It’s a nightmare scenario: trapped on a flooding island. New York’s most famous jail avoided that fate during Sandy, but does it have an evacuation plan in place? Caroline Linton investigates.
In preparation for Hurricane Sandy, New York City was divided into evacuation zones: Zone A meant a mandatory evacuation, on the orders of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Zones B and C were labeled as having a lesser risk for flooding.
An aerial view of the Rikers Island prison is seen September 24, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Debra L Rothenberg / Getty Images)
One island, in the East River between the Bronx and Queens, was simply designated as a “No Flood Zone:” Rikers.
The 400-acre island is, of course, home to one of the country’s most infamous jails. It houses an average of 12,000 inmates daily—people who are awaiting trial and cannot afford bail, in transit on the way to a longer-term facility, or sentenced to less than a year in jail. It was Rikers, for example, where then-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn spent his nights after being denied bail for the alleged rape of a hotel maid. The city employs about 7,000 staff members on the island, in addition to 1,500 civilian employees. It is only accessible via a bridge from Queens, either by bus or private car.
New York’s Department of Corrections wrote in a statement prior to Hurricane Sandy that they were prepared to evacuate the island in the “highly unlikely” event that it would be necessary, though no specifics were outlined. The staff remained on the island throughout the storm to “keep the facility self-sustaining,” and NYCDOC commissioner Dora Schriro even spent Monday night at Rikers. Staffers, representative Robin Campbell said, stayed on the island in case of any problems.
The NYCDOC has remained steadfast that even these precautions were not necessary. According to Campbell, at no point was Rikers Island under any threat from the storm: no power outage, no flooding. The facility, Campbell said, is meant to withstand storms up to Category 4, and since Hurricane Sandy was a Category 1 storm, it would be “extremely unlikely” that the facility would need to be evacuated. A small portion of the perimeter of the island is considered in Zone C and would be vulnerable to flooding, but there are no jails in that area.
But there are many who don’t take comfort in the NYCDOC statements, especially given the way the city was brought on its knees after Sandy hit.
“It’s just not right,” said Margaret Shelton, a Queens resident whose daughter was at Rikers during the storm. “It’s like they left these people out.”
As of Friday, 20 people had died in what locals call the "forgotten borough" as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Some perished as they tried to evacuate at the last minute; others were found days later, drowned or electrocuted in their homes.
On Saturday, Damian Moore was seen putting up Halloween decorations outside his home on New York’s Staten Island.
Beatrice Spagnulo, 80, died inside her single-story home when it was flooded by the storm. (Alan Chin / facingchange.org for The Daily Beast)
On Monday, he left for work as a garbage collector in Brooklyn.
On Tuesday, he found out his two boys, Brandon, 2, and Connor, 4, were missing.
On Thursday, he learned they were dead.
One of the more horrifying tales to emerge out of the emotional wreckage of Hurricane Sandy is that of the two toddlers—one swept from his mother’s arms, the other losing his grip on her hand—who drowned when a massive storm surge overtook them as they were fleeing for their lives.
Neighbors say they can only guess what drove Glenda Moore to pack her boys into her Ford Explorer at about 6 p.m. on Monday, just when Sandy’s wind gusts were beginning to clock in at 80 mph and high tide was approaching. The Moores live in the neighborhood of Great Kills, on high ground and beyond the mandatory evacuation zone. Yet she made the decision to drive to her sister’s home in Brooklyn, taking the fastest route—Father Capodanno Boulevard—which also runs parallel to, and within eyesight, of the shoreline.
“Why did she leave?” asked Linda Caristo, a homemaker who lives across the street from the Moores and says she has been “sick” over the boys since she saw Glenda brought home by the police on Wednesday to await news of her missing kids. “The power went out. She was alone. Her husband was working. She must have panicked.”
Aguilera, Springsteen and Bon Jovi want your help.
Christina Aguilera (a Staten Island native!) joined fellow singers Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi Friday night to help raise money to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy. The “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together” telethon on NBC will benefit rebuilding and relief efforts in the areas most devastated by the storm. “We are here for you. We will do whatever we can to help. We will not leave any one of you behind, because every single one of you matters,” Aguilera said. The all-star trio is urging viewers to help Red Cross efforts by texting REDCROSS to 90999 (for a $10 donation) or by going online and pledging funds.
