On Friday, I traveled from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Bushwick. I stayed with family in a relative lap-of-luxury since the power stayed on, but without trains, getting home to Brooklyn was difficult-to-impossible. Finally, when the subways started running in bits and pieces, I was ready to head home. I chose to walk most of the way, through then-powerless downtown (the electricity has
). Here’s my journey:
The Upper West Side
The Upper West Side seems fairly unaffected by the storm, at least on the surface. A few branches had fallen from trees, Central Park is closed and some stores still have duct tape stuck to their windows—otherwise, Friday morning is business as usual. Limited subway service stretched from the Bronx to 34th St., so I jump on a packed 1 train. A few riders grumble about crowding, but it’s nothing unusual for this L train rush hour rider. We reach 34th St. without any delays.
I haven’t made it farther south than 59th St since Sandy, and, at first, find midtown unchanged. The streets are crowded, but not unusually so, businesses are open and tourists mill about, maps in hand. But when I hit Madison Square Park, the scene changes. Traffic lights are dark, stores shuttered, streets empty. I have entered the downtown Dead Zone.
The farther downtown I walk, the eerier the city becomes. Union Square is stocked with Con Ed trucks, cops directing traffic down a busy 14th Street. People line up at a truck to pick up free dry ice, hoping to keep the contents of their refrigerators and freezers fresh. Port-a-potties stand at the entrance of the park, and a few waterless residents take advantage of them. St. Marks Place is nearly abandoned, with the odd worker sweeping leaves out of storefronts, a pedestrian or two strolling slowly down the street. Employees have posted notes to their co-workers on shop doors—No power, we’re can’t reach you, will try to contact you uptown, hope you are safe— snapshots of what the world might become if and when it goes dark for good.
Lower East Side
Manhattan is almost scary by Houston. The East River’s attempt at destruction is more evident her;tree limbs litter the streets, cars are parked askew, store signs snapped in half. A few bodega workers give out free coffee and doughnuts to passersby, and people pack a bus stop, hoping to inch their way up 1st Ave. Fake cobwebs and jack o’ lanterns line the windows of empty bars and restaurants. Buildings and streets are dark and silent, and while I’ve tried not to make the comparison thus far, I cannot remember the city being this quiet since 9/11.
The Williamsburg Bridge
Without the J, M, Z or L train making trips across the East River, my best option at this point is to walk across the bridge. The vehicle lanes pack surprisingly little car traffic, but the bike and walk paths are crowded. An electric traffic sign, frozen by the outage, still features Monday night’s warning: “STAY OFF ROAD! TAKE SHELTER!” As I walk, I can see the river below me, hungrily lapping at Manhattan’s banks. The Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges come into view and behind them, the Statue of Liberty, torch out but still standing proud.
Brooklyn! I see a Pabst Blue Ribbon truck parked outside a South Williamsburg bar, a surefire sign I’m back in my borough. Power is on, Peter Luger’s looks like its open, and people are strolling up Bedford and Broadway. I have three choices, transportation-wise: J from Hewes to Myrtle, then walk; walk; bus. I choose bus, because the bus depot by the bridge is close by and I keep intending to take more buses anyway. I wait for 45 minutes for a bus, watching two B60s pull in, flash an “out of service” sign and drive away. People are getting anxious. A woman from Canarsie has just come from her nursing shift in downtown Brooklyn. It took her nearly two hours to get to Williamsburg and she’s tired of waiting. Others are elderly, exhausted. The bus finally arrives.
It’s a short, cramped trip to Bushwick. I hop off at Morgan and Harrison and walk home. The neighborhood doesn’t look too bad, from what I can see. A few sidings have been pulled off buildings, a traffic light is down at Irving and Troutman and trash has blown into the street. My apartment building looks unchanged. We were lucky. And after three and a half hours, I’m home.
TIPS FOR GETTING AROUND: It looks like the L and G will be out for a little longer, but the J, M, Z trains are running, now even into Manhattan, although we heard they are really slow. You can also take the B60 to get from Bushwick to Williamsburg, or connect to downtown Brooklyn. Biking is also a great option, but be sure to watch out for felled trees or downed power lines. Check out the newest updated MTA subway map.