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The news you are not getting from New York City

The reporting from New York City has been very poor. The comments from the two gangsters who run the place Andrew Cuomo (governor) and Michael Bloomberg (mayor) offer little more than clueless grandstanding that indicates they are completely out of touch with reality.

Unless power can be restored to downtown Manhattan fairly soon – and contrary to “happy talk” estimates, there is no indication that it can – there’s going to be a major humanitarian catastrophe there.

There are approximately 400,000 people living downtown. Many of them live in high rises where access is by elevator and water needs to be pumped in order to be available in apartments.

A percentage of these residents are frail elderly and/or disabled. If that’s just 5% of the population, that’s at least 20,000 people. Some may have friends, family and neighbors to help them, but of course, not all do.

Here’s the ONLY informed, reasonably detailed news report I could find ANYWHERE on the Internet about the fate of these people. It’s from something called TheGothamist.com


Report from New York City (10/30/12)

Jonathan Maimon lives in Downtown Brooklyn, where he commutes to his job as a associate portfolio manager for a mutual fund based in Jersey City. Maimon spent six years in Manhattan and calls it “a place that I’m pretty close with emotionally,” which is why he made a meandering five-hour, 12 mile run across Lower Manhattan to survey the damage. Based on what he saw, he thinks that perhaps the city is moving on too quickly.

“There were no Red Cross vehicles, not a lot of city vehicles around to reach out to people and ask them what services they needed,” Maimon says. “It was just pedestrians walking around and exploring. People were very calm, very friendly, you know how people are in New York. But what was shocking is that there was no food. Nothing was open. And then they have to go home to apartments without power.”

Maimon adds, “And the most serious thing to me is elderly or disabled people in high rise buildings—this affects you if you’re rich or poor. There’s not a lot of ways for them to get out safely. I’m kinda worried about the city not really knowing how many of those people are out there.” That’s why he wrote this letter to us. “The mayor just said that the worst of the storm was behind us, which is factually true,” Maimon adds. “But I personally think the worst is yet to come. Not having power is going to wear people down.” Here’s his letter:

I just returned from Manhattan. I ran for 5 hours with stops,
covering 12 miles in total, scoping the island from west to east.
You will not hear these stories from the Mayor or Governor; these
are my observations, informed by discussions with real people who
live in lower Manhattan:

1) Virtually every retailer, restaurant and grocery store south of
38th street is CLOSED. This is in an area covering 8 square miles. I
only observed a handful of bodegas in Soho and the East Village,
along with Ben’s Pizza on W3rd and MacDougal serving customers.
Whole Foods Union Square had a sign reading “because there is no
electricity, we cannot open.” There is no food, other than what you
have in your refrigerator.

2) To that point, there are close to 400,000 people living below
38th street without power. The mayor earlier said it could be 3 days
without power; some Con Ed guys I spoke with in the East Village
think it could be longer. Nobody knows.

3) No working traffic lights in this region (drivers are generally
being cautious and appropriately yielding to pedestrians). Apartment
stairwells are pitch black. High rises have no elevator access.

4) For now, this is an economic crisis – hourly workers cannot be
paid, freelancers have no clients, small businesses have no sales,
office buildings are shuttered. In my estimate, the lost output is
$1 billion dollars EVERY SINGLE DAY that goes by without power for
lower Manhattan. Included in this number is the shutdown of our
major airports and transportation system. (Note that NYC’s economy
generates $2.8 bn daily and over $1 trillion annually – which makes
it the world’s 17th largest economy, if it was a country).

5) There is no running water or flushing toilets for people living
in the Jacob Riis Houses and surrounding NYCHA buildings on the
Lower East Side. In my estimate, this is roughly 20,000 people. One
family I spoke with is packing their bags and moving to Brooklyn
until services are restored. But it did not appear that all
residents were evacuating, even as their toilets did not flush.

6) I did not witness a single Red Cross Truck or FEMA Vehicle or in
lower Manhattan. Recall the assistance these agencies provided after
9/11 – this is NOT HAPPENING. There are bound to be hundreds of
elderly people, rich and poor, who live on the upper floors of
buildings with elevators that are now disabled. IF POWER IS NOT
RESTORED, THIS WILL MOVE FROM BEING AN ECONOMIC DISASTER TO A
HUMANITARIAN DISASTER.

7) If you think Chinatown normally has an unpleasant odor, imagine
what it smells like 24 hours following no refrigeration. Street
vendors were trying to unload perishables at bargain prices. I saw a
fish weighing roughly 20 pounds and spanning 3 feet from head to
tail go to a buyer for $1 dollar. $1 dollar!!!!! [Here's video he
sent us.]

8) The substation responsible for the outage is a huge facility. It
spans an entire avenue from Avenue C to D and a length of street
from 13th to 14th. If crews have to inspect every coil and wire, it
might be MORE THAN THREE DAYS UNTIL POWER IS RESTORED. Additionally,
the site did not appear staffed with many Con Ed workers. As a note,
the 2003 blackout lasted 15 hours.

9) The water from the storm surge was invariably contaminated -
floating garbage, wood pieces from the dock, and possibly sewage.
One Nuyorican woman who lived on Avenue C near 12th street noted the
water level peaked above her waist. She was still visibly shaken
this afternoon. She also recalled a huge noise at 8 pm when the
substation failed. The sky, in her words, turned from black to green

10) There were some very generous things. Northern Spy Food Co.
served lunch to everyone who lined up outside their restaurant at
Avenue A and 12th street – polenta, pork buns, chicken, biscuits and
freshly baked cookies. They get props in my book; all this food was
served to locals at no charge.

- Jonathan Maimon