Mayor Bloomberg says Sunday’s marathon will bring New Yorkers together—but how exactly will they get together with the subways crippled and traffic a horror show? Marathon veteran Dan Gross wonders.
New York City without the marathon would be like New Year’s Eve without Times Square or July 4th without fireworks. So to argue that Sunday’s race should be canceled or suspended this year in the wake of Hurricane Sandy may seem spiteful. And yet the marathon backlash is not surprising. The logistics of staging the event just six days after Sandy hit make it a tough sell.
Workers assemble the finish line for the New York City Marathon in Central Park, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (Richard Drew / AP Photo)
Running in the New York City Marathon is one of the most life-affirming things you can do. You set off on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as fireboats spray water and Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blares over loudspeakers. After the long, endless haul up through a packed Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, the crowd thins out to a few curious Chasids in Williamsburg. After slogging through an industrial patch of Queens, runners accelerate over the long rise of the 59th Street Bridge, eager to reach Manhattan and First Avenue’s wall of sound. A few miles north, a brief, cold turn into the Bronx, a trot down Fifth Avenue, and you start running downhill into Central Park. When I ran New York in 2006 (3:25, thanks for asking!), I never felt more alive.
Plenty of other cities stage marathons. But none quite like this one. The New York City Marathon is fueled by thousands of professionals, volunteers, medical staff, and emergency crews. New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg presides over an operation that Wal-Mart would envy: goods, people, services, and stuff flow through a crowded city with great ease.
And of course, after disruptive episodes, events like the marathon can provide a much-needed return to normalcy. Thousands of people around the world have spent a lot of time and money to train and travel for the race. Many are running for reasons that have nothing to do with personal bests and everything to do with survival—celebrating a triumph over cancer, or running in memory of loved one, or raising money for charity. For the bars and restaurants that line the route, the marathon means big business, adding up to $350 million of economic activity.
But the marathon involves a certain amount of conspicuous consumption of basics—fresh fruit, water, gasoline, and electricity—all of which are in short supply in New York and the surrounding region. Staten Island is a remarkably inauspicious place to start. In the hours before the race, thousands of people arrive in New York’s least populous borough and shed disposable clothes, jam themselves full to bursting with Gatorade and water, and then leave behind a huge mess. This year, it will all take place with people on Staten Island lacking water and electricity, with many residents suddenly homeless, and with volunteers and professionals retrieving drowned bodies.
It takes a lot of human power and energy to run those 26.2 miles. But it also requires a lot of power and energy to run the race: to fuel the cars and rescue vehicles, to power the sound systems and run the communications networks. In ordinary times, nobody would begrudge the use of fuel and mobile-generating capacity for the marathon. But these aren’t ordinary times. Hundreds of thousands of people within a stone’s throw of the race route lack power. The New York Post noted that the mobile generators used for the marathon could power 400 homes on Staten Island. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is airlifting generating equipment to the East Coast. The disparity between the spare-no-resource attitude of the marathon and the slow-motion restoration of electricity in the New York region is noticeable.
A young boy rides his bicycle on a flooded street in the New Dorp Beach neighborhood of the Staten Island borough of New York, November 1, 2012. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters / Landov)
Electricity restored to 65,000 customers.
The dark days are over. After almost five days with no electricity, parts of lower Manhattan had their power restored Friday afternoon around 5 p.m. According to electrical provider ConEdison, nearly 65,000 customers now have power again. Local residents posted on Twitter about celebrations in the streets. “Honking and cheering. People going bonkers,” said @caitlin_thomps. “People are cheering,” reported @somebadideas.
For ‘foreseeable future.’
New York’s most iconic lady has also been brought to her knees by a lady of similar power—Sandy. The Statue of Liberty, along with Ellis Island, is powerless after Liberty Island—where the two landmarks are located—sustained water damage. The statue itself is fine, but tourists might be kept away for some time. “Currently, the islands are closed for the foreseeable future. Until the assessment is done, we cannot determine when both islands will reopen,” a spokeswoman for the National Parks of New York Harbor said Friday. The docks and grounds are reportedly still in bad shape.
