A Not Too Cheery Report from Manhattan’s Dark Zone

The tone of media reports is that things are getting better after the storm, which is no doubt largely true, but there are still a lot of people in distress and discomfort. It was apparently a madhouse on the bridges and tunnels into Manhattan, with delays of up to three hours. That will hopefully be better tomorrow as Metro North Service is restored (as in it will help shift some of the New York and Connecticut commuters off the road, although New Jersey residents have tremendous damage in their communities as well no PATH service as of yet).

The good news is some of the subways will be resorted. The bad news is the areas that are not badly impacted are the ones that will get normal service: Manhattan above 42nd Street (2 lines will go to 34th Street), much of Brooklyn but only parts of Queens.

The crowded roads limit resupply of Manhattan and the outer boroughs. For instance, the New York Times reported that almost all gas stations in Queens ran out of fuel. But in the dark zone, food and supplies are an issue. Power was restored only to 2,000 of the estimated 220,000 in the outage area. I imagine many have left but clearly a lot haven’t. Reader nathan, who lives in a generator-supplied complex, made an extensive tour and called in the following observations:

1. While there are some stations dispensing water, they don’t look to be adequate

2. Food is not being delivered consistently, and it appears to be mainly not being delivered. From his canvassing, many restaurants and groceries were expecting deliveries and most did not get them. The high end restaurants appear to be getting priority in resupply.

3. He spent some of the day volunteering at a home for the disabled and blind near him, which houses a couple of hundred people. He hauled pails of water up stairs to help flush out toilets. They were expecting a delivery of food from the National Guard by 6:00 PM and when he left, as of 7 PM, it had not arrived. He’s generally concerned about the home bound disabled and elderly in townhouses, because some may not have people watching out for them (see related Bloomberg story) because landlines are down too (as in unless they have a charged cell, and a lot of older people aren’t keen about cell phones, they have no way of calling for assistance).

4. Nathan found a lot of National Guard types on Lexington between 24th and 27th Street doing nothing useful. He asked them about the overdue food delivery to the blind/disabled peoples’ home (on 23rd between 6th and 7th) and they didn’t seem very interested. A loud self-identified investment banker theorized that they were there to contain riots (the Times report that they will distribute meals tomorrow, maybe after containing those riots).

5. The forecast now is that power will be restored Saturday or Sunday. That’s a really long time away, particularly since a lot of people probably assumed an outage would last only 2 days maximum and planned accordingly (and even if you did plan, you are reduced to pickled and canned foods, and other stuff that keeps at room temperature after about three days, that’s probably the limit of keeping a fridge or freezer cool enough). Even though I am sure lots of people have left and are camping out with relatives and friends or at a hotel, there are more people who are stuck.

Finally, the rats took a hit:

The city’s health department believes the storm has had a significant impact on the rat population, for better and worse. Sam Miller, a spokesman for the department, said that some percentage have most likely died in the deep floodwaters inside the subway tunnels. “They are pretty good swimmers,” he said, “but they also drown, especially the young ones. The flooding kills them in their burrows.”

The result, he said, may be a “net reduction” in the rat population.

Now for the bad news. The stronger rats have probably fled the rising waters and emerged on the surface. Pedestrians and bicyclists have reported seeing clusters of dead rats in Riverside Park and isolated victims on the bike path that runs along the West Side Highway. Mr. Miller said that the health department had yet to observe an increase on the streets and sidewalks, but he added, “We’re monitoring that.”

According to the department’s rodentologist – yes, that’s a job title – New Yorkers need not worry about increased numbers of rats in terms of disease. “There’s no demonstrated health risk from flushed-out rats,” said Mr. Miller, noting that the predominant species in the city was the Norway rat.

Of course, the stock pickers are pencilling this out, with jobless claims expected to rise, and some cheerily forecasting higher GDP due to rebuilding after some weakness this month. Of course, that simply verifies what some economists, particularly Joseph Stiglitz, have argued: that GDP is a misleading metric, particularly for policy, since growth does not equal social well being. And it’s also funny how many of the people who favor disaster Keynesianism (witness the newest convert, New Jersey governor Chris Christie) oppose the garden variety type.

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  1. rjs

    dont worry…mitt sent his staff out to buy $5000 worth of can goods at walmart & he’s backing boxes to send right now..

