Hurricane Irene's New York City Letdown

Jacob Bernstein reports on Irene's New York City letdown.

Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

If a hurricane came to New York City and everyone was asleep when it hit, did it really occur?This was the topic of conversation all over Manhattan Sunday morning as people emerged from their beds, headed out from under the awnings of their sky-rise buildings, and viewed a city that looked largely unchanged save for a lot of foliage littering the streets.

Brigid Bjorkland, standing in front of 290 Sixth Avenue, just above Houston Street, said: “We spent all of yesterday sitting around watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and Ally McBeal … I don’t like being stood up.”

Eden Gillott, drinking a cup of coffee next to her, put it more succinctly. “This storm has been like losing your virginity. All hype and then a big letdown.”

The warnings had been nearly apocalyptic. “It is going to be a very serious thing,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Saturday, just hours before the storm was scheduled to make its grand entrance. “You can’t prepare for the best-case scenario, you have to prepare for the worst.”

And so, amazingly, nearly everyone did, turning the great hurricane that never quite was into the equivalent of Valentine’s Day for the beleaguered flashlight and masking-tape industries, while everyone else suffered either the financial burden of this whole non-escapade or just the sheer boredom of it all. The transit system? Shut down. Broadway? Closed for business. That fantastic new Vera Farmiga movie we were all told to see this weekend by The New York Times? Ha ha, you’ll have to wait until Monday, because not even the Angelika Film Center could risk staying open.

As Pierre Ratzki, a young man walking through the West Village Sunday morning with his girlfriend, put it, “We hunkered down, bought supplies, got water. We were hoping for a little more than this. We taped up our windows!”

Of course, there had been some action out in Staten Island, where the Fire Department had to evacuate people from their homes because of flooding from heavy rains, as scores of trees blew into the streets. (Lower Manhattan had a couple of these too. A Daily Beast reporter spotted one lying in the middle of Houston Street off Macdougal, and another tree apparently went down on 13th and First.)

And there was some flooding, particularly down in Battery Park City.

But mostly, come Sunday, people just scratched their heads and wondered how the main thing that got blown away by the hurricane was a sense of proportion. Was the increasingly alarmist 24/7 news cycle the thing to blame? Or was it Mayor Bloomberg, who was clearly trying to look more respectful of mother nature after the dog ate his homework during the great blizzard of 2010?

No doubt, people will continue to debate all this in the coming weeks. And most likely, no one will endure the blame. After all, it's the weather. And where the weather is concerned, who the hell knows?