NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt reports on Sandy's arrival and aftermath from his home on the Rockaway Beach peninsula.
Friday, 1/25/13, 9:45 a.m.
If there can be a design competition for rebuilding at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, why not have one for the Rockaway Boardwalk? With two-thirds of the boardwalk totally gone, the city has an unparalleled opportunity to come up with some creative plans for the space – rather than just simply rebuild what was there before the hurricane. A spirited e-mail exchange on this topic with The Wave’s Kevin Boyle morphed into an impassioned editorial. Here’s hoping that someone in city government is listening.
Wednesday, 1/23/13, 9:30 a.m.
This morning, I vented a little on my "Political Buzz" segment about the failure of the U.S. Congress to pass a Hurricane Sandy relief bill three months after the storm.
Wednesday 1/9/13, 9:30 a.m.
The Parks Department last night detailed its immediate plans for rebuilding parts of the boardwalk by Memorial Day – creating boardwalk “islands” around the three main concession stands (which will be reopened) at Beach 86th, Beach 97th, and Beach 106th Streets.
NY1’s Michael Herzenberg attended last night’s Community Board meeting and filed this report and the folks at RockawayHelp took copious notes at the meeting as well: “Parks hopes to keep these areas of boardwalk open this summer: Beach 9-35, Beach 40-60, and Beach 81-86. Beach 68-74 will be left ‘as is’ as a sort of Sandy work of art and remembrance. There will be no boardwalk from Beach 86-126 except for mini island platforms (approximately 1 block each).”
I’m sure there will be a plenty of debate and discussion about these plans but it's good to see things moving forward. Those concession stands were an unmitigated success and they will be helpful beacons in what could be a very challenging summer.
Thursday 1/3/13, 10 a.m.
It's now been more than two months since Sandy flooded the Rockaway peninsula. The holidays are over and things are slowly returning to normal here -- or at least a weird and winterized version of normal in a place that was never quite normal to begin with.
The large tents that served as a warming center in the parking lot in front of my house are gone, like a sad circus that's packed up and hit the road. Almost all of the schools that had been closed since the storm are open again. While a good number of stores are back in business, others remain shuttered, perhaps for good. With no direct train connection to the mainland, transportation still poses a major challenge to residents. The bus system is sometimes overwhelmed by passengers during the rush-hour -- and there are few buses to pick up passengers late at night. I'm not sure where things stand on the entire peninsula with Verizon but there's still no phone service at my house and I'm curious what I'll be told when I call later today from my office to complain.
While most people are back in their homes, there are still plenty of empty residences; a colleague of mine just got heat last week after getting a slow response from the city's Rapid Repairs program. And what was the piece de resistance of the Rockaways, the 5.5 miles of boardwalk is now just a messed-up jagged version of Stonehenge that reminds all of us of what used to be there. How Congress still hasn’t acted for more than two months on this is simply unforgivable.
The peninsula serves as home to firefighters and surf freaks, millionaires and people on welfare, idiots and geniuses. These are people who in one way or another have served their country well and now deserve some help in return.
I don’t know what’s next for the peninsula and it has me worried. Kevin Boyle, the editor of our weekly newspaper, The Wave, expressed similar concerns to me when we were talking on New Year’s Eve. We have a golden opportunity to make things better than they were rather than just returning to the somewhat dysfunctional level we were at before the storm. Kevin suggested to me that there should be some sort of summit of community activists who could come up with a rough statement of purpose for the peninsula. And that's what's needed, a cri de coeur for a neighborhood that’s still quietly licking its wounds as winter slowly takes hold.
Tuesday 12/25/12, 2:15 p.m.
I'm in Florida for Christmas but Rockaway is on my mind. Here's our terrific Rockaway Christmas tree in front of my house in the parking lot. Happy holidays everyone. Let's hope that tomorrow's storm isn't a doozy.
Thursday 12/19/12, 9 a.m.
There are a few Sandy-related stories definitely worth reading in today’s papers, most notably, Sheri Fink’s powerful account of the post-Sandy struggles of residents in 7-11 Seagirt Avenue – “four hulking towers with more than 900 apartments along the beach in Far Rockaway.” Fink examines the death of one elderly building resident and also looks at how one filmmaker’s video on YouTube rang the alarm bell about conditions in the complex known as the Sand Castle.
The Daily News looks at some problems with the city’s Rapid Repairs program – with some contractors not returning for weeks to finish the work they’ve started.
And the Senate GOP has come up with a much smaller aid package for Sandy relief. The Times’ Ray Hernandez notes: “Democrats say it is a token proposal intended to give cover to Republicans who will not vote for the larger bill.”
Wednesday 12/19/12, 11:30 a.m.
He brought the Rockaways the H train after Hurricane Sandy, now does Joe Lhota want to be the next mayor?
We’ll have plenty of time to discuss and debate the merits of the MTA boss’ likely run for City Hall next year but in the meantime, if you haven’t read it, check out this strongly-worded New York Times editorial: ”Why We Need Sandy Relief Now”.
Tuesday 12/18/12, 9:30 a.m.
The New York Times has an interesting story on how FEMA is paying for many homeowners’ repairs in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
And if you haven’t seen it yet, our Bobby Cuza has a good report on how many banks have been slow to reopen on the Rockaways following the storm.
Tuesday 12/18/12, 9 a.m.
How inept is the phone company?
After Verizon told me that no one in the neighborhood has had phone service since the storm on the night of Oct. 29th, I get a bill in the mail yesterday – for basic service and call forwarding, a service I never requested. While thousands of residents will likely be calling and complaining (over their cell phones), I’m sure the phone company is counting on some people actually paying. It’s bad enough that no one has had phone service for seven weeks and counting but it’s simply unconscionable to send out bills to everyone in storm-affected neighborhoods when their phones don’t even work.
Postscript: I just spoke with a Verizon rep who told me that residents will be billed now – and given a refund later when service is restored. Pretzel logic.
Saturday 12/15/12, 4:30 p.m.
It's somewhat weird and ironic that on the day that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is in Rockaway, I'm in New Orleans. Landrieu brought several prominent New Orleans chefs to Far Rockaway to serve up some gumbo to hungry residents.