Says it still happened after 9/11.
Despite a stampede of protests claiming that it’s insensitive to those who still need the city’s help to recover from Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday defended his decision not to cancel Sunday’s New York Marathon. “If you go back to 9/11, Rudy [Giuliani] made the right decision in those days to run the marathon, and pull people together,” Bloomberg said, although the marathon was held on Nov. 5th in 2001, six weeks after the terrorist attack. Running the race, he says, will “help New York City,” especially through donations that will be raised. In the briefing, Bloomberg also said the city's death toll rose to 41, the city’s relief fund now includes $10 million in donations, and most of Manhattan should have power back by midnight.
Abandon post-storm necessities for iPad Mini.
Nevermind the lines for gas, food, public toilets, and other post-Hurricane Sandy necessities. Nearly 800 people queued up outside Manhattan’s flagship Apple Store this morning for the launch of the iPad mini. Apple had pushed back the launch time from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. so that store workers would have more time to get to work amid gridlock traffic throughout the city. That didn’t stop some New Yorkers from getting there well before the store opened its doors. Meanwhile, the subway system is still down and thousands remain without power and in need of aid.
Waives fuel tax to get gas into N.Y. Harbor.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted on Friday there is "no reason to panic" over gasoline, but he conceded that he will waive the city's tax and registration required for tankers to enter the New York harbor. Cuomo promised New Yorkers that millions of gallons of fuel would be arriving Friday. “There should be a real change in condition, and people should see it quickly,” he said. Federal authorities have also waived a law that was limiting fuel vessels allowed into the area.
Half city’s death toll in borough.
New York City is, step by step, moving toward a point of normalcy. The city announced that the Staten Island Ferry will resume service Friday at noon, launching every half hour in both directions. The borough, New York City’s least populated, was one of the hardest hit from the storm. In addition to sustaining devastating damage, 19 people from Staten Island were killed—accounting for almost half of the city’s death toll from the storm. That includes two children, ages 2 and 4, who were swept out of their mother’s arms by floodwaters and found dead Thursday yards apart from each other.
Race starts in devastated Staten Island.
New Yorkers have started a petition to cancel the New York City Marathon on Sunday, less than one week after the devastating Hurricane Sandy brought the city to its knees and with many areas still struggling with no power. The race kicks off in Staten Island, the borough that many say was hardest hit, and has felt forgotten in the recovery efforts. The New York City Marathon is one of the world's largest, and it brings in hundreds of millions of dollars for the city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg insisted at a press conference on Thursday that "the city is a city and we have to go on."
A sobbing kid tired of ‘Bronco Bama’ and Mitt Romney captures a larger sentiment among many Americans this campaign season: Where was the passion and pathos last seen in 2008?
@Elizabeth Evans / Youtube
Abigael Evans became a viral sensation this week when her mom posted a video clip of the strawberry-blond cherub sobbing piteously that she was “tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney.”
“It will be over soon,” her mom soothes in the clip, providing some much-needed uplift not merely to the teary tot but to an entire nation weary of this electoral squabble.
It’s not just that the modern presidential season goes on and on. And on. It’s not even that both of this year’s nominees are running campaigns as bloodless and uninspiring as any in recent memory. More broadly, this cycle, almost from the very beginning, has been virtually devoid of both sex appeal and pathos—an absence made all the more glaring when compared to the embarrassment of riches enjoyed in 2008.
Ah, 2008. Back then Barack Obama could melt a room with a single speech. Women fantasized about that smile, those ears … Chills went dancing up Chris Matthews’s manly leg. The candidate’s supercoolness inspired a smokin’-hot Obama Girl video. Actress Scarlett Johansson struck up an email relationship with the aspiring POTUS that started tongues wagging. It was all so very, very seductive.
