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Sandy: Life Goes On

New Yorkers strived get back to normal after the storm – even amid concerns that weather disasters are becoming the new normal. Some found they had to make new adjustments to old habits, while other encountered unexpected strife. So New Yorkers did what they do best: they coped.

No Parking

BROOKLYN – Prospect Park, with 100 trees downed or damaged, was closed after Sandy hit. But some determined park-goers ignored the official notices and the announcements blaring from police vans instructing them to leave.

“They’re trying to keep people out, but it’s not really working,” said Meghan Janke, a park patron in her early 30s, as she exited the park at Grand Army Plaza.

Janke said that she stayed on the outskirts, but noted much damage, including paths blocked by fallen trees. “I saw a couple of lampposts down and lots of trees and lots of branches,” she said.

SIGN OF TIMES: The closure of Prospect Park didn’t stop some from sneaking inside. PHOTO BY: Paul McCaffrey

“It doesn’t seem to me that being in there is any more dangerous than walking down the streets of Brooklyn,” said Frank Valle of Park Slope. “I could get struck by a tree or a car out there. At least in the park it’s only the trees I gotta worry about.”

– Paul McCaffrey and Sarah Khuwaja

Helping Hands

QUEENS – Sandy unleashed a wave of volunteer efforts. Here’s a glimpse into efforts of the Glendale community to help those hit hardest by the storm:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
– Brianne Barry

Hoofing It

BROOKLYN – Yvonne Tang, who lives in the Financial District, walked from her neighborhood to Williamsburg to get gallons of bottled water and batteries for flashlights to help out the elderly people in her building.

“It’s tiring but their smiling faces will make this worth it,” said Tang, 42.

(Video: Charles Pellegrin)
Jon Ronga, 26, also made the Manhattan-Williamsburg trek, but for another kind of rescue mission. “I left my checkbook at work on 32nd Street and Madison Avenue and my rent is due tomorrow,” said Ronga, of Williamburg.

– Charles Pellegrin and Latima Stephens


Cell-Phone Refugees

MANHATTAN – Belle Weinstein and her husband were told to evacuate their home in the Rockaways, so they moved into their son’s apartment on 22nd Street – part of the huge southern swath of the island that lost power in the storm.

“We are now homeless and trying to adjust,” said Weinstein, who was charging her cell phone in a bank vestibule. “The only way to communicate is our cell phones.”

It seemed to take forever. At 11 a.m., Edward McNamara charged up his phone in another bank vestibule on Lexington near 42nd Street. “We arrived at 8:30 a.m., but there were people already waiting to plug in their chargers,” McNamara said.

His wife, Meirav Devash, charged her own phone. “It was very slow at the beginning,” she said, “but then someone came in with a power strip.”

- Clementine Mazoyer

 

Gas Pains

QUEENS – The math wasn’t working for Flip Arbalaez ­– too many hours waiting on a seemingly endless line for gas that stretched far beyond the Hess station at 39th Street and Queens Boulevard.

“I wasted a third of a tank trying to buy gas,” said Arbalaez, of Fresh Meadows, who saw a man get arrested after a line-cutting dispute turned violent.

 

FILL UP: Gas stations around the city drew long lines. PHOTO BY: Emily Field

Jonel Picioane, who owns the Sunnyside Meat Market, expressed similar frustration.

“First they said there was no gas, the cops chased everyone away, then the truck came in and dropped off some gas, but the line isn’t moving,” he said.

Emily Field

A Haunting Diversion

BROOKLYN – Hurricane Sandy may have pre-empted Park Slope’s Halloween parade, but it couldn’t shut down its haunted house.

Steven Brenman, who has lived at 373 Second St. for 20 years, built a wooden façade of a haunted candy factory in front of his brownstone for Halloween this year. Despite Sandy’s best efforts, the structure is still standing.

“It’s in pretty good shape,” Brenman said. The rain and leaves left by the storm had rendered the house “a little gross,” he said, but added, “It’s supposed to look old and creepy anyway.”

FRIGHTENING RESOLVE: Steven Brenman’s Brooklyn Halloween house outlasted Sandy. PHOTO BY: Nathan Place

Brenman has built holiday-themed sets – including a pirate ship and a failed bank – in front of his building for the last eight Halloweens. In most years, he draws many of his visitors from the Park Slope Civic Council Halloween Parade, which normally ends at J.J. Byrne Park, just a block away.

“To be honest, I don’t think the parade really matters,” he said. “I mean, that’s never been the reason I got excited about Halloween.”

In the wake of the storm, some parents felt fortunate to be celebrating Halloween at all. Mother of two Daniella Guetta, 38, said her parents in Connecticut lost their house in the storm.

“We’re very lucky to be able to trick-or-treat,” she said.

–  Nathan Place

No Regrets

MANHATTAN – Radelys Carmona didn’t want to leave her home in the Alfred E. Smith Houses on the Lower East Side. But after visiting her neighborhood briefly on Tuesday to check on family and friends who stayed behind, the 23-year-old college student was happy that she, her parents and two siblings had followed Mayor Bloomberg’s evacuation order.