Meanwhile, I'm in uptown New Orleans, eating fried oyster tacos and preparing for tomorrow's Saints game. It's good to see that we're continuing the cultural exchange between our two great cities.
It's also helpful to remember that Katrina flooded 80 percent of this city and if this town can rebuild, so can we.
Friday 12/14/12, 9:45 p.m.
Is Congress ever going to approve billions of dollars of Sandy relief aid to New York?
Gov. Cuomo is holding a press conference at 11:15 a.m. to call on Congress to act. NY1 will be taking it live.
Thursday 12/13/12, 11 a.m.
Rockaway definitely had its semi-chaotic moment at last night’s 12/12/12 fundraiser at Madison Square Garden as actor Steve Buscemi tried to introduce a group of local residents and volunteers to the rest of the world during the broadcast.
I would venture to guess that a few adult beverages had been imbibed by the crew who – as a friend gleefully observed – all but mooned the camera as Buscemi gamely tried to read his prepared script.
While part of me was watching it like a kid embarrassed by his loud family members, it captured our neighborhood’s spirit because it was both silly and sweet.
Also: What was Kanye West wearing?
Wednesday 12/12/12, 5:30 p.m.
Part of me wants to live blog tonight’s 12/12/12 concert – but I think I’ll reserve comment until its conclusion.
Earlier today, I had sobering conversations with two co-workers who live on the peninsula. One of them is still without heat and the other is living in Brooklyn as her home is undergoing a massive amount of repairs. There’s still plenty of work that needs to be done and hopefully, some of the millions of dollars that’s being raised tonight will help them.
Wednesday 12/12/12, 10 a.m.
It could be a Verizon Christmas miracle in the Rockaways.
I just got an automated message on my cell phone from the phone company, saying the outage in our neighborhood should be fixed by Christmas Eve. I think they're very fortunate that more people don't rely on their landlines or there would be outrage.
Tuesday 12/11/12, 10:30 a.m.
Here’s an update on the old homestead that might give you an idea of what many people are going through in the neighborhood:
From Friday until Sunday, there was a slow but steady parade of workers to my house. First, the new oil tank arrived on Friday that was quickly installed by two young guys. But then the oil company almost stalled on coming in and filling it, creating the prospect of losing heat for the weekend. After some verbal jujitsu on the phone, the oil was delivered on Saturday and the furnace was started back up. On Sunday, the cable guy came to (sort of) jumpstart the broadband Internet access to the house and fix the cable to the first floor. Meanwhile, the contractors have been toiling away in the basement, painting all the walls and slowly putting the space back to normal. The dozen basement windows that were blown out by the storm are supposedly getting replaced this week, six weeks after they were destroyed.
Somewhere during all of this activity, I spotted the Verizon guy on my block, looking overwhelmed. There is basically no direct phone service to the neighborhood and it’s not clear to me when it’s returning. While cell phone service is spotty, at least it’s an option for many.
Rockaway Beach has reached a “life during wartime” stasis where things aren’t quite working but they’re not totally broken either. There’s some sort of mass transit service off the peninsula. Some stores are back open for business and there’s sort of a daily workflow on the streets that have been made muddy and dirty by all the sand deposited by the storm.
The Rockaways’ “new normal” also includes a constant hum of activity coming from massive trucks moving large things. There are police and fire trucks from faraway neighborhoods patrolling the streets. And there’s the large warming center with its massive tents just outside my home, where people line up each morning, waiting to get in.
There are plenty of signs posted everywhere. Signs promising free things to hurricane victims, signs touting demolition and construction, and plenty of signs for businesses that are still boarded up and may never be coming back.
Plunked down on top of all this near the boardwalk on Beach 94th Street is a massive Christmas tree that’s been donated by a Long Island nursery. But – like most things Rockaway – there’s an argument going on about where exactly the tree should be placed. And like most things right now, it’s a little bit beautiful and confusing.
Tuesday 12/11/12, 9:30 a.m.
I’m back after several days of radio silence – and no Internet service at home. I’ll write at more length in a bit but in case you missed it yesterday, The New York Times’ Eric Lipton and Michael Moss had a great article about the sluggish response that the city’s Housing Authority had to the storm – particularly when it came to helping stranded tenants, many of them elderly.
The Times editorial board today weighed in, noting: “For the most part, New York City’s bureaucracy responded quickly to the challenges presented by Hurricane Sandy. But it did not do nearly as well with respect to the most vulnerable citizens who live in public housing.”
Thursday 12/6/12, 4:30 p.m.
The mayor’s speech today struck a lot of the right rhetorical notes but was pretty short on specific proposals. Some of that is entirely understandable given that the storm swept across the city just five weeks ago.
But the mayor could have talked more about employing stopgap measures that could make things run more smoothly during the rebuilding process. If you’re going to praise new ferry service to Staten Island and the Rockaways, for example, why not vow to keep those ferries in place for the indefinite future? Why not take the MTA to task for putting the tolls back on the Cross Bay Bridge and Marine Parkway Bridge while volunteers and contractors are still streaming to the Rockaways to help? And strut around your bully pulpit: call on the banking industry to reopen their shuttered branches on the peninsula.
The mayor’s off-hand dismissal of sea walls also bears more examination. Sure, King Canute couldn’t build them but what about Amsterdam and London? And if you’re going to praise berms and jetties and dunes, what’s your plan to use them?
Thursday 12/6/12, 10 a.m.
A few quick takeaways from the mayor’s speech this morning – and I’ll write more later:
• No Sea walls – the mayor basically ruled out building a sea wall to protect the city but talked supportively of berms, dunes, jetties (groins), and levees.
• He is proposing changing zoning in flood areas to increase height restrictions, allowing homeowners to build their houses higher to avoid flooding.
• He politely slammed Verizon, saying the phone company needs to modernize and that it’s unacceptable that so many people still don’t have phone service.
• There are a lot of issues still being studied and a lot of people being charged with important tasks like creating an economic vision for the affected neighborhoods -- and an engineering analysis to better protect the city’s coast.
