The candidate was sidelined as odd couple Obama and Christie toured storm-damaged New Jersey and exchanged compliments. Howard Kurtz on how Romney gets back in the game.
With President Obama getting a bear hug from Chris Christie as he toured storm-battered New Jersey, Mitt Romney is facing an unusual challenge: pushing his way back into the national debate.
President Barack Obama is greeted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie upon his arrival at Atlantic City International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Atlantic City, NJ. Obama traveled to region to take an aerial tour of the Atlantic Coast in New Jersey in areas damaged by superstorm Sandy. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo)
Romney strategists are downplaying the brief marriage of convenience between Obama and Christie, who keeps praising the president’s response to Hurricane Sandy while professing not to “give a damn” whether Romney visits the state.
“Governor Christie is doing a job,” Romney adviser Russ Schriefer told reporters Wednesday. “He is governor of a state hit by a very, very horrific storm.”
At the same time, the bromance allowed Obama to don the mantle of bipartisanship, project the image of a take-charge executive, and express empathy for storm victims—not a bad trifecta days before the election.
“I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion,” Christie said in comments that seemed above and beyond the call of duty. Obama returned the praise.
Side by side in their navy windbreakers, the rotund Christie and the lean Obama looked very much the odd couple—and both seemed to revel in their cross-party partnership. All but forgotten is that Christie, who flirted with his own White House run this year, was Romney’s keynote speaker at the Tampa convention.
Republican strategists say Romney’s sidelining by the storm will prove to be a blip on the radar and that the challenger will have no difficulty returning to full campaign mode. The former governor, for his part, did not criticize the president by name on Wednesday, perhaps mindful of seeming overly harsh while television screens are still filled with pictures of devastation in New Jersey and New York.
Author Michael Gross had to be evacuated from his apartment when the crane above luxury skyscraper One57 was toppled by Hurricane Sandy. The disaster is just the latest insult to the tower’s neighbors.
Back in September, Alexei Barrionuevo wrote in his “Big Deal” column in The New York Times about the superstitions of the wealthy mainland Chinese who have lately been flooding into New York, cash in hand, to buy uber-luxury apartments. Barrionuevo pointed out that belief systems like feng shui can determine if a Chinese person sees a building as lucky or a condo purchase as auspicious. And apparently, One57, the 1,000-foot tall tower under construction across the street from Carnegie Hall on West 57th Street, passed muster.
A construction crane dangles atop luxury apartment building One57 in midtown Manhattan, New York on October 30, 2012. (Timothy A. Clary, AFP / Getty Images )
Few names of prospective owners have emerged from the building’s marketing team. But according to the Times, which has adopted One57 as if it were a cute puppy, many of the contracts supposedly signed for units at the building—where the most expensive full floor-condos are going for more than $90,000,000 (again supposedly, since nothing has gone yet, legally speaking)—bear the signatures of mainland Chinese. So many, in fact, that brokers have taken to calling the place Chinatown.
Back in September, at my apartment house, which is next door to One57, the big quality-of-life issues under discussion were a Halal cart on the corner that sent stinky fumes into our lobby, and the plague of bicycles and pedicabs in our neighborhood, set off by Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s distaste for traffic in midtown Manhattan.
Things have changed.
On Monday, the construction crane that runs up that building collapsed and became the visual symbol of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Yesterday, China Daily reported that the collapse of the boom on the crane “may unnerve some Chinese buyers.” It’s not nice to wish ill on others, but I bet they’re consulting lawyers and not feng shui experts right now. Competing condo developer Donald Trump promptly snapped a photo of the crane from his apartment and tweeted it with a cackling comment about the incompetence of the One57 team, which consists of the construction company Lend Lease and the building’s owner/developer, Extell and its president Gary Barnett.
You don’t have to be a fan of the Donald, or an advocate of schadenfreude, to get the message conveyed by that photo. Drooping next to Extell’s huge erection, the crane looks like a bad omen. It’s Gary Barnett’s flaccid, dangling boom of doom.
