evacuated in the early morning already. All bay areas have been declared mandatory evacuation. The subway, basically the only way to get around the island if you don’t have a car, will shut down tomorrow noon and will foreseeably not be running until Monday midday (as it takes several hours to shut the train system on and off). This being said, I already know what kind of chaos I will be witnessing when trying to make my way out to work on Monday and Tuesday.

Oh, and if you think those broadcasted images of empty shelves in a random New York supermarket are exaggerated, you’re wrong! I went to Target right after work and even though they had let us out earlier (4 PM this time) there was no water to be found anywhere! The Roomie texted me about a line in front of Trader Joe’s that stretched around two blocks just to get into the store, not even estimating what exactly you would be able to buy after the people were done and left remains of this massacre.
When I came home, my other roomie was seriously annoyed with all the exaggerated measures just because of a little bit of rain and a hurricane that would probably not even hit us. Well, the hurricane does exist but I also believe the City’s major problem will be the flooding afterwards. And the most current update is that her boyfriend bought bunches of water, bounty paper, four bottles of wine, two six packs of beer, a whole tub of candles (all of them so big I can wrap two hands around them!), flashlights, and other nice necessities to keep us warm and snug throughout the weekend. My, this will be an interesting time. The two roomies are planning on throwing a hurricane party, I guess I am the only other guest attending…
Another friend let me know that we are not the only one with this idea, as other people in different neighborhoods are also planning on parties, so-called “Bring-your-own-candles-”events.

Let’s hope this great New York spirit will get us through the next two and a half days with a laugh! Are there any hurricane stories you would like to share?