Wednesday 12/5/12, 10:15 p.m
If you want to watch the mayor's speech about New York City's future after Hurricane Sandy, turn on NY1 tomorrow at 8:15 a.m. We'll be carrying it live.
Wednesday 12/5/12, 4:30 p.m.
Tough news for the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut: They want a combined $82 billion in federal funds for Hurricane Sandy relief – but President Obama is only going to ask Congress for about $50 billion.
Tuesday 12/4/12, 4:45 p.m.
What does Charles Dickens have to do with the Rockaways? Sure, the neighborhood looks like some sort of a nightmare out of “A Christmas Carol” – but there’s an actual “Dickens Christmas for the Rockaways” benefit in the East Village on Thursday night that’s being organized by the incorrigible musician Joe Hurley.
Among the many performers and speakers – including yours truly – is Lucinda Dickens, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens. The event will be benefitting the Graybeards – a local volunteer group that’s justifiably getting a lot of attention in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. In the spirit of Rockaway, this could be like an Irish wake: sad, joyous, and a little strange.
Tuesday 12/4/12, 11:45 a.m.
Disaster chic is coming to the Rockaways – and it’s for a good cause.
The MTA is selling t-shirts, hoodies, and other merchandise that celebrates the H Train – the free Rockaways shuttle train that travels between Mott Avenue and Beach 90th Street.
All proceeds will benefit The Graybeards -- a terrific volunteer group that’s been very active since Sandy.
Check out the MTA's Joe Lhota in his hoodie. (Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Patrick Cashin)
Tuesday 12/4/12, 10:20 a.m.
Paging Robert Moses.
Many New Yorkers who’ve never been to Rockaway before the storm have asked me about the heavy concentration of public housing in Far Rockaway. In a terrific essay in The New York Times, Jonathan Mahler explains “How the Coastline Became a Place to Put the Poor.”
Tuesday 12/4/12, 10 a.m.
National Grid may need a wake-up call.
Several weeks ago, a really nice crew of guys from Wisconsin showed up at my front door to change the gas regulator at my home. It’s something that National Grid has been doing house-by-house in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to prevent gas leaks in the Rockaways.
About 10 days later, another crew came to my house to do the same thing. After telling them it had already been done, they left. Honest mistake, right?
Well, when I got home last night, there was a note on my door from National Grid, saying they need to turn off my house’s gas and put in a new gas regulator because of the storm. While I appreciate their diligence, someone there needs to do a better job record-keeping.
Tuesday 12/4/12, 9:15 a.m.
For as long as I’ve lived in Rockaway, there’s been a debate over having dunes on the beach. Today, the Times looks at what Hurricane Sandy did to nearby Long Beach – which didn't have dunes – and other Long Island communities that did.
Dunes or no dunes, a real plan to fight beach erosion definitely needs to be part of the city’s post-Sandy blueprint.
Monday 12/3/12, 5:15 p.m.
I’ve been carping about City Hall needing to put out a post-Sandy blueprint. It sounds like it will be happening this week.
On Thursday morning, the mayor will be delivering an “address on shaping New York City’s future after Hurricane Sandy.” The mayor’s office says that the speech -- which will be delivered to the Regional Plan Association and the League of Conservation Voters -- will also “discuss the work the City already has begun and the new steps it will take to improve resiliency to climate risks.”
Monday 12/3/12, 9:30 a.m.
As Hurricane Sandy approached New York City, why did nursing homes in Rockaway, Staten Island and Brooklyn not evacuate?
The New York Times looks at why state and city health officials told nursing homes not to move their patients before the storm arrived — even if they were in the flood zone.
Sunday 12/2/12, 3 p.m.
I'm not a scientist so I'm not going to weigh in and say that jetties (which really should be called groins but that's a separate discussion) are the solution to saving the beach. But clearly something has to be done to protect the beaches -- and the residents of Rockaway -- from future storms.
It does seem more than coincidental that the areas which had more beach between residents and the ocean had less flooding. I'd really like to see a comprehensive post-Sandy flood map of the peninsula and have someone explain why certain areas did -- and didn't -- flood.
The turnout at the rally was heartening because it shows that plenty of people have been driven into action from the storm. So often, Rockaway is filled with a lot of griping -- and little more.
A nice couple at the rally asked me what exactly is City Hall's blueprint for the neighborhood in the wake of the storm. So far, an off-hand remark from the mayor about the boardwalk is all I've heard from City Hall about their plans.
There needs to be a full-out speech by someone detailing where the city sees Rockaway five months from now -- and in five years.
Sunday 12/2/12, 2:30 p.m.
A slew of recent bad publicity isn't keeping Elmo from speaking out on beach erosion in Rockaway.
Sunday 12/2/12, noon
The dean of the City Hall press corps -- the New York Post's Dave Seifman -- has a good column today looking at the tension between the governor and the mayor and how that's played out over the Sandy recovery efforts. I've likened it to a couple in a badly-strained marriage that's trying not to fight in front of the children. Read Dave's article at www.nypost.com.
Sunday 12/2/12, 10:55 a.m.
There's a rally at the jetty at Beach 86th Street at 1 p.m. today to talk about preventing further beach erosion and building more jetties. I'd love to know how much a factor the jetties and the larger beach played in protecting some homes from the Beach 80s to Far Rockaway on the night of the storm -- or if the damage uptown was because of other factors.
Friday 11/30/12, 11:35 a.m.
Bad news for drivers from the MTA. Starting at midnight, tolls will again be collected on the Cross Bay Bridge and Marine Parkway bridges.
Friday 11/30/12, 11 a.m.
A thorough roundup of the post-Sandy restaurant situation in Rockaway is on eater.com. While there’s plenty of bad news to digest, Rockaway Taco’s David Selig, who also oversees the concessions on the boardwalk, tries to be positive: "We have a chance to think forward, to take advantage of the momentum in the community. It'd be silly not to try something new, something smart and fun."
Thursday 11/29/12, 8 p.m.