I was engrossed in writing on Monday when my wife, who was working at home in anticipation of Sandy’s arrival, called to me from our living room. “You better look at this,” she said. The last time she said those words, we were packing for a trip to Egypt as television beamed images of a revolution brewing in Tahrir Square. That time, we wound up at Round Hill in Jamaica. This time we wound up refugees, but that’s getting ahead of the story.
All MTA fees will be waived Thursday and Friday.
Service may be limited, but hey, it’s cheap—well, free, to be exact. New York Governor Cuomo declared his state in a transportation emergency Wednesday night, and announced that all fares for subways, commuter rail trains, and buses will be waived tomorrow and Friday. “The service in many cases is limited, the service in many cases will be crowded,” Cuomo said at a press conference. He added that traffic Wednesday in Manhattan “was very high and the gridlock was dangerous,” as many stoplights where out of power. Meanwhile, as an oil spill plagues New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie announced he will allow gas stations and fuel merchants to buy from other states in order to combat a gas shortage in the state. Christie said federal authorities are sending 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 100 power generators to the Garden State.
At a hurricane shelter in New Jersey.
Just a few days ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was lambasting President Obama’s leadership skills. But Hurricane Sandy—and the president’s subsequent support to the state—has given Christie a new perspective. Obama “has worked incredibly closely with me since before the storm hit, Christie said Wednesday while the two men toured a New Jersey shelter Wednesday. "It’s been a great working relationship.” Obama returned the compliment, saying “I want to just let you know that your governor is working overtime to make sure that as soon as possible, everybody can get back to normal.”
For limited service.
You couldn’t keep New York on its knees for too long, Sandy. The city’s subway system will return on a limited basis on Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday. There will be no subway service below 34th St. in Manhattan due to the lack of electricity, while three of the seven East River tunnels have been pumped. There will be limited Long Island Rail Road and Metropolitan North service beginning at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Cuomo said he has spoken to President Obama, who has been “very on top of the situation.” Obama is touring the devastated New Jersey shore with Gov. Chris Christie, who has called the hurricane damage “worse than anything I ever thought I would see.”
Resigns as campaign manager for GOP House candidate.
Punishment for lying on Twitter? Hedge fund manager Shashank Tripathi apologized on Wednesday after it was discovered that he knowingly tweeted false information about New York City during Hurricane Sandy under the handle @ComfortablySnug. Tripathi also resigned as a campaign manager for Congressional candidate Christopher R. Wright. BuzzFeed outed Tripathi as spreading wildly inaccurate claims during the storm, such as "BREAKING: Governor Cuomo is trapped in Manhattan. He is being taken to a secure location." While many of his claims were debunked shortly after, some of them were reported on by news organizations or retweeted and caused widespread panic. Tripathi called the tweets "irresponsible and inaccurate."
Will slow subway work, too.
Get used to it. Power companies warned that East Coast outages could last more than a week for the estimated 2.6 million currently without electricity. Despite thousands of crews working on restoration, flooding, damage, and strong winds are slowing the efforts. Traffic lights are out in several cities and downed lines pose a danger. More bad news: no power hampers the work to get the subway system running again. Power companies will get electricity to hospitals and important locations first.
In Queens neighborhood 111 homes burn down.
In one of the worst fires in New York City history, 111 homes burned down in Breezy Point, Queens. Every home on the barrier island was hit by the storm or ensuing blaze. Aerial shots of Breezy Point show the scope of the devastating damage. One firefighter said that “flames were 50 feet in the air.” The fire started late Monday, and Hurricane Sandy slowed the firefighter response. There were no major injuries.
Thought to be centuries old.
Frankenstorm, indeed. A homeless woman in New Haven, Conn., found skeletal remains on Tuesday after Hurricane Sandy uprooted a giant tree. The back of a skull was visible with its mouth still open in the tree. The skull was still connected to a spine and a rib cage. New Haven Sgt. Anthony Zona said the body has probably been there a long, long time, and some investigators said it could date back centuries. By Tuesday night, a death investigator had sawed off a root that was in the way, but officials say exhuming the remains could take days.
Parts of Virginia still under blizzard warning.
