First off – I used this photo the other day and several people remarked on it. It’s a remarkable image and definitely not my work. I managed to track down the credit: the photographer is Allison Joyce of Getty Images. I don’t know her, have not licensed this photo nor do I claim any rights to it. I just thought it was the best photo of dark Manhattan I could find in a Google search. So thanks, Allison – amazing work.
Secondly – I’m back on Staten Island and I’ve yet to go into any of the areas hard hit by Sandy. But today I took a bus down Hylan Boulevard and it was pretty eye-opening. If you look at a Staten Island map, you’ll see that Hylan between New Dorp Lane and Midland Avenue is not close to the water. But I saw cars thrown around in dealership lots, stores caked in mud from parking lot to ceiling and debris pushed into disorderly piles wherever you looked. I also saw lines of cars stretching more than a mile to buy gas. There was a line in front of the store I worked in today for a gas station that ran out yesterday – people began lining up at 1 am and waited until gas arrived around 430 in the afternoon.
I heard from colleagues today about being trapped in their homes just slightly elevated above flooded sidestreets, salt water destroying house wiring, cars totaled by water damage and at least one friend who died (a police officer in the line of duty). I also heard numerous stories of FEMA blanketing the island, taking estimates and writing checks already, covering up to 90% of the damage in many cases. But there is still a huge amount of water and mud damage preventing things from getting better.
Tonight, on the way home, I saw a notice that the buses that usually pass through the Staten Island Mall would not be going there this week, would be using the side streets and I got annoyed at the inconvenience. And then I found out why. As we pulled out of the mall, I saw a literal army of trucks: bulldozers, earth movers, pumps and things I’d never seen and hope never to see again. Two or three deep, lined up across the road from the mall, ready to move out. One entire corner of the mall parking lot was the staging area for Con Edison alone. It was the biggest single operation I’ve ever seen in one place and I’ve covered Presidential visits, so that’s pretty impressive, at least to me.
If you want to be cynical, it’s easy to say that the best time to have a hurricane hit you is just before Election Day – but the reality is, there are a huge number of people here helping people who need it and doing a really effective job under very difficult circumstances. Anyone who doesn’t think government has a role to play should ignore Staten Island and New Jersey for the foreseeable future, because the signs are everywhere.