NY1 Political Anchor Errol Louis took an extensive tour of the Rockaways on Tuesday – including my house. Here’s the uncut version of his house call to me (he even brought me pizza and his new book!)
NY1: NY1 Blog: NY1's Bob Hardt Reports On Sandy From Rockaway Beach
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Here are the links to all four parts of the tour that aired on Inside City Hall tonight:
Thursday 11/29/12, 3 p.m.
Will Rockaway get its boardwalk back? NY1’s Roger Clark interviewed several Parks Department officials today and it sounds like portions of the boardwalk may be rebuilt in time for next summer – but it may be concrete that’s used instead of boards.
It also sounds like the Parks Department wants to reopen the highly-popular concession spots at Beach 86th, 97th, and 106th Streets.
Here’s a link to Roger’s report: http://www.ny1.com/content/top_stories/173075/parks-officials-can-only-rebuild-sections-of-devastated-rockaway-beach-boardwalk
Thursday 11/29/12, 11:20 a.m.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand provided some very emotional testimony this morning at a U.S. Senate committee hearing about Sandy’s impact on New York. It really is worth watching. View her full testimony.
Wednesday 11/28/12, 3:45 p.m.
It’s not great news -- but not surprising. Direct subway service isn’t coming back to the Rockaways until sometime in the middle of next year.
A source tells me that the MTA’s goal is to have the A train and the shuttle train to Broad Channel back on track by next summer.
Here’s hoping that the agency’s director, Joe Lhota, will be able to get it done sooner.
At the very least, the trains will be back on track in time for the Memorial Day crush -- if there is one next year.
Wednesday 11/28/12, 11:15 a.m.
There are a couple of interesting columns today in the local tabloids about Rockaway’s recovery.
In the Daily News, Rep. Greg Meeks and former Rep. Anthony Weiner share their blueprint for rebuilding: "…With this crisis comes an opportunity to do some things that residents here have been talking about for a long while, things that will help the Rockaways deal with future instances of destructive weather."
In his regular column in the New York Post, former State Assemblyman Michael Benjamin shares his impressions of a visit to Far Rockaway: "Things are very tough in Far Rockaway, but it’s not New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. Yet residents need clear government guidance to help sort out who recovers and who gets permanently displaced — and how it’s all to happen."
And in sports news, both Mark Sanchez of the Jets and Tyson Chandler of the Knicks have spent some time – and money – trying to help Rockaway residents.
Tuesday 11/27/12, Noon
Is it just me, or is this well-intentioned "Secret Sandy" project just really creepy? Here's the link.
Tuesday 11/27/12, 10:45 a.m.
Gov. Cuomo is taking some heat after making an unwise comparison yesterday, saying that Hurricane Sandy was "more impactful" than Hurricane Katrina. While the economic impact of Sandy will certainly be worse than Katrina's, the death toll from the storm in the Gulf was more than 10 times greater in the United States than Sandy's (1,833 vs. 135). So why play the comparison game at all?
Cuomo is trying to go to bat for New York -- and the massive burden that the state and its many localities will be carrying over the next decade. Because the recovery here in New York is moving at a faster pace than it did in Louisiana, Cuomo is rightfully concerned that people in other parts of the nation will soon forget about the hurricane.
The governor, in some ways, is a victim of his own success. If the subways still weren't running or if almost all of Rockaway was still in the dark, there would be national outrage. But because business is back to normal for so many New Yorkers, it's easier to forget about the parts of the state that are still badly hurting.
So give Cuomo a break. He took out his tragedy measuring tape when he should have kept it in his pocket but he's trying to remind everyone that this is going to be a very long -- and expensive -- recovery.
Monday 11/26/12, 6:30 p.m.
The insurance adjustor and the oil tank man both paid a visit to my house today. The adjustor is just focusing on wind damage to the house so it will be interesting to see what his report says. Like so many Sandy-related workers, he's from out of state (Phoenix) and living in a hotel in Queens as he goes house to house across Rockaway.
The oil tank guy gave me bad news, saying he thinks the tank needs to replaced. While water never got into the tank, it was totally submerged and was also moved about six inches by the water. "It's not the greatest tank to begin with and the company that made it is out of business,'' he told me. Let's just hope the oil that is in the tank holds out long enough until a new tank can be put in. Luckily, the meth lab that I'm putting in the basement will pay for all of this...
Monday 11/26/12, 4:30 p.m.
Great news about a house in a great Woody Allen movie: www.nytimes.com/2012/11/27/nyregion/house-featured-in-radio-days-survives-hurricane.html
Monday 11/26/12, 11:15 a.m.
My friend John Avlon interviewed me for his column in The Daily Beast. John, a terrific and insightful writer, understands how Sandy could be a catalyst for change here: "Out of tragedy can come renaissance, with the right leadership right now. And Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo and federal disaster funds together offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild the Rockaways better than they were before, back to their full potential." Read the full article at thedailybeast.com.
Monday 11/26/12, 9:30 a.m.
I'm at home today, waiting for the insurance adjustor and the people who are going to inspect my oil tank. Meanwhile, a friend of mine wrote me an anguished e-mail about her morning commute from our neighborhood. It's clear that bus service needs to be improved in the Rockaways -- especially while there's no direct train service off the peninsula:
"Waited for Q22 bus to the ferry -- which is packed, by the way -- people had been waiting almost an hour as four Q52s went by, and I'm unsure of where to get the Q53. They need to run more of those buses at this hour ... There's still no signage so you just have to know where to stand, unless there's a group of fed up people already there."
Saturday 11/24/12, 3 p.m.
You can't keep a good bike down. Paul of Paul's Bikes fixed the spider! The bad news? I lost my ATM card. It's hard to keep everything together in times of change...
Friday 11/23/12, 7 p.m.