The death toll from Hurricane Sandy climbed to at least 50 in the U.S. early Wednesday morning, with at least 22 of those deaths occurring in New York Cityand although the storm weakened as it moved inland, blizzard warnings were still in effect for parts of Virginia. While New York and New Jersey dried out from the storm, Sandy hit the mountains of West Virginia and North Carolina, bringing a record 14-16 inches of snow to the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Around 22 percent of New York City still had no power by Wednesday morning, and an estimated 90 percent of Long Island were in the dark.
If you thought Frankenstorm would rid Gotham of its vermin, think again. Rodents are as resilient as cockroaches. Winston Ross reports.
Whither the Rattus norvegicus?
It’s a natural question, to wonder if Frankenstorm that swamped New York City on Monday night might depart with some silver-lined clouds—namely, that Hurricane Sandy either drowned the city’s inestimable millions of hearty Norway rats or washed them off the island altogether.
Robert Mecea / AP Photo
Even Brooklyn’s own Bob Sullivan, author of the widely renowned book Rats, who has spent as much time thinking about rats as anyone who doesn’t pick up trash could possibly be expected to; even he had to stop and ponder it for a second:
“Well, the streets do seem a lot cleaner, in some places,” he told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.
But the rodent expert quickly came to his senses. There’s a reason rats are so often compared to humans (like a “rat in a cage”)—they’re resilient, like we are. And there’s also a reason for the myriad water-related rat metaphors in the vernacular (“rats fleeing a sinking ship”): they’re particularly good swimmers.
“They’re going to be like us,” Sullivan said. “Get washed out, try to come back in.”
People keep asking him about the tunnels, he said, hoping maybe rats will get sucked out of the city via the Holland Tunnel, for example. But that’s based on the assumption that tunnels are full of rats—a misperception, Sullivan said.
In sleepy Sag Harbor, residents are assessing the damage from Sandy, hunkering down for a sustained power outage—and queuing up for coffee on Main Street. Emily J. Weitz surveys the scene.
When we finally emerged from our respective dens Tuesday morning, bleary-eyed and skeptical of the crystal blue sky, we headed for the gathering places that make Sag Harbor, a village of 2,000 people on Long Island’s East End, such a close-knit community. The Cove Deli on Main Street buzzed with the sound of a generator, and the lights were dim but the doors thrown open. They were cooking egg sandwiches and brewing coffee, and we were grateful to score the last two rolls in the place. There was one bagel, which a woman snapped up for her 10-year-old son. No, there were no croissants today.
We headed down to the heart of Main Street, and even at 9:30 a.m. the Five and Dime was open. The lights were all out, but the shop was doing a brisk business, using calculators to ring people up for buckets and tape. The guys at the Hardware Store were in rubber suits, bailing out the basement.
Across the street, there was a line out the door at the Golden Pear, beside which Sylvester and Co., an upscale general store, and the local pizza place, Conca D’Oro, remained boarded up. I went to wait on line for a cup of coffee, and there was a hint of desperation in people’s eyes as they stood patiently. The coffee makers weren’t working. But the workers were carefully pouring pots of hot water over coffee filters, and we all nearly drooled as the dark brown, pungent liquid seeped through.
“We’ve got eggs!” someone shouted victoriously, and people shuffled excitedly in their places.
The relatively relaxed scene came as a relief to locals after Hurricane Sandy terrorized Long Island, killing four people as of Tuesday, including one person whose body had washed ashore in tony East Hampton, just seven miles from Sag Harbor. Across Suffolk and Nassau counties, the devastation was immense: homes were destroyed, roads submerged, piers and beaches wiped out altogether. Officials estimate the damage inflicted across the East Coast from Sandy will top Hurricane Irene's $15 billion price tag.
“By far it is the most devastating storm we’ve had on Long Island,” said Mark Gross, director of the Long Island Power Authority, which estimates residents of the East End could be without power for 10 days or longer. “Right now, we’re in the assessing stage but, obviously, with this many outages customers should be prepared to hang on for an extended period of time.”
From reports on Main Street here in Sag Harbor, about half of people had lost power, and you could tell those who had been able to shower before venturing to town, and those who had not.
The insurance industry will soon be shelling out big payments to cover the storm’s massive damage. And it says the U.S. is uniquely positioned to suffer from climate change, Matthew Zeitlin reports.
