Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Downtown in the Dark

Here are a couple of remarkable photographs taken by Dan Sloan in Brooklyn yesterday.

Even in the midst of a Blackout, Chinatown never closes.  These are pictures by my friend Weiben Wang who lives on the Lower East Side and is currently enduring the lack of light and power.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Apres Le Deluge, Moi

After 2 days of cabin fever, and after the wind gusts started to die down, I took a walk outside to see what I could see, and I took my trusty little digital camera.

From my end, there wasn't much to see.  I decided to walk to my Lower East Side studio, officially to make sure the building was alright, but really just for the walk.

The neighborhood is a little frazzled around the edges, but not really much damage around here.  There's lots of leaf and branch litter on the sidewalks and streets, but not much in the way of big tree limbs or downed trees.  In our neighborhood, it looks like the aftermath of a bad thunderstorm.

This was the worst damage that I saw:

A downed field light pole in McCarren Park.

And of course there were lots of people taking pictures, like me.

 The thing must have come down with a loud crash.

I was happy to discover that the pedestrian path on the Williamsburg Bridge was wide open

A couple on the Williamsburg Bridge looks across the East River into lightless Lower Manhattan.

A lot of other people had the same idea.  I've never seen the Bridge so crowded.  Some of them were joggers, some were on their way to and from work, most were tourists like me heading over to sight-see.

Powerless Lower Manhattan; even the new World Trade Center is completely dark.

The East River looking toward the Manhattan Bridge with the Brooklyn Bridge behind it.  To the right is the darkened Financial District.  We'll find out if they can indeed open up the NYSE tomorrow after the trading floor was under 4 feet of sea water last night.

Here is the 14th Street Power Station from the Williamsburg Bridge.  This is the one that had the explosion last night.

The pedestrian path on the Williamsburg Bridge was packed with people...

While the subway tracks on the Bridge were conspicuously empty.  The J and M trains cross the Bridge on this track.

MTA workers were walking the tracks and inspecting them.  I suspect that most of the real damage is in the tunnel at the other end of the Bridge.  We'll all find out over the next few days how much we depend on the subway system.

Looking into Manhattan from the Bridge.  The only lights are car lights.

Lower Manhattan today brought back memories of the 2002 Blackout for me; stop lights that don't work, drivers who breeze through them when they're supposed to stop, closed up businesses, and darkened tenements.

Controlling the onrushing traffic from off the Williamsburg Bridge was one very brave cop.

Happy Wok! was the only business open on Delancey Street that I saw.  I usually stop here for a fried rice feast when I work in my studio.  There was not a light on in the place, and yet they were open.  They sold fried rice and soup from buffet trays warmed with sterno lamps. 

It seems to me that we've had perhaps a little too much practice at this life-goes-on-in-the-face-of-catastrophe kind of thing over the last 10 years or so.

I was relieved to find my studio building securely closed and locked.  I was having nightmares of a wide open building in a darkened neighborhood with no lights or power.

Well, it's not much of post-apocalyptic spectacle, but then I'm so grateful that nowhere I have to go looks like Breezy Point in the Rockaways today.

"We'll Be Right Back"

(photo courtesy of George Takei)

Y'all ain't gettin' rid of us that easy.


It turns out Sandy was a major disaster last night.

Michael and I were very lucky.  We had power throughout the night, though the lights flickered.  The internet connection went out for awhile, but is now back.

The wind is still gusting and very strong this morning.

A lot of other people are not so lucky.  The official death toll for the whole area is 16, though everyone expects that number to rise.

We had a record breaking storm surge of 13 feet.  The previous record was 12 feet back in 1821.

All of Manhattan south of about 30th Street remains dark after a huge transformer explosion at the 14th Street Power Station.  Power could be out for days.
(These are not my pictures.  I spent the storm safely indoors.  These are all from local press sources).

 Downtown Manhattan at daybreak this morning

 The transformer explosion at the 14th Street Power Station last night

 The 14th Street Power Station in better times; when I lived in the East Village, I saw this daily.

