For Famously Impatient New Yorkers, Lots Of Waiting
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
Many people along the East Coast got a reminder this week how fleeting and impermanent life can be. In some cases even the ground beneath their feet has disappeared, after Superstorm Sandy.
INSKEEP: The Jersey shore moved in places, and in others chunks of boardwalk floated away. More than 50 people were killed along the East Coast and today around six million homes and businesses remained without power.
MONTAGNE: The most spectacular damage came in New York City, where much of lower Manhattan is still without power.
That's where we start our coverage with NPR's Robert Smith.
ROBERT SMITH, BYLINE: New Yorkers are an impatient bunch, always in a hurry. But put them in a neighborhood without electricity, at night, in the dark, and all they can really do is just wait.
John Washington was standing in the dark outside the video rental store where he works in Greenwich Village. His building's door was busted wide open by the storm.
JOHN WASHINGTON: Water came up from across the street and hit the door and this is the emergency door with a latch, and caved it in, frame and all.
SMITH: But Washington wasn't expecting the repair guy until the morning, so he was planning to spend the night.
WASHINGTON: I mean it's wide open. You can walk in and take what you want, practically. It's terrible.
SMITH: You got to stay and watch.
WASHINGTON: I got to stay and watch all night. I have to secure it. So I got a rough night tonight.
SMITH: Across lower Manhattan, I saw this kind of vigil in the dark. There was the employee of a recording studio who was just smoking a cigarette, standing watch over a sump pump sucking water out of the basement all night. There was the owner of a bar who was pacing back and forth, waiting for the fire department to come check for a gas leak. And on the street corners, you could see another kind of waiting. People were waving their cell phones in the air, trying to get a wireless signal, which has been pretty spotty since the storm.
Willie Aneeset(sp) has been walking from block to block, trying to get on to Facebook.
WILLIE ANEESET: I live in Greenwich Village. I have to come all the way down here to get some network. And to tell my friends that I'm all right.
SMITH: He only had a few minutes of power left on his cell phone. But people were talking about where in the city you could walk to to find electrical outlets that were still working to charge up your phones and computers.
Holly Stone went north for 30 blocks.
HOLLY STONE: To the post office, the main post office.
SMITH: And they have what? Outlets on the wall?
STONE: They had outlets all up and down the walls and they were just people hanging out at each outlet.
SMITH: And it's not like there's a lot of better things to do in this part of the city right now. Stores are closed. Restaurants are closed. Trains and subways aren't working. There's no school. Most people aren't going to work. And so far a day after the storm, the main message from New York officials is, keep on waiting. We're working on it.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last night that Con Ed wouldn't be able to restore power for days.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: You should not expect a vast bulk of those people that do not have service today to get service much before the weekend is a fair estimate.
SMITH: And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that clearing the flooded subway tunnels would take even longer.
GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: This is an unprecedented task in pumping out this much water in a relatively short period of time. We're talking more than three or four days but less than a couple of weeks.
SMITH: And so the wait continues. On the corner of Bleecker Street and 7th Avenue, there was a long line that snaked around the corner. I asked Drew Davis what he was waiting for.
DREW DAVIS: Fresh, hot, real pizza.
SMITH: Is this the only restaurant open in the neighborhood?
DAVIS: For miles that I've seen. Up until around 26th Street or so and 7th, only thing I've seen.
SMITH: The guys at Bleecker Street Pizza were making their cheese pies in the dark. With a gas oven, who needs electricity?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Yes. Next.
SMITH: What's going on here? Are you doing this by flashlight?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Yeah. I mean we've been open since 9:00 in the morning. We're just trying to accommodate everyone in our neighborhood.
SMITH: How busy has it been?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: All day, non-stop.
SMITH: And although it's the only hot food around, they are keeping their prices exactly the same, $2.50 a slice. Drew Davis showed me his dinner, three cheese slices.
DAVIS: Not bad, right?
SMITH: Well worth the wait, he says.
Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.
INSKEEP: Bon appetit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.