Completely sick of cabin fever and working from home, and also sick of endless cups of coffee at the local cafe, I decided to bike into the city today to work, even if it meant sitting on a bench in Central Park with my WiFi card. And bicycling is the only way into the city. Yes, you can drive, but getting to the bridges will be a nightmare.
Brooklyn this morning: traffic deadlock. Traffic was backed up on almost every avenue I encountered, and even side streets were jammed. I expected to see much worse at the bridges and in the city, where traffic lights in big swaths of the lower island are still down.
As I had spent the last few days in a narrowly circumscribed area around Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, and as my abode is a couple hundred feet above sea level, what we got were high winds and fallen trees. What I expected when I got into the city was terrible damage: floods, cars hurled about the streets, rampaging crowds demanding food and water, vandalism, etc. I'd even packed an extra tube and patch kit and left a last will with my wife. After all, the media we'd consumed while hunkered down showed cars under feet of water on Avenue C, and a river that was once the West Side Highway. I'd expected to see a metropolitan version of Katrina.
And I expected, with trains out, that auto traffic over the bridges would be backed up for miles, like that famous jam in Beijing in which people were stuck for weeks on end.
Instead there was actually very little traffic over the Manhattan bridge, and a largely dried out city, which was the case even down in Battery Park. I didn't see the East Village, but a view from the bridge showed a largely dry FDR. While there were no traffic lights whatsoever below 14th, and areas of scant electricity above 14th the city was pretty orderly, with lots of people waiting at bus stations, and walking about even though stores were shuttered.. Battery Park was quiet, and the streets had largely dried out there, too. Tourists were numerous, taking photos of unharmed buildings whose first floors had been boarded up with huge sheets of plywood.
But virtually all businesses
are still shut -- I only saw one Starbucks and one supermarket open in that area, and very few places open above that until at least 14th St. In a particularly telling sign of the times and its
priorities, the government emergency management arm had powered up a generator at Perry Street, not to supply buildings but to power a cell-phone charging strip. People gathered around it like '49ers
around a camp fire. Any last minute Halloween purchases are likely impossible, and word is the famed Halloween parade in the Village is cancelled.