  2. Dave

    disaster Keynesianism ……. if this concept is such a boon to GDP then we should all go out and start breaking each others windows, doors, AC units, roofs, flooding basements, slashing car tires, bricks at car windows and general destruction.

    1. J Sterling

      That routine was funnier when Jean-Baptiste Say did it in the 19th century. The thing is, all those things actually would increase the rate at which the rich minority are forced to give money to the working majority. They increase “trickle-down”, and isn’t trickle-down the rich plan to make being rich okay?

      Smashing things isn’t necessary for getting spending going; taxes on the rich work better, without destroying any wealth.

    2. beene

      It worked well for the banking and financial system; just never got down to the working people. Except for debt, even what the fed or trea did not buy was given to freddy and fanny;one other thing interest was dropped so the banks could get free money from the fed and loan it back to the government at interest. Plus all the poor living off saving gave up interest on savings so we could afford for the banks to have low interest rates.

  3. J Sterling

    They don’t regard recession as a disaster, because it isn’t, for them. A recession is just what happens when rich people decide to keep their money in a pile and not give it to workers. That’s not an effect of recessions, it’s the cause of them.

    (and because they’ve usually taken over the government by the time they have their collective fit of the heebie-jeebies, we get government austerity too, at just the worst time)

    Keynesianism isn’t complicated: if 50% of rich people laid off the workers, and the other 50% of them hired at the same time, there would be no need for government action. The Keynesian cure for recessions is just for the government to be the one rich man on the block who isn’t being a dick, until such time as the other rich men get over it.

  4. MacCruiskeen

    “A Not Too Cheery Report . . .”

    Well, that’s what we read NC for! No matter what’s going on, we can count on a more negative take here.

  5. Lena

    Rodentologist? Seriously, if you look at this with common sense, it’s clear that rats coming to the surface will absolutely cause an uptick in disease. I don’t believe anything any “expert” has to say!

    1. redleg

      Most rat-borne disease is carried by fleas. Decimation of the rat population may mean lots of fleas looking for new hosts.

  6. Eric Patton

    Don’t worry. Occupy Wall Street has parterned with Bill McKibben’s 350.org [http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/10/31-4]. Obama will soon be facing massive pressure to address global warming. That’s one good thing we can say about liberals: They always hold Democrats’ feet to the fire.

  7. SteveH

    I was wondering about life in the tunnels, but not the rats. At one time, a lot of people lived down there…

  8. Prut

    If the weaker routes were drowned in the tunnels and only the strong ones made it to the surface, I don’t think that portends well for New York’s future. Won’t this mean that a stronger, super rat will result now that the weaker ones have been expunged from the gene pool?

  9. Prut

    If the weaker rats were drowned in the tunnels and only the strong ones made it to the surface, I don’t think that portends well for New York’s future. Won’t this mean that a stronger, super rat will result now that the weaker ones have been expunged from the gene pool?

  10. LeeAnne

    Yves, thank you for a terrific summing up of conditions here in Manhattan. Where I am there have been no shortages of anything I need; although a friend who called from New Jersey has been living with NO electricity since Monday. We spoke about his driving into the city to his NY apartment prior to the information that there are now auto fuel problems.

    Does anyone know if Bloomberg has announced any special rules of the road for getting food into the city? I haven’t heard or seen anything about that.

    I can report that there is little to no truck traffic on one of Manhattan’s main commercial avenues -4 lanes going north although there was a huge semi delivering building materials to a distribution center for a franchise operation early this morning -as usual.

    Added to that, its eerily quiet without the usual ambulance and fire sirens making a terrible racket.

  11. gozounlimited

    Geoengineered storm Sandy …. the new stimulus and salvation for insolvent TBTF Banksters…….

    Even though wallstreet weather insiders profess H. sandy is not a broken window event … clearly when we see a corporate/government partnership, as in our Treasury and TBTF banksters, joining up to cover insolvency …. you have more fraud and deceit….starring you ….the victim.

