At its very best, New York is a city of the haves and have-nots but Hurricane Sandy has opened up a new chasm and groups who were once on one side find themseles across the gulf on the side of those who normally don’t have much.
My daughter for instance lives in Battery Park City in a 14th floor apartment with a pricey rent and views of the Hudson River. Hardly, under normal circumstances, one of the have-nots. But then Hurricane Sandy happened. Her 14th floor apartment with the great views turned into a trap. She knew the elevators were going to be shut off but had not anticipated losing her electricity. She was thrown into darkness with not even a working toilet. She could not even put water in the toilet because it’s one of those new electric ‘dry’ toilets and pouring water in would only wreck it.
Suddenly, it was escape to Brooklyn where my wife and I are blissfully unaffected by Sandy, except for the lack of a working subway. We can work from home and live with that. My daughter walked here over the Brooklyn Bridge.
And what about those in Stuyvesant Town, that middle class enclave along the East River? They did not anticipate being thrown into the dark ages. I even have a friend who lives in the middle of Manhattan at 18th Street and Sixth Avenue, nowhere near a river. He too lost power.
Of course, my daughter’s situation and even that of Stuy Town residents is nothing compared with losing your life, your home, your car etc. which is exactly what is happening all around us. Go to the lower East Side and you’ll feel like you’re in another, much poorer country. People line up on corners for food handouts; they line up at fire hydrants for clean water. The stores are closed and there is nowhere to get sustenance even if you have money. Everything is closed and there is no electricity for the modern conveniences we take for granted.
Assemblyman Shelly Silver scored a coup yesterday by providing a mobile electricity van where residents could charge phones and laptops. It’s a very weird time. FEMA and National Guard trucks are showing up down near the Henry Street Settlement on the lower east side, long an immigrant landing place. Suddenly, the white-hot and hip neighborhood is back to where it once belonged, back to its very roots you might say.
I never understood survivor’s guilt but now I’m starting to. I feel guilty when out of towners ask how I am. I’m fine. Nothing happened here….I even handed out candy on Halloween. I know I’m lucky and I’m not knocking it but it’s just plain weird to live in a city where there is so much inconvenience and downright suffering and not be affected at all.
It’s like another friend said who has not been affected. “All I have to do,” he said, “is go out every day or so and buy another bottle of wine.” It’s enough to make any of us feel guilty.