She and her cousin drove into the eerie, dark streets of her neighborhood, which was still without power midweek.  The two women found friends running out of water and unsure of when services would be restored.  Those who stayed told Carmona they were “taking it one day at a time.”

TEMPORARY GUEST: Radelys Carmona is glad she followed the mayor’s evacuation order. She’s staying with her godmother in Brooklyn. PHOTO BY: Regina Michelle.

Carmona said that she would definitely evacuate again if hurricanes and tropical storms  threaten the city again “I think it’s safe to say that this is part of our weather now,” she said.

In the meantime, she’s sharing her godmother’s three-bedroom Brooklyn apartment with 13 other family members.  “There’s no privacy,” she said.  “But I can’t complain.  At least I have water and gas.”

– Regina Michelle

Marathon Mad

QUEENS – Hurricane Sandy uprooted a tree that fell daughter’s house on 70th Drive in Forest Hills, causing a loss of electricity and heat. But Richard Eisenzopf was stoic about the damage and lack of response by the city – until he heard an announcement on Wednesday morning that the New York City Marathon was expected to go on as planned.

“You wake up this morning and you hear they’re gonna do the marathon, which is all well and good, but what about us?” said Eisenzopf, 67.

STUMPED: A Queens man want to know how the city can let the marathon go on when some fallen trees haven’t been removed. PHOTO BY: Sierra Leone Starks

After calling emergency numbers with no response over a 36-hour period, Eisenzopf and his son-in-law Edwin Rahfield placed yellow caution tape around the accident site to avoid exposing their neighbors to fallen live electrical wires.

Meanwhile, the New York Road Runners, which organizes the marathon, released a statement from its president and CEO Mary Wittenberg calling the race a “symbol of the vitality and resiliency of this city.”

 – Sierra Leone Stark

 

Stuck in New York

BROOKLYN  – Diego Bustos, editor of the Latin-American magazine Coroto, traveled from Colombia to meet with academics and do some networking. Sandy ruined his plans.

However, the storm offered him insight into how New York City works in a time of crisis. “I feel like maybe I wasted my money,” said Bustos, 33. “But not my time – you never waste your time.”

– Dominique Lemoine

Still Seeking Shelter

QUEENS – Robert Bowdy was sleeping on a bench in Astoria Park when he heard from a friend that a storm was coming.

On Sunday, the 67-year-old homeless man went to his alma mater, William Cullen Bryant High School, one of 22 emergency shelters set up in Queens by the city Office of Emergency Management. “I was the first one here,” Bowdy said.

Bowdy was still there midweek.

“They take care of you, no doubt,” he said, while smoking a cigarette in front of the school.

TOUGH TIMES: Robert Bowdy sought shelter at his old Queens High School. PHOTO BY: Matt Surrusco

Bowdy said the evacuation center does not provide clothing or have shower facilities. He said he tried to shave Tuesday morning, but his razor broke.

What would it have been like if he wasn’t able to find shelter at his old school?

“Rough,” he said. “Rough.”

– Matt Surrusco

Taxing Taxis

QUEENS – Mario Lucero, a dispatcher for Hoyt Limo and Service in Astoria, said his company was charging $40 for passengers looking to go from Astoria to Midtown. The company’s normal rate is $30.

Lucero, 40, said Hoyt demanded an extra $10 because Mayor Bloomberg said it was okay on television. Lucero could not remember exactly when or on what channel the mayor mentioned this,  but added, “Nobody works for free, madam.”

Ahmed Eday, 24, a cab driver who rents his car from RMT Management, showed two passengers a notice he received, stating that the city Taxi and Limousine Commission is permitting taxis to pick up additional passengers and charge $10 per extra person. Eday then charged them $15 each.

– Sara Sugar

Walk This Way

QUEENS – Long Island City resident Christine Ellis thought the 45-minute walk to her office on 58th Street and Lexington Avenue, via the Queensboro Bridge, would get her back to work.


(Video: Michael Russell)

But when she arrived at World Film, the film and TV production company where she works as a producer’s assistant, the phones and Internet were out. After an hour she decided to head back home, where she still has electricity and Internet.

Ellis, 30, walked over the Queensboro Bridge for the second time. The first thing she did when she got home was order a pizza.

She earned it: The footpath on the bridge was crowded with cyclists and pedestrians making their ways to work.

“You’re definitely navigating and dodging people and bikes, going both ways,” she said.

– Gabrielle Alfiero

Riding Out the Storm

MANHATTAN – While many homeless people seek shelter in churches during storms, YA and Deedee Harrison took shelter from their church during Hurricane Sandy.

For the past six years, the couple has lived on a park bench on the corner of 207th and Seaman Avenue where YA Harrison creates posters about following Jesus and affixes them to a shopping cart.

“This is my ministry,” he said. “This is where God chose for me to be.  A hurricane is just a test to see if I’ll stick with God’s plan.”

PRACTICING PREACHING: A sidewalk ministry is back in business in Inwood. PHOTO BY: Jordan Davidson.