    “Most of that money will ultimately come from the Federal government and/or the Too-Big-Too-Fail government-sponsored banks like JP Morgan (JPM), Bank of America (BAC), Goldman (GS), et al, and is ultimately borrowed from our future generations of taxpayers as it will ultimately add to the deficit side of the government’s ledger. However, there’s very little near- or mid-term costs to that new spending because the government and the TBTF banks have the ability for the next couple years or so to borrow that money for free what with interest rates artificially set at 0%. The pain from that added additional debt to the Federal deficit won’t be felt until interest rates rise whenever that may be.

    read more: http://blogs.marketwatch.com/cody/2012/10/31/the-economic-trading-and-investing-impact-of-hurricane-sandy/

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Chris Christie praised Obama for circumventing the normal process for getting New Jersey declared a disaster area so it could get Federal assistance faster. So Christie is all in favor of deficit spending provided it’s to help alleviate suffering in his state.

  12. mad as hell.

    It seems to me that there are at least two narratives going on around NYC. The first is we are all survivors and things are slowing getting better. The second is that there are many victims here however as conditions get worse in regards to food, fuel, power,the weather and civility to name a few we will continue to help others and hope this will end soon although when is a unknown.

    So what am I to believe as I sit at least a thousand miles away from what is taking place. I suppose that I can believe both. Which one is more real? I would not make a guess.

    I believe it is a matter of perspective. Half full or half empty chose your outlook.These are the two perspectives being showcased. So I don’t really know what is the pulse of this story. However this I know for sure, that with a city of nine million and outlying areas of millions more that conditions need to improve quickly no matter how resilient New Yorkers say they are.

  13. Ms G

    The lack of cheer on developments in the Sandy aftermath in New York. Pam Martens, amplifying on her excellent article yesterday, continues her reporting of a dark truth that Mayor Bloomberg and the MSM have been ignoring (at least until this afternoon.) The ground zero of grim deaths by drowning or succumbing to the force of the storm surge appears to be Staten Island. The death count for NY City is now 38. Rescue teams continue to search terrain and houses in Staten Island.

    deepens, along the lines discussed by Pam Martens in her excellent article.

    In other depressing news, though unsurprisingly, Tyrant Mayor Bloomberg endorses Obama. I guess after Obama told B’berg that he’d reimburse NYC for ALL expenses incurred in “dewatering” and fixing the electrical outages it was pretty much a done deal.

    Interestingly, no word from the Mayor of New York City as to how much money he is donating to the City for Sandy-related human catastrophes from his private Philanthropic Foundation.

  14. bstoll

    All obama has to do is produce a couple of records then Trump’s $5 mil could go to the needy of NY & NJ. Pls call the WH and urge him to show that he cares.

  15. Valissa

    Lost power? Where to shower, charge up and keep dry in N.J. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/11/links-11112-2.html

    In addition to listing places in NJ, the article mentions some in NYC…
    The New York Sports Clubs will be opening its doors to all victims for full use of its facilities, whether it’s the need for a hot shower, to charge a cell phone battery, or simply to recharge their batteries with a stress-relieving workout.

    Through November 14th, all clubs and staff will be opening their arms – and doors – to lend a helping hand. See a list of the participating clubs below.

    Members and non-member can use showers, charge phones, please bring your own towels. Anyone over the age of 18 must show a photo ID.

    Nothing like helping out and doing some positive marketing outreach at the same time!

    1. Ms G

      Well, good for NY Sports Club. That is seriously cool (and helpful).

      My foily side whispers: Hopefully this is not the result of an undisclosed deal with City Hall, e.g., “open your premises to everyone for 2 weeks and we’ll give you a 35% tax abatement for the next 3 years.”

  16. zzzz

    i am in upper manhattan and it is normal, except (1) no parking or traffic rules being enforced, i think the crowd has figured out that minor laws are not being enforced at this point. in a way it’s quite nice. (2) heavy traffic in odd places (3) lots of downtown refugees in uptown neighborhoods (4) all the gas stations in manhattan ran out of gasoline today. this could potentially help reduce the congestion. (6) electric co. guys are working hard, 12-hour shifts. seems like they had spare parts lined up and are putting the pieces back together (7) as usual, new yorkers excel at not really giving a sh*t and carrying on with life totally immune to disasters outside the island.

    1. SayWhat?

      Even MORE importantly, most of us out here in the “heartland” (what in the FUCK does that term even mean anymore?) don’t give one shit what happens to NY or NY’ers either. In fact, I was pretty damn disappointed we didn’t get more LEGITIMATE news out of all this media hysteria.

