The worst of the storm is over. Now comes the hard part.
New York City, where up to three-quarters of a million people were without power on Tuesday and parts of the city were still under water, is just beginning to reconnect to the outside world. Food, water, and vital supplies were heading into Manhattan as bridges and roadways began to reopen. Still, though, New Yorkers would be forced to go at least a day without fresh meat and fruit.
The massive Hunts Point market in the Bronx, which is the major food distribution point for the city, was shuttered Tuesday. Most restaurants and supermarkets were closed anyway, and workers had trouble getting to the site. The closure of the bridges meant the deliveries would have trouble reaching their destination. Still, Bruce Reingold, general manager of the meat market at Hunts Point, said that the market never lost any power, which saved thousands of pounds of fresh meat from spoiling.
“Our biggest concern was refrigeration, but we never lost any of it,” he said. “We expect to be open tonight.”
Rohni Nair, the owner of Trader Man Foods, a food wholesaler in Hackensack, N.J., likewise said her business was closed on Tuesday, but would reopen on Wednesday. Trader Man is a small distributor that mostly supplies restaurants and clubs in Manhattan, but Nair said that her problem wasn’t so much closed bridges and tunnels but that most restaurants remained shuttered and weren’t ordering food.
“All of the clubs in New York are closed,” she said. “It is not a matter of getting supplies in. It is a matter of people needing it.”
Nair added, however, that it would take until Friday at least until they would get fresh fruits and vegetables in, with the airport remaining closed, train lines a slog, and roadways still dangerous.
First on the agenda for city officials was restoring power and getting a subway system that had closed for only the second time in its history back up and running after what Metropolitan Transportation Chief Joe Lhota called the worst disaster the 108-year-old system has ever faced.
“The challenges our city faces in the coming days are enormous,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a late-morning press conference on Tuesday.
An official for Con Edison said that Sandy had wrought “the largest storm-related outage in our history.” By the morning, nearly 150,000 in the area had seen their power restored as crews first tried to bring power back to hospitals, mass transit, and police stations. But officials cautioned that it would take three or four days for power to be restored to areas of Brooklyn and Manhattan that lost electricity due to a preemptive shut-off, and could be an even longer wait for customers who lost power due to a substation explosion on the east side of Manhattan.
Lhota urged New Yorkers to “be creative” at a press conference alongside Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Massive flooding had rendered most of the subway system unusable, and it took until Tuesday evening for limited bus service to be restored. More buses are expected to come online, but it could take several days for subways to be up and running again, and MTA officials said that even then it would be like one line at a time.
Restoration of the subways first requires pumping out the water that accumulated during the storm, inspecting the 60 miles of track, and then repairing any damage. By Tuesday afternoon, the agency was not yet finished pumping out the water.
President Obama declared both New York and New Jersey to be federal disaster areas, but a FEMA official cautioned that cleanup remained a long way off.
“We are not in recovery yet. It is still very much a response effort,” a spokesman said. Response is life safety. Recovery begins after life safety, and we will transition after people are safe.”