I'm about to head back to New York City from upstate and I'm already mentally preparing for Rockaway's Phase II recovery. While some people are still worrying about what I'm calling Phase I (the return of heat, hot water, and electricity), even more daunting and complex problems are left to be tackled. While it takes a lot of muscle to knock out a destroyed drywall, it takes a lot of perseverance to grapple with some of these questions: Will small businesses come back in a community where small businesses were already struggling? Will larger businesses avoid Rockaway even more than they did before the storm? Will transportation improve on a peninsula that has always been remote and isolated? Will the chasm-like income gap widen even more? Will the long-neglected beach and boardwalk rebound and be rebuilt? Will the fledging hipster community continue to grow and thrive? Will the troubled public housing projects continue to decay or will they get an infusion of cash and attention? Will the racially and geographically split local political leadership rally or collapse in this time of crisis? Will there be a master rebuilding plan for the region or will it be a box of band-aids? Will anyone outside of the local residents care about any of these questions in three months?
Thursday 11/22/12, 9:10 p.m.
That was brief (hopefully). Power back.
Thursday 11/22/12, 9 p.m.
An apparent problem with a transformer has sent my neighborhood back into darkness and without power.
Thursday 11/22/12, 8:30 a.m.
Things I'm thankful for today:
Having a house with heat, hot water and electricity.
No canned Viennese sausages ever again.
The parts of the boardwalk that are still there.
Getting to know my neighbors better. They are a tough and gritty bunch of people.
The workers and volunteers from all over the country, who are helping Rockaway recover.
WQXR-FM -- a beacon of sanity during a crazy time.
My bike (and the bike shop that's hopefully reopening).
The Rockaway ferry.
Amazing friends, family, and co-workers, who have been supportive during this whole mess.
Getting to grill the turkey.
Wednesday 11/21/12, 6 p.m.
I am on my way to take a bus upstate for Thanksgiving but I just got amazing news from my tenant, Jules. The heat is on! Now there's something to be really thankful for! Ironically, I won't be luxuriating in this heat until Friday night when I'm back.
Wednesday 11/21/12, 4:30 p.m.
John Davitt is NY1’s chief meteorologist. He’s a great weatherman: accurate – and not an alarmist. That’s why when he was predicting the worst when it came to Hurricane Sandy, I was really worried. I haven’t really seen John since the storm but when I sauntered by the Weather Center, I spied John sitting at his desk, with his feet up.
Me: You know, in some countries, you’d be burned at the stake for what happened.
John: That’s why I love America.
Wednesday 11/21/12, 6:30 a.m.
It was not quite the daily "Political Buzz" that I usually do with Pat Kiernan but, for the first time since the hurricane, it was great doing a morning chat with Pat from the library in my house.
NY1: NY1 Blog: NY1's Bob Hardt Reports On Sandy From Rockaway Beach
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Tuesday 11/20/12, 10 p.m.
The heating guy finally arrived at about 6:30 p.m. and worked on the furnace for several hours. The good news is the furnace may be salvageable. The bad news is that it needs more work -- and a special pump. I'm just glad he showed up. The bright spot about having a basement blown out by a storm is that you don't have to be home to let in any workers....
Tuesday 11/20/12, 3:15 pm
A major construction project is underway in front of my house. A massive donation and volunteer center is being constructed in the parking lot between Beach 94th and Beach 95th Streets, complete with large tents. It should make this area even busier.
Tuesday 11/20/12, 2:15 pm
While the plumbing in my house has always worked post-Sandy, that hasn't been the case with some of my neighbors. Successfully flushing their toilets has been an experiment at times and -- apparently -- what I've been flushing has been ending up in their basements!
Well, a crew from the DEP just arrived in front of my house and is cleaning out the sewer with a very complicated looking device that will hopefully snake everything free. May we all soon flush in peace!
Tuesday 11/20/12, 8:15 a.m.
I'm back in Rockaway, waiting for the oil company to hopefully check out my furnace and repair it. I had a discouraging talk with my insurance company yesterday and now finally have an appointment for an adjustor to visit the house on Monday. My running joke -- that's no longer so funny -- is that I'm just trying to pretend this was like some weekend in Vegas that went horribly, horribly awry. But maybe this casino will give me my money back. Paging Albert Brooks.
Monday 11/19/12, 3:30 p.m.
It’s not quite the A train but the H train is coming to the Rockaways. Starting at 4 a.m. tomorrow, the MTA is starting a free shuttle train – the H train -- that will run from Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway to Beach 90th Street in Rockaway Beach. It will run from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. each day. Apparently the elevated train line from Beach 90th Street to Beach 116th is too badly damaged for the shuttle to traverse. (Photo courtesy: MTA/Patrick Cashin)
Monday 11/19/12, 3:30 p.m.
Adios to the portable battery generator and the extension cords! More casualties of the festival of light.
Monday 11/19/12, 11 a.m.
I interrupted my celebration of light last night to talk with NY1 anchor Cheryl Wills. Here is the clip:
NY1: NY1 Blog: NY1's Bob Hardt Reports On Sandy From Rockaway Beach
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Monday 11/19/12, 9:45 a.m.
The New York Times has a tough editorial today about LIPA – and Gov. Cuomo: “Mr. Cuomo was right to call for an investigation. But if the investigators are diligent, they will find that one of the problems — and also one of the answers for a more reliable system — lies right in the governor’s office.”
Monday 11/19/12, 7:45 a.m.
I'm headed into work on the new ferry and it's good to see more than 100 people on board. There's a mixture of chatter about yesterday's football games, rebuilding the house post-Sandy, and auto insurance claims. This is a gorgeous way to commute.
Sunday, 11/18/12, 5 p.m.
The Rolling Stones are blasting and the champagne is chilling. A festival of lights is underway. Who needs heat? God bless Thomas Edison.
Sunday, 11/18/12, 3:45 p.m.
Let there be light! Power is back on in the house. I plan on celebrating by drying my hair while microwaving noodles, making toast and blending a Ramen and rum daiquiri.
Saturday 11/17/12, 2:30 p.m.
It finally happened. This storm broke my intrepid Spider bike. A long spill on black ice last week broke the rear reflector, put the rear tire mildly out of alignment, and loosened the chain, causing it to slip once a trip. But the Spider still crawled on. As I tried to take it for a short spin just now, I noticed the front tire was totally flat. And, of course, the bike shop on Beach 116th Street is closed -- like most small businesses here. Ugh.
Saturday 11/17/12, 8 a.m.