And Obama wasn’t even the Democratic contender caught with his fly open that year! That distinction went to John Edwards, who, in October 2007, in the thick of the primaries, found himself grappling with tabloid rumors that he’d managed to knock up some videographer working for his campaign. So desperate and deluded was Johnny that it took another two-plus months for him to leave the race. And, ultimately, his sexcapades proved to be so beyond the pale—even by the standards of high-level politics—that they crossed the border from lascivious into grotesque. But all that sneaking around and whispers about a love child certainly kept things interesting for a time.
Mayor Bloomberg is pushing the race even as storm-stricken residents struggle with basics like electricity and water. Critics are asking: is this too much of a stretch right now?
Tens of thousands of runners are set to begin the 43rd annual ING New York City Marathon at Fort Wadsworth at the mouth of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island early Sunday morning. But local politicians, New Yorkers—especially Staten Islanders, some of whom who’ve had their homes and businesses destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and many who have been without electricity and water for days—and even diehard marathoners don’t want them there.
Water continues to flood a neighborhood on November 1, 2012 in the Ocean Breeze area of the Staten Island borough of New York City. (John Moore / Getty images)
“My God!” exclaimed Staten Island Borough President Jim Molinaro in a press conference on Wednesday. “What we have here is terrible, a disaster. If they want to race, let them race with themselves. This is no time for a parade. A marathon is a parade.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg triumphantly announced Wednesday that the marathon would go ahead as scheduled Nov. 4, six days after Hurricane Sandy tore the metropolitan area to shreds, killing 38 in the city alone, ruining homes and businesses in low-lying areas and cutting out power for millions.
“It’s a great event for New York,” Bloomberg said during a press conference. “And I think for those who were lost, you know, you’ve got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind.”
The New York Road Runners, which organizes the marathon, tried to curb the backlash Thursday by introducing a program called The Race to Recover, with an initial $1 million donation.
Bloomberg also tried to calm angry New Yorkers at a news briefing Thursday, announcing that an “enormous amount of police” would be available at the marathon, since the power was expected back on in downtown Manhattan by Saturday.
Two of the marathon’s events, the Opening Ceremony and 5K Dash to the Finish Line, were canceled. Road Runners’ leadership wasn’t able to comment for this article.
Power outages and flooded roads have led to an unprecedented run on fuel. From taxis at twice the price to fist fights in line, a look at a desperate city’s scramble to gas up.
At 7:30 Thursday morning, the line at the Hess gas station on the corner of McGuiness and Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn was starting to get out of control. By two in the afternoon, the customers were queued up down the block.
A gas line on 10th Ave. in Manhattan stretches for blocks. (Justin Lane / EPA-Landov)
“People were getting in fights,” Officer Steve Truglio told The Daily Beast, as about 15 of his fellow officers directed traffic and turned away those attempting to cut the line. Asked why the pumps were operating so slowly, Truglio said the gas was running out.
This particular station was one of the last in Brooklyn, and in the city as a whole, to run out of gasoline—just another one of Hurricane Sandy’s serious side effects. “In New York City, over 50 percent of service stations are not able to sell gasoline, and it could be up to 75 percent,” Ralph Bombardiere, executive director of the New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops, told NBC News Thursday.
By 9 o'clock Wednesday night, the Sunoco on the corner of Grand Avenue and Atlantic near Prospect Heights was already dry. The next morning cashier Alan Marwan said he was told not to expect a refill until at least Saturday.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Marwan, who’s worked at the station for two years. “People came from all over on Wednesday to get gas before it ran out. I don’t know how they knew.”
Word had quickly spread about the shortage and by Wednesday afternoon, Marwan said cars were pouring out of the parking lot, one line going down Grand Avenue, the other going down Atlantic. “People were cutting in line, yelling at each other, running up to me with money while their cars were still in the street,” he said, predicting the madness will start back up again as soon as he gets more gas. And when that happens, Marwan expects the police to be on hand to help.
Marwan made sure to fill up his own car before the station’s well ran dry. “I have a Honda Civic,” he said proudly. “It will last for 10 days.”
Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that deploys veterans to help with disaster recovery, did their part to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan last week. Team member Curtis Coleman, a former Marine, shares his thoughts on heroic leadership.
As Hurricane Sandy barrels toward the northeast, see some of the most hilarious wind-blown reports.