The Lower East Side and the East Village, my old neighborhood, flooded under 4 to 6 feet of water.  My studio is on the 4th floor so I'm sure is safe, but I think the first floor and basement of the building probably flooded out.

Flooding around Stuyvesant Town, East 14th Street

 Flooding at East 14th Street and Avenue C last night

Avenue C at 8th Street last night (courtesy of JoeMyGod)

The World Trade Center construction site flooded.

The subways and PATH stations flooded and remain closed.  The subway system has never faced this much damage before in its 108 year history.

The Hoboken PATH station last night

Fires broke out in Queens in the Rockaways.

The Rockaways this morning (courtesy of JoeMyGod)

A lot of the AM radio stations got knocked off the air.  Power went out on local TV stations while they were on the air.

I still think the New Jersey coast got the worst of it.  With daylight, they are just beginning to look at the damage.

This was really bad.


If you have flight plans to New York, perhaps you should call the airline.
This was LaGuardia this morning.


Amazing pictures in The Atlantic today.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Frankenstorm !!!!!

The old Boris Karloff Frankenstein remains my favorite of all the monsters.

A "perfect storm" event may hit New York Sunday PM or Monday AM.   Hurricane Sandy is supposed to collide with a huge winter storm coming out of the west and create massive havoc.  Last I heard, the weather experts were predicting wind gusts of up to 90 mph here in New York on Monday and Tuesday, along with massive flooding from the storm surge together with high tide.

Michael and I are stocked up on food, water, batteries, flashlights, etc.  The whole thing may be a big fizzle, but ya never know.

Irene, last year was a fizzle here in New York (well sorta; knowledgeable people tell me that if the storm surge from Irene had been only slightly higher, it would have been a major disaster for the city, topping berms and flooding subway and railroad tunnels).  But it was a major disaster inland; very unlike a hurricane.

For Irene last year we had long lines at grocery stores which quickly ran out of supplies.  This year, lines of delivery trucks parked outside neighborhood supermarkets to stock up, and on a Saturday.  And it's a good thing they did, because the markets were crowded all day today.  The MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) said that buses and subways would shut down if winds topped 39 mph.  So far, there are no evacuations planned, though people living in flood prone areas are being asked to leave.  I may be taking yet another school holiday in a semester already ridden with ill-timed days off.

Who knows what will happen after Sunday.  It may be a little wind and rain, or it may be a major disaster.  We'll find out.  Michael and I are prepared to ride out the storm if necessary.


The MTA will shut down the subways at 7PM and the buses at 9PM.  The city is now divided up into evacuation zones and ordered zone A evacuated. 


How Brooklyn!  The lines of last minute hoarders outside at Trader Joe's in Brooklyn; photo from Dan Sloan; in Florida they'd be lining up for batteries and duct tape.

My college will officially close tomorrow.  No point in opening if all the public transport is suspended.

Bridges will close if and when the winds get above 60 mph. 




Michael and I are ready for this thing.  We're stocked up on food, bottled water, batteries, flashlights, etc.  Both cats are present and accounted for.  We're mindful that this storm has already killed scores of people in the Caribbean, but we're hoping that the worst we see is some wind and rain with some downed tree branches tomorrow along with a lot of grousing about all the fuss.


Well this is reassuring:


On the other hand, this was the Jersey shore earlier today, and the storm is still 24 hours away:

They're talking about a 12 foot storm surge down around the Battery by tomorrow evening (the storm surge for Irene was 4 feet).   The flood barriers there are 9 feet high.  There's speculation that Wall Street could be flooded out by the evening.


On schedule for today, Monday:


It's 10:45AM, and this is Red Hook, Brooklyn right now (photo from Dan Sloan, though I don't think he's the photographer).  The long low building is a dock in the harbor.  Where the fence and the building meet in the middle distance is where I've exhibited paintings on a number of occasions.  The building is an old maritime warehouse from the 1850s.

The Holland Tunnel is now closed.

Part of the Verrazano Bridge is now closed.

Part of the FDR Drive in Manhattan is closed due to flooding.

I'm hearing that part of the Boardwalk in Atlantic City is destroyed.

I now hear that the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn is overflowing its banks.

