New Yorkers beat hasty retreat from power-less lower Manhattan

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout
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New Yorkers are used to walking farther--and faster--than denizens of other cities, but the extraordinary circumstances of Monday night's massive storm have forced people to make much longer and more arduous treks than normal.

Everywhere on Manhattan's Lower East Side on Tuesday, people--some en route to the homes of family or friends--were emerging with duffel bags and suitcases from electricity-free walk-up apartment buildings, and then shooting their arms out into the air in hopeful attempts to hail taxis.

These New Yorkers for the most part escaped the storm's wrath, which led to the death of 12 in the city, but now face lingering power outages that have plunged this part of Manhattan into darkness.

Many were unable to find cabs. The subway--expected to be closed for days--is not an option.

Becca Endryck, a senior at New York University, decided to walk over the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn, laden with two duffel bags and a backpack. Her Broome Street apartment in the neighborhood of SoHo lost both power and water early Monday night, so she decided to stay with friends who live in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Endryck looked for a cab for nearly half an hour before deciding to make the nearly five-mile trek with her things.

"I don't want to be in Manhattan," she said.

It's not hard to understand why. The electricity company ConEd said Tuesday that 230,000 of its customers in lower Manhattan could be without power for four days as the company attempts to repair damage to its equipment from the storm surge. Though a few stores were open--including a Chinese restaurant called The Happy Wok on Houston Street, where employees passed out Styrofoam takeout containers of food through a cracked-open door in exchange for cash--the usually bustling Lower East Side seemed abandoned. Streetlights, many at usually busy intersections, weren't working, but few cars were on the road.

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When Tomoko Hagane-Mullins escaped her power-less Lower East Side apartment on Tuesday morning, a truck driver offered her, her husband, and their 7-year-old daughter a ride over the bridge to Brooklyn. The good Samaritan had noticed that the family couldn't find a taxi.

"We all kind of squeezed in the cab [of the truck]," Hagane-Mullins said. She returned to the Lower East Side apartment on foot later Tuesday to fetch a suitcase of necessities, which she rolled back over the Williamsburg Bridge. Her family is camping out in Brooklyn for the next few days.

Beauty Jackson and her two small children were waiting to hail a car at E. Houston Street, a few blocks from their apartment. Asked where they were headed, Jackson said: "Uptown, where there's light." Jackson and her children spent Monday night in the darkness. Her home phone went down, and then her cell phone died. She said she cooked by lighting the gas stove with a match.

Three friends in their early 20s, who live in the Vladeck housing project on the Lower East Side, were walking north, meanwhile, trying to reach the Bronx. "A lot of people are staying," Anthony Wilson said of the rest of the residents of Vladeck, which lost hot water and power Monday night. Wilson and his friends Drequan White and Roger Kennon were hoping they'd get cell-phone service as they walked farther uptown, so that they could ask someone to pick them up and drive them to the Bronx. If not, they'd be walking for miles.