In times of crisis, few people instantly think in terms of dollars and cents. But before the floodwaters have subsided, the insurance industry has already hastened to calculate the damage from Sandy.
A huge tree split apart and fell over the front yard and fence of a home in Sea Cliff, N.Y., on Tuesday in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. (Kathy Kmonicek / AP Photo)
The most widely cited economic and insured loss projections came from Eqecat, which does risk modeling for insurance companies. On Monday, it projected insured losses—meaning the amount insurance companies would have to pay out—due to Hurricane Sandy of $5 billion to $10 billion. Eqecat estimated the total effect on U.S. economic activity would be between $10 billion and $20 billion. Bill Keogh, the president of Eqecat, said that the damage done by Sandy, although clearly extensive, is well within the range of the models Eqecat builds.
He pointed out that New York City, which does not get hit with severe storms with anywhere near the frequency of, say, Florida, has seen similar storm surges before: Hurricane Donna in 1960 and Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Also, he noted, the economic loss from this hurricane is magnified by the fact that New York City is a wealthy area. Lots of people leave here and they own lots of valuable property. The rising cost of hurricanes in insured losses is, to a large degree, a function of rising home values.
But the insured losses for insurance companies may not reflect the sum total of economic damage suffered by the region. Hurricanes can cause damage to property in a few ways: storm surges and flooding, wind, and inland flooding. Although there has certainly been substantial wind damage, like trees falling onto homes, the truly catastrophic damage up and down the coast of Long Island and New Jersey largely comes from the storm surge flooding.
Wind damage is covered by standard homeowner’s insurance. But water damage from flooding is provided through the federally subsidized National Flood Insurance Program, which covers 5.6 million individuals and business. There is a small “excess flood insurance” market, but the overall flood-insurance market is dominated by the feds. Which means private insurance companies aren’t on the hook for losses tied to coastal flooding.
The storm also did a number on New York City’s transportation system. Keogh said that the city’s infrastructure isn’t designed to deal with that much salt-water sloshing through the city and, especially, its subway tunnels. That will impose direct costs on the city, as crews work to pump water out of tunnels, restore electricity, and repair storm damage.
But it will also impose massive indirect costs. With the subway and commuter rail shuttered, commerce in Manhattan and other parts of the city will fall dramatically, as shoppers and workers simply can’t get very far from where they live. (Your correspondent is working from his apartment in Brooklyn right now as The Daily Beast’s Chelsea offices are closed). So, a business owner who suffered relatively little wind or water damage may nonetheless suffer a dramatic decline in income for the next week. “They have to look very closely at their policy” to see exactly what damage they can claim, said Keogh. New York City’s economy is also propelled in large part by tourism. In 2011, some 50 million tourists visited the U.S. But with air and train routes shut down for the next week, hotels, restaurants, and shops that cater to tourists will likely see lower revenues.
FEMA has money now, but if the hardest-hit states need more funds after their damage assessments, will congressional Republicans fight against disaster relief, as they did in the wake of Hurricane Irene? Eleanor Clift reports.
If you expect Congress to take some action in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, guess again.
A Democratic congressional aide says it’s unlikely the Hill will do so in the lame-duck session on one of the most damaging storms in modern history. Congress funded FEMA earlier in the year as part of a supplemental money bill, so the agency should have enough in the bank to deal with Sandy—for now.
The caveat, of course, is that damage assessments are just getting under way in the hardest-hit states, and more funds may be needed.
The congressional aide dismissed talk about the politics of disaster relief. “The last thing that Americans who suffered this devastation and are trying to rebuild their lives want to see is a political fight,” he said. “If more funds are needed, Congress should come together and act in a bipartisan fashion.”
Republicans opposed disaster relief that wasn’t paid for after Hurricane Irene battered much of the East Coast last year. Democrats hammered them for supporting tax cuts for the wealthy without such “pay-fors.” Recognizing they were losing the public-relations wars, Republicans backed off.
If more money is needed for rebuilding efforts after Sandy, Republicans will have to decide whether this is a fight they want to wage again. A Republican leadership aide, asked if there was any discussion of a supplemental funding bill, said simply: “Not yet.”
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.