My friend Mary O'Shaughnesy who works for the Red Cross sends this picture of very busy Red Cross dispatchers.


It's about 11:30 AM, and things are relatively quiet where we are.  The Brooklyn Queens Expressway is very quiet for a Monday.  The winds are picking up ever more so by the hour.  There is almost no one outdoors, and I am spending the day at home.  We are just outside all the evacuation zones, but we are on an island surrounded by them.

I'm hearing news reports that most of Atlantic City is now underwater.

The National Hurricane Center says that Sandy now has sustained winds of 90 mph; that's sustained winds, not gusts.  The storm is strengthening and still far out to sea.




The peak of the storm surge is expected at the Battery and Brooklyn at about 6PM.  The storm surge peak is not expected for the Bronx until 10PM.


There is now flooding at both of the city's airports.



 Michael and I are preparing for power outages, probably tonight.  So the updates may end after tonight.


And the overpaid professionally pious nutcases are already blaming the whole thing on Teh Gays.  I'm not posting any links.  You can find them for yourselves.  I counted about 4 so far.

Meanwhile, here is a genuinely selfless friend to humanity, my friend Mary O'Shaughnesy working her post today at the Red Cross, doing her duty and helping people indiscriminately.

Almost everyone in the area appears to be hunkered down in their homes or in shelters, and so I'm hoping that we will emerge from this storm with a very low casualty rate.


A sound I haven't heard since I left the Midwest, the wind whistling through window frames.

The News says that we can expect the worst of the storm here at about 8PM.

WNYC AM is warning that they might go off the air because of rising water in their transmission station.

Michael and I still have power, though the wind is really picking up.

Local Facebook pals are complaining about internet connections getting dodgy.

As if things aren't exciting enough, there was a partial crane collapse on a huge construction site on 57th street.  No injuries are reported so far.  The boom of the crane dangles dangerously 90 floors up on what is supposed to be the world's tallest luxury housing tower when it is finished (just what New York needs so desperately, more luxury housing).

Here's a picture from about an hour ago, courtesy of the local NBC affiliate.

Here's a closer view of the collapsed crane, which is expected to fall.

The unbuilt penthouse of this building already sold for $90 million, the most ever paid for a residence in New York.  I wonder if the buyer will want a refund?

And now I hear a chain saw from somewhere across the BQE out my south window.  I'm not surprised.

My favorite faked photo of Ms. Liberty so far today:



The storm surge in New York Harbor is now 11 feet and still rising.  Battery Park is flooded.  Downtown Jersey City is flooding.

Con Edison did a preemptive power shut down in the Lower East Side.

There was a partial building collapse in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.  The front fell off a 4 story walk-up.  No one injured, thank heaven.

We may have flooded subway and utility tunnels here in New York, but I think the worst damage will be down on the New Jersey shore around Atlantic City.  They appear to have taken the brunt of the wind and rain.

We are fine and still have power.  The cats are asleep.  But the wind is really gusting and howling through the window frames sometimes.  We had a few gusts that shook the building.

The Firebird

I recently bought the complete ballet, conducted by Pierre Boulez (I'm happy with it, but I'd really like to have the Seiji Ozawa performance).  It's been many years since I heard the whole thing.  I loved this piece when I was a kid.  I'd forgotten just how beautiful it was.  Hearing it again is like finding a very old friend even more fresh, beautiful, and marvelous than when I last encountered her.

The Firebird was the spectacular debut of a relatively unknown Russian composer named Igor Stravinsky, who was originally Sergei Diaghilev's third choice to write the music for the first original work to be performed by the Ballets Russe.  When the ballet premiered in Paris in 1910, the critics and the public went into raptures over it.  The Firebird made the Ballets Russe, Diaghilev, and especially Stravinsky.

Michel Fokine, who choreographed the 1910 production, seen here as Prince Ivan with Tamara Karsavina in the title role of The Firebird.  The costumes are by Leon Bakst.

Igor Stravinsksy in 1910

Sergei Diaghilev in 1910

Leon Bakst costume design for the 1910 Firebird

Set design by artist Natalia Goncharova for a Russian performance of The Firebird.