Creepy moment last night as friends were over and we were getting ready to go to bed. The Carpenters' "Sandy" gets randomly played by my iTunes: "Ooh Sandy. Can we spend the day together? You know how rainy weather gets me down when I'm alone?"
Friday 11/16/12, 7:45 p.m.
The FEMA dance continues with them calling me to tell me about rental properties near my office that could serve as temporary housing. The catch is -- I'd have to pay for it. Why? Because I erroneously told FEMA in my initial application that I have flood insurance. No, I can't tell the FEMA person on the phone to fix my mistake. I have to call a different FEMA worker on a FEMA help line and wait on hold for 40 minutes when I'm eventually told I have to fax them a letter saying I made a mistake in my initial application. Of course, I don't have power, a fax machine, or a working phone line. Luckily, I have a mother (named Sandy) who will fax something tomorrow for me. But how complicated can fixing a simple mistake be?
Friday 11/16/12, 1 p.m.
I tried to bike uptown on the beach during high tide this morning, which was a big mistake because there's no beach left when the water is that high. I wonder what people will do this summer.
Instead, I had to bike on roads where I could see how Belle Harbor resembles one gigantic construction site. Contractors and electricians seem to be everywhere, including hopefully my house soon. My contractor is coming tomorrow to start the massive work on the basement and the electrician is coming Sunday. I may have to start day trading to pay for all of this.
Meanwhile, one of my neighbors is going away for four months and gave me all his house plants to watch. It felt dramatic for some reason as we walked them all over from his place to mine. There is so much nervous transition in the chilly air.
Friday 11/16/12, 7:10 a.m.
The good news about the body in Far Rockaway yesterday: the person didn't drown during the storm. The bad news? The person was shot to death.
Thursday, 11/15/12, 10:30 p.m.
Besides waiting for a contractor and an electrician and cleaning inside the house in a way I haven't done for years, I went on another long bike ride today. Most things are still standing in our immediate neighborhood but -- in the words of Bob Dylan-- everything is broken. I went by a auto repair shop where my tenant's car was towed and it was like going to an ER room after someone went on a shooting spree. They had at least a dozen water-damaged cars (including my tenant's) that they hadn't even had a chance to look at yet.
Even though they're now clear of most sand and large debris, the streets feel gritty, dirty, and damaged. And then there are plenty of makeshift stands on the street, manned with volunteers who are giving out clothes or free food. It all feels like Vienna in "The Third Man."
While power is back on in many of the big buildings, I haven't seen a single-family house yet to be illuminated. The fact that two of my neighbors finally were able to see an electrician (and I was briefly able to as well) makes me think many of us might be a day or two away from finally getting back on the grid. We'll see.
The ride took a grim turn up on the boardwalk near Beach 13th Street when I encountered a team of cops and some workers from the Medical Examiner's office and a quadrant of police tape. Apparently, a body had been found in the ocean this morning by parks workers. I wonder if it's another victim from the storm and if there are any people who are missing or unaccounted for from the night of the hurricane. Grim stuff.
Thursday, 11/15/12, 9:15 p.m.
Not only is she trying to figure out what the deal is with the Red Cross, but Katie Benner (wearing her non-Fortune hat) interviewed me for her spirited Sandysucks blog. This was a few days ago and I sound a little bit like the John Goodman character in Treme but it's where I was swimming in my stream of consciousness about a week ago.
Here's the link.
Thursday, 11/15/12, 9 p.m.
Fortune's Katie Benner looks at why the Red Cross didn't provide shelter to Hurricane Sandy victims in New York City. Apparently, the city only wanted to put shelters in city schools but Red Cross rules prevent volunteers from working in sites that they don't control. I'm sure more will come out about this.
Here's the link.
Thursday 11/15/12, 6 p.m.
I feel like I won the Sandy lottery. I just met an actual electrician. A living, breathing, certified electrician. Maybe I should have kidnapped his family to guarantee his return tomorrow. People were all but pouncing on him on my street. I also got an estimate on what the basement cleanup will cost me to prevent black mold and other nastiness. If I had kids in college, they'd be taking the year off...
Thursday 11/15/12, 4:15 p.m.
Good rebuilding news: As part of the president's visit today, Federal Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan was named the point person for rebuilding for the region. Donovan was Mayor Bloomberg's housing czar and was considered to be a star when he worked in City Hall. A native New Yorker, Donovan knows the needs of the city probably better than almost anyone else in the White House. Now let's see how much Congress is willing to spend on all of this.
Thursday 11/15/12, 9:00 a.m.
My visit to Manhattan ended with a night at the opera to see -- appropriately enough -- "The Tempest." Out of revenge, the magician Prospero conjures up a vicious storm that shipwrecks his rivals onto his island. The idea of the storm used to seem so ancient and almost quaint to me. But the immediacy of our own tempest made me think that Prospero is more of a cruel than sympathetic character. I'm glad he decides to forsake his powers at the end. Now if he could do something about the power on the peninsula...
Wednesday 11/14/12, 10:30 a.m.
I took the ferry in last night and it was beautiful, amazing -- and fast. It took about 45 minutes to get from Beach 108th Street to Wall Street. I hadn't left Rockaway in five-and-a-half days and I acted like a sailor on shore leave last night. I think the frustrations about my contractor not showing up and everything else just sort of boiled over. It's so weird being in Manhattan (and on the High Line right now) where everything is crisp, autumnal and totally normal.
Tuesday 11/13/12 4:30 p.m.
Classic Rockaway: The president isn't visiting the peninsula when he comes to New York on Thursday -- only Staten Island. Even in tragedy, we're second fiddle.
Tuesday 11/13/12, 9 a.m.
A long ride on the beach took me to Riis Park which felt like a combination of the last scene in "Planet of the Apes" and the anti-pollution ads from the '70s with the crying Indian. There are mountains of debris now in Riis' parking lot but it's a problem that won't have to be addressed for a while because the park is virtually deserted once summer is over. Once you pass the trash, Riis and Fort Tilden are eerie, empty and hauntingly beautiful.
Monday 11/12/12, 9 p.m.