For the Harrisons, going to a shelter was out of the question. Instead, the couple relied on the kindness of their neighbors. A local woman who often brings them soup lent them a gray four-door Ford Taurus with half a tank of gas.

To prepare for storm, the Harrisons used barbells, stones and cinder blocks to weigh down their shopping cart. They covered the bench they occupy with green and blue tarps. Harrison rolled up his religious posters and stuffed them into several layers of trash bags. The stayed in the car, reading scripture, during the worst of Sandy.

“The wind was rocking and shaking the car,” Harrison said. “But the boss upstairs kept us safe.”

After Sandy passed, the shopping cart ministry was rebuilt.

– Jordan Davidson

For the Birds

BROOKLYN – As Sandy blew in, David Bivins stapled plastic to the chicken coop in the Warren-St. Marks Community Garden in Park Slope. “It looks like we are more worried about the chickens than protecting ourselves,” he said.

The chickens and the neighborhood survived the big wind with a few ruffled feathers. “This neighborhood is like – nothing happened,” said Serena Connelly, who lives on Warren Street. “But can you believe Breezy Point? It’s a gamblers’ land.”

COOPED UP: A chicken coop in Brooklyn was protected from the elements. PHOTO BY: Dominique Lemoine

Santiago Parga, of Baltic Street, pointed to the trees. “If birds are out there making noise,” he said, “you know everything is okay.”

- Dominique Lemoine

Biding Time

MANHATTAN – Jeffrey Cowser, 42, from Belmar, N.J., missed his train home. He checked into a hotel, he said, but “I ran out of money and then I just decided to come here.” He landed in a city evacuation center at Intermediate School 88 on West 114th Street.

There wasn’t much to go home to. Belmar was flooded, with no electricity, said Cowser. “I saw it this morning on the news,” he added. “They showed the boardwalk. There is nothing left off the boardwalk. It’s gone.” Cowser hadn’t seen his house yet, but he was certain that the home, two blocks from the beach had been flooded. Fortunately, he said, his flood insurance covered the damages.

HELPING HAND: David Barrientos rode out the storm in a Manhattan evacuation center. PHOTO BY: Dominik Wurnig

In the same shelter, David Barrientos didn’t have a home to lose. He lived on the streets. On the day Sandy hit, Barrientos said, life was looking good. “I got a job, fortunately, in Brooklyn,” he said. “I can’t get there yet because of the storm that came in.”

- Dominik Wurnig

 Cab or Bridge?

BROOKLYN – As many marched to the Williamsburg Bridge, other would-be commuters lined up about a half mile away outside the Northside Car Service on Bedford Avenue. Noel Espinal, a dispatcher for the car service, said the lack of subway service was great for business. “Right now, all the lines are busy,” Espinal said, pointing to his phone, which was still lit up with callers.

Chad McPhail, 32, an interior designer, wasn’t going to wait for a cab. He headed over the bridge to his office on Broadway and Houston Street to get some files to bring back home. His office has no power, so he said his company is fine with him working from home. “They have no choice,” he said.

–MaryEileen Croke

Bus or Bridge?

QUEENS – Charlie Mann, 25, stepped out of Long Island City Bicycles, a store next to the Queensboro Bridge on the Queens side, frustrated that the store was out of bikes to rent. He had taken the bus to the bridge from Astoria, then decided to try his luck on the ground after growing weary of traffic. 

“It took me an hour and a half to cover a distance I could’ve walked in about 20 minutes,” said Mann, who works as an instructor at a dance studio on Broadway at 74th AvenueAfter a long sigh, he put his head down and walked briskly up the path to the bridge.

A BUS-Y DAY: Commuters jammed city buses. PHOTO BY: Alex Wolf

The trip was even more arduous for those traveling from further out in Queens. Jen Cuozzo, 27, an event planner, began walking across the bridge at 12:30 p.m., after beginning her commute in Ridgewood at 7 a.m., when she first lined up for the bus.

– Alex Wolf

Running on Empty

NEW JERSEY – Paul Dorsey, an attendant at the Sunoco station on Route 1 in Fords, looked at the line of cars that stretched for two blocks and shook his head. “This day just won’t end,” said Dorsey, 24, of Metuchen.


Video by: Angela Johnson

While most customers were there to fill up cars, Crystal Douglas 46, of Edison, and her son Jeff were at the gas station with red containers to fuel the generator they have been using since their power went out Sunday night.

“I have three kids and no power,” said Douglas. “This is my second trip to the gas station and the lines keep getting longer.”

 – Angela Johnson

A New Stage

QUEENS – Astoria-based playwright Jennifer Lane was excited to hold invite-only industry performances of her play, “The Seer and the Witch.” But a witch of a hurricane named Sandy presented unforeseen challenges.

Her production had been scheduled to go up at the Interborough Repertory Theater on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. But after the storm left much of lower Manhattan left without power, Lane and her director, Kimberly Faith Hickman, frantically tried to find a new venue.

They eventually found an available Midtown location – with power.

“The plan for the show, as of now, is to do it,” she said.

The show, after all, must go on.

­– Casey Cipriani