Lower East Side and East Village residents have begun receiving robocalls from Con Edison late this afternoon, in which a recorded voice says that electricity will be restored to our area by 11 p.m. Saturday night.
As of 11 a.m. today, 650,000 Con Ed customers were still in the dark after the unprecented damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. From a Con Ed public statement a little while ago:
Customers served by underground networks in Mid- to Lower Manhattan who lost power during the storm will have service by this Saturday.
Crews restoring service in those underground areas have pumped massive amounts of water out of the facilities. They must also clean all components of the seawater from the equipment. Equipment must be dried, repaired or replaced, and inspected before it can be safely put back into service.
We’re on the scene at distribution points for food and water across the Lower East Side and Chinatown this afternoon, and at two of the three sites we visited, the promised supplies have yet to show up for a planned 3 p.m. start time. Along Grand Street in front of the Seward Park Co-op, a long line had already formed in advance, and one of two planned supply trucks eventually arrived. However, at Confucious Plaza, several hundred people gathered and waited more than an hour before beginnning to drift away, empty-handed, when no help arrived. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Council Member Margaret Chin spoke to residents and reporters about the aid effort, which includes a million meals and bottled water from FEMA, as well as additional help from many community organizations in both neighborhoods, but the cause of the holdup was unclear. The scene was similar, but with bigger crowds, at the Smith Houses at Cherry and Monroe streets, where a crowd stretched for several blocks, almost to the river. At 4:30 p.m., most of the residents remained in line, hopeful.
The cavalry arrived on Grand Street a short time ago.
A small grocery store on Clinton St. just north of Delancey had plenty of fruit and vegetables this afternoon.
City, state and federal relief efforts are starting to take effect on the Lower East Side this afternoon. The National Guard, NYC Service and the Salvation Army are beginning to knock on doors in blacked-out high rises to help home-bound residents. Meanwhile, local businesses continue to rise to the challenge of being powerless for four days straight, including Lower East Side icons Russ & Daughters and Katz’s. Here’s what we know this afternoon about water, food and provisions, as well as local restaurants and bars that are welcoming diners.
Beginning at 3 p.m. today, food and water distribution sites will open at the following locations: 10th Street between Avenues C and D, Catherine Street between Monroe and Cherry streets (Smith Houses playground), Pitt and East Houston streets (Hamilton Fish Park), Grand and Clinton streets (water only), Bowery and Division Street (Confucius Plaza).
Con Edison began distributing dry ice in Union Square Park at 14th Street and Union Square West at noon today; until supplies last.
Russ & Daughters, 179 E. Houston St., is open until 5 p.m. today.
Katz’s, 205 E. Houston St., is open until 4 p.m. today and will be open tomorrow and every day until the power returns, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They can cook with gas and have most of their menu, including pastrami and hot dogs. Yes, there are tourists there, but it’s not too crowded at the moment.
Yesterday we paid a visit to the Rutgers Houses on Madison Street, which has become a mini-command center for the New York City Housing Authority’s hurricane recovery efforts. Volunteers, including City Council staff members, were writing out notices for tenants by hand, since there’s obviously no copying machines downtown. That’s NYCHA board member Margarita Lopez standing at the end of the table. She took a few moments to talk with us about the work being done to get the Lower East Side’s public housing developments through the crisis that followed Hurricane Sandy.
There’s a large generator at Rutgers, powering overhead lights on the first floor and making it possible to restore water service. The Smith, Baruch, Wald and Riis Houses also are getting generators. Lopez said salt water is being pumped from the bottom of the elevator shafts so that the elevators can go on line soon after Con Ed restores electric power.
With the help of non-profit organizations such as University Settlement, meals have been delivered to elderly residents in several buildings. Lopez said most people in need of medical attention were successfully moved out before the storm. Unfortunately, many able bodied tenants stayed, in violation of the mayor’s evacuation order. “This is what’s causing most of the problems we’re dealing with now,” she said.
Lopez said NYCHA has been working closely with local elected officials throughout the recovery effort.
A charging station was set up in the community room at the Seward Park Co-op.
As the power outage on the Lower East Side stretches into a fourth day, there’s mounting frustration and concern, especially regarding the plight of the neighborhood’s large elderly population. In the last 48 hours we’ve received numerous emails and tweets from residents of the Grand Street cooperatives expressing outrage that more is not being done to make sure seniors, trapped in their apartments, have food and water. As mentioned earlier this morning, a group will be meeting at the Seward Park Co-op this morning with the intention of walking up to the high floors of the 1700-apartment complex to check on elderly residents.
Yesterday we received an email from Seward Park resident Evan Silver that read, in part:
I am writing to you in a desperate attempt to help the countless seniors trapped in their apartments in the Seward Park complex without electric, heat and running water. Some 20 flights up in buildings where elevator and electric is not running. I just left my building today to go to a friends in Brooklyn and on my way down the pitch black stairway I heard the cries for help from a women in her mid 80’s. She had run out of water and had no phone to call for help. She also needed the assistance of a walker so there was nowhere for her to go – her neighbors already left. We used or cells which have had spotty service to call her family and I ran out to grab a car for her after taking her down the 3 flights. She was terrified and said NOBODY has been knocking on the doors seeing if anyone needed help. The management just sent out an email saying anyone who needs help to leave a note on their door or call their office. But nobody in the building can get the email since there is no electric! I can only imagine all the people trapped in their apartments with no way of calling for help or any idea of what’s going on… I spoke with security who said they had their hands tied. I’ve been trying to call management but the number is busy 24/7 or not working. The need to do a door to door search immediately as we go on the 3rd night with no electric.
Orchard Street at Canal, looking north, Tuesday night around 8 p.m.
On Day 3 post-Sandy, the LES remains in the dark and attention begins to turn to stretching provisions, caring for our most vulnerable elderly populations and keeping bored children occupied. Hang on tight, everybody, and please check on your neighbors, particularly if you’re in high-rises with large numbers of senior citizens who are house-bound by lack of elevators. Here’s what we know this morning.
This morning at Confucius Plaza, on the Bowery, volunteers are needed to distribute water. if you can help, report to 33 Bowery, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce office on the second floor, at 10 a.m.
There’s also a need for volunteers at Seward Park High School, 350 Grand Street, throughout the day. Anyone able to offer help should go to the shelter and ask for Jerry Chan, the chair of the CERT team.
If you have supplies to donate (flashlights, batteries, water) you can drop them off at CAAAV’s offices, 46 Hester Street.
And this morning there will be an effort to help elderly residents of the Seward Park Co-op. Volunteers are meeting at 10:30 a.m. at 387 Grand Street (Norfolk). The plan is to go floor-by-floor in the buildings (if Seward Park security will allow it). Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. Incidentally, we spoke with the co-op’s general manager, Frank Durant, last night. He said many seniors had already been checked on. Today truck loads of food will be delivered to people in need (we’ll have much more about the situation at Seward Park in a separate post this morning).
“Made in the LES,” a fairly new community organization, is keeping track of various volunteer efforts. You can reach them at email@example.com.
Things are definitely not returning to normal on the Lower East Side today but there are some signs of progress. Some subway lines have started moving again, and Con Ed seems to be making limited headway in restoring power downtown. With any luck, we’ll only be in the dark for another day. We’ll have a full status report coming up and updates throughout the day as we rove the neighborhood. Keep sending those amazing photos and news tips.