It's now two weeks since the storm hit and today was easily the quietest day I've experienced post-Sandy. The weekend volunteers were all back at their day jobs and it felt like many of my neighbors were either at work or not here because we're still without power.
Electricity is definitely coming back, though. A friend who lives in a high-rise two blocks away got power in his building. My contractor came by with promises of bringing an electrician tomorrow.
Meanwhile, all of the basement windows will have to be replaced. And there will also have to be a significant amount of other basement cleanup that's still going to have to happen. I think this is going to get expensive — and I haven't heard back from my insurance company. Take what I'm going through and multiply it by more than 150,000 and that's a lot of New Yorkers with some aggravation.
I'm curious what the president is going to say on Thursday — and how Congress will respond. There are a lot of short-term needs but will there be a master plan for the Rockaways and Staten Island in the wake of the storm? How long will we have this ferry? We the boardwalk ever come back?
I know I'm jumping the gun and we first have to have power — and mail — before the big picture gets addressed. But that's where the federal government should come in. The governor is supposedly asking for $30 billion. But there also needs to be some ideas beyond a very large blank check.
Monday 11/12/12, 9 a.m.
Of course (as I was reminded after I fired off my rant about the Postal Service) it's Veterans Day so no one gets mail but let's see what happens tomorrow. Today was the first day of the ferry service; I'm curious to hear how a friend's morning trip went. No volunteers here this morning (at least not yet), many have to worry about their day jobs. My contractor isn't coming until 4:15 p.m. today -- hopefully with an electrician.
Monday 11/12/12, 7 a.m.
"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." -- That's the quote on the Farley Post Office next to Penn Station. It's been two weeks since I've received mail. My house has been visited by FEMA, the gas company, Sanitation workers, the National Guard, a U.S. Senator, friends, and dozens of volunteers. Is the mail that tough to deliver? And, if so, why has The New York Times able to deliver their paper to me every day since Oct. 31st?
Sunday 11/11/12, 4:15 p.m.
Another somewhat productive day. My contractor came by and will be back tomorrow with an electrician and make some estimates on repairing or replacing the windows and doors to my basement. At this point, getting the house ready for power is my biggest priority — and electricians are in very high demand. The gas company came by and determined that there was no gas leak in the basement. It would have been an unpleasant surprise had they found one.
Earlier, I took a long bike ride on the beach up to Fort Tilden. The debris that had littered the sand is gone, thankfully, but the ruins of the beachfront houses in Neponsit remain. While Neponsit has the wealthiest residents on the peninsula, it will still take a lot of time and money for Neponsit to recover. It's eerie how beautiful the beach is up at Riis Park — and because there are no homes in the area, it's tough to tell that a devastating storm swept across the beach less than two weeks ago.
My fears of peasants with pitchforks at the town hall meeting were unfounded. The organizers did a good job having representatives from the city there — as well as LIPA, arguably the least popular organization in the Rockaways. The good news is that power may soon be on its way for Rockaway Beach. The bad news is that few, if any, homes have been approved to receive electricity. I think this week will consist of many people fighting for an electrician. Heat follows after that.
Finally, I was thrilled to see that Chase Manhattan has installed a mammoth portable ATM in the middle of the parking lot here. And it only took a hurricane for them to waive the three dollar service fee! It's almost dark — and another day here is all but over.
Saturday 11/10/2012, 7 p.m.
It was another long but productive day and now I'm sitting on my couch, typing in the dark as Chopin is playing. My tenant and two neighbors made it out today and while they're at the beach sending flaming lanterns into the sky in some sort of affirmation of life, I'm at home trying to clear my head. (Maybe a glass of rye will help.)
I stayed very close to the house today and did a lot of yard work -- which started out by clearing mounds of sand and dumping it onto the street. But then the whole process morphed into clearing thorny brush a la George W. Bush at his Texas ranch. We even ended up chopping down several wretched weed trees and a dead tree. I kind of feel like an army general pushing his troops toward Berlin since we have the storm cleanup momentum. I may even tackle the attic tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the contractor who just painted my house contacted me and assured me that he can fix my basement windows and have my electrical boxes fixed so that when power is restored, my house will be ready to receive it. And the plumber came and replaced my hot water heater. While there's no light or heat, it's great being able to shave, shower and wash dishes. Things are slowly improving.
The whole parking lot in front of my house has become a staging area for the armies of volunteers who flood the neighborhood on weekends. A massive crew of people from Syracuse arrived and could have fed an army with their hamburgers, hotdogs and pasta. Walking past them close to sunset made me think more of a summer barbecue than a gigantic relief effort.
Because I don't have cable, I'm missing NY1's 90-minute special on the storm. I really want to see it. Dean and our truck was the only media presence in the neighborhood today. I wonder if our story is getting old for the other tv stations.
One person who's working hard at getting the message out is a smart blogger --
Katie Benner of Sandysucks.tumblr.com. Katie came by the house today and told me how she volunteered up at St. Francis DeSales Church at Beach 129th Street but was a little alarmed when organizers started asking people for ID before being allowed to get food. Is someone really going to travel all the way to a storm-ravaged neighborhood to get a handout they don't deserve? Someone should rethink that very uncompassionate policy.
On Sunday, a "town meeting" is being held in the parking lot at 1 p.m. to talk about the power issues here. I really hope this doesn't devolve into a scream therapy session where everyone just trashes LIPA. Let's try to get answers and a timeline; there will be plenty of time to rip the electric company later. At least the weather is supposed to be nice over the next few days.
Saturday 11/10/12, 12 p.m.
One week ago today. Me and a tough wrecking crew sitting on the bench that was in the wreckage of the boardwalk.
Saturday 11/10/12, 11:45 a.m.
Nothing like a little yard work on an autumn morning. Where did all this sand come from?
Friday 11/9/12, 8 p.m.
The day started with a bike ride on the boardwalk that had some tough patches of black ice, another bit of nastiness produced by Mother Nature. Down around Beach 32nd Street, I encountered crews working on "beach replenishment" -- pumping sand and moving it using long pipes. Interestingly, this project was well underway before the storm but with all the other activity with weird post-apocalyptic gear being conducted out here, this Florida-based crew fit right in with all the recovery workers.
