MANHATTAN (CN) – The lights of the Empire State Building marked the divide between a nearly blacked-out Lower Manhattan and the rest of the city Tuesday night, while those in the dark descended into the streets for news, food and drink.
“People were out all over the place,” said Adam Angione, a Courthouse News editor. “One building literally had its facade blown off so it looks like a doll house.”
“A bar across the street was open until it got too dark at 6pm,” he added. “We went in for last call with our dog.”
A few markets and delis were open with no lights, Angione said. A bagel shop was open. “At 6:30 pm we went up the street to get a pizza at a place that had one battery-operated light, a huge gas or coal fired oven and a line around the block.”
In the evening, the city turned quiet, a throw back to another time when New Yorkers went down into the street to get news and provisions, in the absence of televsion, radio and the Internet.
“It’s like a different city here at night,” said Angione. “No sounds except an occasional siren. No lights except flashlights bobbing up and down with people’s strides. You can see people eating by candlelight through the windows. People are actually neighborly giving updates and tips to others. We sat outside on a bench yesterday with a hand crank radio and relayed the news we heard to passersby.”
Six hundred thousand residents of Manhattan were still blacked out Tuesday, said ConEd, along with another 180,000 in Westchester County.
More than 100 houses burned in Breezy Point, Queens; most of Long Island was blacked out; and flooded subways are expected to remain closed for days.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg said restoration of lights and mass transit would be at least “four or five days away,” and encouraged taxi riders to carpool. He asked people to stay out of city parks, where thousands of trees had blown down.
The city has restored partial bus service, free of charge.
Most major bridges have reopened, though most tunnels remain shut.
More than 1 million people were without power in New Jersey,
Hurricane Sandy killed at least 48 people in the United States and Canada, after killing 67 in the Caribbean.
Freight traffic was stopped in the Great Lakes, where waves topped 20 feet.
The giant storm headed north toward Hudson Bay. Most of the damage appears to have come from tidal surge of up to 14 feet, caused by atmospheric pressure, wind and the high tides of the full moon.
State and federal courts remained closed from Dutchess County in upstate New York through the city to New Jersey, Connecticut, Boston, Philadelphia, Rhode Island and Maryland.
In New York City on Tuesday, about 2,500 people had checked into public storm shelters – less than 4 percent of their capacity.
The city prohibits reporters from conducting interviews at the shelters.
In the Queens neighborhood of Astoria, which was spared mass power outages, heavy winds smashed uprooted trees into cars and houses, left power lines dangling into puddles and scattered debris around the streets.
Still, only about a dozen people sought refuge at William C. Bryant High School, the area’s storm shelter, a worker told Courthouse News. The worker requested anonymity because of the city policy.
One person who sought shelter was a traveler whose flight was canceled at LaGuardia Airport. Another was a woman afraid of a tree about to crash into her building, the worker said.
The Occupy Wall Street movement started grassroots disaster relief efforts in Astoria, the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.
The group helped recruit volunteers for the Red Cross and city shelters and announced that it established a food kitchen in Brooklyn, where it plans to host a disaster relief “boot camp” this morning.
South of Astoria, the damage grew worse toward neighboring Long Island City, which suffered mass flooding.
Water pumps worked to clear ground floors of buildings along the area’s main artery, Vernon Boulevard, including one that houses New York City’s Board of Education, Bureau of Supplies.
The New York Blood Center, which renewed calls for donors to help storm victims, still had sandbags around its main entrance Tuesday night.
New York City schools, courts and subways will remain closed today, for the third day in a row. The New York Stock Exchange was expected to reopen.
Storm damage is estimated at more than $25 billion: enough to knock 0.2 percent off the fourth quarter’s economic growth.
“We’re expecting power at our house by Friday hopefully,” said Angione. “Subways will be back maybe next week but a lot of the subway tunnels are flooded and without power they can’t run anyway.”
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