  17. Lyle

    Many of the stories post sandy sound like the stories post Ike in Houston, where again the electrical grid was mostly destroyed. There were gas shortages in Houston as well due to power failures at gas stations, recall this also happened in MI after the great blackout. It appears that a business to be in might be to install the capability to plug a generator into the pumps only, although of course the station would make no money without the other things. Houston has one advantage there are not bridges and tunnels to traverse to get to the hinterland. Of course down on the Gulf Coast one of the things that is suggested is filling up before the storm, one wonders when folks looking for fuel filled up.

  18. nycer

    Much of the diaster that has transpired in the NYC metro area is not an accident, but rather the product of absolute ignorant fools who live here. The gvmt made clear instructions about evacuation, but less than 20% actually evacuated. NYC had 79 evacuation centers, today they are consolidating them to 17 because nobody is in them!!! All of the damage you see on the news is in places that are less than 5 feet above sea level and mostly built on a sand dune. Almost all the deaths were the result of ignorance about nature and reality.

    After the storm, why are people attempting to ‘go to work’ at their office jobs? Stay off the road! The transportation system should be the domain of only emergency and repair workers for the iterm. Why is there limited fuel? Because so many idiots spend 8 hours idling in gridlock to ‘go to work’ at an office job that is franly irrelevant to the rehabilitaion of the city at this time. They are getting in the way. The gridlock caused by these selfish fools makes it impossible for supplies to be transported to those that need them. How can fuel tankers transport fuel to a station when the roads are clogged?

    The biggest concern of the people in teh dark zone of manhattan is their precious cell phones. Cell phones that seem to last less than 12 hours between recharging. What kind of idiot would own such a useless device without a backup plan? Landlines are fully operational if they are the old style. The lines that run through the cable modem are dead of course.

    We all knew 4 days in advance that a storm was coming. Lots of time to evacuate, move your car to a higher elevation, get your car away from trees, cut your trees, buy fuel, water, and food. 4 days without power and these people are crying like it’s the worst situation on earth. Give me a break. I have had no power for 2 weeks in -40F temps and no source of heat except for a wood stove. Get a grip on reality and stop living in that construct of ‘culture’.

    The areas that have a legitmate problem are those areas of inland NJ and Long Island where the trees fell on the power lines and now there is no power to the water treatment and waste water treatment facilites. And the fuel for the generators at these sites has depleated. That is a serious issue. Thankfully Christie and Cuomo have their priorities straight and this item is top priority. I think all levels of gvmt have done a great job with this storm, both before and after the storm. The reason for all of the ‘tradgedy’ is of course that the population is infested with ignorant selfish fools. Looking back on Katrina, i see that it was basically the same problem there. If you don’t evacuate, then no sympathy. These people who didnt evacuate put too many emergency workers’ lives at risk.

    1. Up

      I hear you and agree on many of the points you made, save one.

      why are people attempting to ‘go to work’ at their office jobs? Stay off the road! The transportation system should be the domain of only emergency and repair workers for the iterm.

      What are you talking about? Yes, what you say here is sensible and true but we don’t live in a sensible world. Nor do we live in a world where truth and practicality are necessarily respected. We live in a world of private firms.

      People are ‘going to work’ because their asshole boss will fire them if they don’t. Please don’t pretend we live in some kind of rational society were firm x will see the reasonableness of an employee staying ‘off the road.’

      People are going to work to protect their asses! Is there any clear cut moratorium, spelled out in law, on how long an employee can stay away from work, given this disaster? No, I’m sure there isn’t. So, since no one wants to face a fascist type interrogation from their employer about why they were away when so and so was able to make it, it is safer, on a private level, to get one’s ass to work.

      I’m not supporting this, just explaining it. I think you were taking an opportunity to be self righteous and ‘oh so clever’ with regard to people going to work.

      1. Outofluck

        To the bombastic genius airily telling people not to go to work, I live on the upper west side and so was fortunate enough not to be impacted. My workplace was not so fortunate, and so I was told all last week that the building was under emergency power and not to come in. I just found out today that they will not pay me for the whole week despite my being ready, willing and able to come down. Its so easy to make generalized statements, but we live in the real world.

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