Hurricane Sandy Survivors: Dispatches From The “Dead Zone”

Written by Alissa Fleck on . Posted in NY Press Exclusive, Uncategorized.


Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons

The controversy over canceling the New York City marathon this weekend does not merely extend to the dangers posed for runners by downed power lines and flooding throughout the city — it also has to do with displaced residents of downtown Manhattan who just want to go home in peace.

For those who can’t go home, out-of-town marathon participants taking up valuable hotel space and resources has understandably raised tensions.

Other downtown New Yorkers want the rest of the city to understand — between the damage, deficits and crowding — Hurricane Sandy is not yet over for them.

Some have taken to blogging about their experience, hoping uptowners can begin to grasp their struggle, one to which many, they claim, seem blissfully unaware. Some can’t deny they’ve even had a little fun — the grownup equivalent of a snow day, perhaps.

Matthew Russell, a real estate agent with a love for post-apocalyptic movies, is one of them. Russell decided to stick out the storm in his 6th floor East Village apartment. In his blog post about “Living in the Dead Zone,” Russell was careful to note he, a healthy, 29-year-old with enough cash to get by, had an advantage over many. He added some of the elderly tenants who stayed in his building would have simply been unable to descend the “pitch black staircase” to evacuate.

The superintendent in Russell’s building has looked after the elderly tenants everyday, he explains, replenishing the water in their toilets and bringing them warm meals from Queens. Russell uses a hot cup of water, heated with the building’s gas, to “shower” in the morning.

Russell explains the system pedestrians have developed to signal their presence in the darkened streets: “At every intersection pedestrians flash their lights wildly in order to cross in safety, and judging by the driving pace, that is remarkably wise.”

Another blogger, Bianca Posterli, wrote of her experience after witnessing a transformer explode: “I…walked out of my apartment on 9th Street to a scene straight out of the apocalypse.

“While New Yorkers rarely ever talk to each other, here were complete strangers sharing stories, ruminating on what the next few days would hold,” she wrote. “I made my way to the corner, where a line had formed outside of the deli at least 15 people deep. With my cell phone out of order, I did something I thought I’d never have to do – used a pay phone.”

She also noted, insightfully, the one “upside” of Sandy: “For once we’re completely unencumbered by constant access to Twitter, Instagram, and emails. We’re forced to make conversation, get to know our friends, and LISTEN to each other.”

Stan Williams, “Maxim” magazine’s style editor, and his partner also decided to stay in their 7th floor apartment in the Village during the storm, a zone he coined “Zombieville.”  Only about 10 percent of the residents in Williams’s 200-apartment building stuck out the storm.

Williams said daytime was fine, pleasant even, when he’d briskly walk two miles to his midtown office, where he’d camp out for most of the day.  Returning home, however, “was pretty frightening once you got past Flatiron,” especially considering a notable drop in police presence, though in the dark it was difficult to tell if anyone was around at all.

Williams echoed the sentiment of Russell and Posterli, saying: “I feel fortunate. It was inconvenient, but an adventure.” He also noted how the blackout actually helped him focus and boost his productivity. All three were intent on finding a silver lining.

As Russell pointed out, all three seemed aware they were the “best case scenario” as far as storm survivors. “That is NOT the case for most people,” said Russell, who added he was “seriously having a blast.”

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