As Hurricane Sandy lashed New York City, dumping massive amounts of water, causing scattered power outages, and inflicting minor injuries, Manhattan residents displayed everything from their usual sangfroid to curiosity to impatience.
Unfazed by a large police presence up and down First Avenue in the Stuyvesant Town development on the East Side and downed tree limbs near 14th Street and First Avenue, couples went out to walk their dogs and have a smoke, appearing very casual amid the whirlwind.
A crowd at 14th and Avenue B watched Fire Department vehicles and Con Ed trucks working on some kind of problem that appeared to be related to electrical issues caused by flooding.
Michelle Roth, who has lived in Stuyvesant Town for a year and a half, wandered down with friends. "We were just bored,” she said. “We were sitting in the dark and we wanted to see." She spoke briefly with a Con Ed staffer and then reported: "He said there was no script for this."
If there were a script, it was not followed by Sandy—already estimated to have caused billions of dollars in damage and a still unclear number of deaths along the northeast shore—including five in New York City. Sandy robbed some 5.7 million people of power, including tens of thousands in Lower Manhattan. The superstorm knocked out the electricity in Stuyvesant Town, ripping down branches of all sizes, including some big ones, while it was at it.
Lights were out Monday night in the development. The flicker of candles and flashlights could be seen through some apartment windows.
Flooding in the enclave seemed to begin at Avenue C and worsened moving eastward. The water deepened quickly and was almost covering a fire hydrant within 100 yards. Lights flashed and alarms blared on some cars parked in the water.
East and north toward 20th Street and Avenue C, the water rose above the tires of some parked vehicles, and pushed around large chunks of plywood and other debris.
Jason Lopez, 34, has lived in Stuyvesant Town for three years. He came down earlier, when water started rushing in. Pointing to a car, he said, "I met a girl who has this car and she was devastated."
And he said he was not expecting a speedy rebound from Frankenstorm. Regarding tomorrow, he said only, "I think it's going to be more of the same."
Eventually, vigilant police told residents to clear the area. They did.