A morning cruise through Far Rockaway, Edgemere and Arverne reminded me of parts of post-Katrina New Orleans when I was there about six months after the storm. Things were going on -- but really sluggishly. Lots of businesses were closed and houses seemed empty but there were still cars moving cautiously around because there are no traffic lights.
Throughout the peninsula there is a martial law vibe because the National Guard has arrived. A small detachment from upstate that was assigned to the block behind my house did an amazing job clearing the street of rubble and trash. It was impressive how much progress they made in less than twelve hours.
I spent a good portion of the day clearing out the last part of my basement that had been filled with gardening tools and potting soil. It was a total mess -- but it was pretty much a total mess before the storm. I also threw out the clothes drier after successfully disconnecting the gas line to the machine. The basement is now essentially entirely empty -- with the exception of the dead furnace and the dying hot water heater. The water heater will be replaced tomorrow while the oil company won't even give me the time of day until the electricity is back.
The other growing concern of people in the neighborhood is getting an OK from an electrician or the city before power is restored here. The Long Island Power Authority won't just magically flip a switch and the lights will come back on. Because so many homes -- including mine -- saw their fuse boxes flooded, the homes will likely have to have some sort of inspection before getting power.
The other bureaucratic headache is FEMA. Because I have no access to the internet here, my mother has to open my FEMA correspondence because it requires a PIN code and a password. (They won't just send you an e-mail because of security concerns.) It's all very complicated and my mother and I had to exchange about four e-mails before she could access the note -- telling me I wasn't getting any aid because I'm insured. Of course, I still haven't heard back from my insurance company so the dance continues...
The other question is mail. I saw a lot of delivery trucks in Far Rockaway but none here. A press release of the Postal Service promised delivery to streets and homes that are safe and accessible so I'm not sure why they haven't come to our block yet.
To help ease the transportation load, the city announced that its launching a ferry service from Beach 108th Street to Wall Street and East 34th Street. I plan on giving it a try next Wednesday.
I was thrilled to find my New York State flag and hang it on my porch as the relief workers and volunteers worked by. As the flag says: Excelsior!
Friday 11/9/12, 2:07 p.m.
Another scary photo explaining why it may be a while before the Rockaways get subway service:
Friday 11/9/12, 2 p.m.
I know there are many more pressing concerns than the boardwalk but this morning I surveyed what survived: The boardwalk ran from Beach 20th Street to Beach 126th street. There are now three surviving portions: From 20th to 35th Streets; from 40th to 60th Streets; and from 74th to 88th Streets. Everything above 88th Street is basically gone.
Friday 11/9/12, 8:20 a.m.
The residents of roughly 70 public housing buildings are still without electricity, heat, or hot water this morning. The Times has a editorial about their plight.
Thursday 11/8/12, 7:30 p.m.
I'm back in Rockaway and after being away for three-and-a-half days, I forgot: a) the day is basically over when the sun sets and b) it's cold all the time.
Right now, I'm in bed, under the covers, typing this on my BlackBerry. The distant dull purring of a neighbor's generator is mixing with the even-more-distant sound of the ocean.
The big development of the day was that the FEMA guy arrived to survey the house and its damage. John the FEMA man had a beard and a silver ponytail and looked like he'd be right at home at a Grateful Dead concert. He is a veteran of several major disasters, including Katrina in New Orleans. "I was in the Ninth Ward and the problem there was that no one was around or reachable when you wanted to inspect their property. They'd be three states away," he told me. With a laser pointer, he determined that the water level reached five-and-a-half feet in the basement at the height of the storm. The long bureaucratic dance has officially begun. Let's see when my insurance company sends an adjuster...
It is much quieter -- and cleaner -- than when I left Sunday. The Sanitation Department has been busy. The large trash mound that was in the front of my house is gone while the one in the back remains. Meanwhile, two dead cars that were on the street behind the house were taken away on a flatbed truck.
For dinner, I tried eating those canned Viennese sausages that Dean brought during Hurricane Irene. I eat anything but I couldn't really stomach them. On the plus side, the hot water heater is still working. Washing all of the dirty dishes was an enjoyable task because of the warm water.
I also understand how visiting your neighbor was considered entertainment in the 19th Century and earlier. I stopped by my next-door neighbor's and he ended up pouring me a glass of Scotch and we traded stories about our pasts. It's something we never would have done ordinarily if we had electricity but it was a good way to spend some time as the sun was setting on another slow day of Rockaway recovery.
Thursday 11/8/12, 7 a.m.
I was supposed to be back in Rockaway last night but a snowstorm kept me stuck in Manhattan. The weather is some sort of cosmic joke -- with the punchline being warm(ish) weather we're supposedly getting this weekend. I haven't been in the neighborhood in more than three days and I'm starting to feel as antsy as Martin Sheen in the opening scene of "Apocalypse Now" where's he's holed up in a hotel in Saigon. Some residents on Broad Channel got their electricity last night which is great news. My neighbors across the street had another flood when a Sanitation crew that was cleaning away the piles of debris in front of their house shattered a fire hydrant. And then there's this nor'easter -- I wonder how everyone is dealing with this snow -- and how high the tide got in the middle of the night.
Wednesday 11/7/12, 3 p.m.
I know this is four days old, but I'm just getting around to posting it now. I think it’s pretty amazing that “Saturday Night Live” was bold enough to take on Hurricane Sandy -– and it's hilarious.
Wednesday 11/7/12, 2 p.m.
You want to know what Rockaway Beach looks like? This is a gut-wrenching short video made by filmmakers Alex Braverman and Poppy de Villeneuve. I’m not sure I’d follow their advice and give a single penny to the Red Cross but it’s definitely worth watching.
Wednesday 11/7/12, 9:15 a.m.
I know the focus for the Rockaways right now should be getting heat and electricity back to residents but this is just a future mass-transit warning: don't count on subway service to the Rockaways anytime soon -- or anytime not-so-soon. These photos were taken over the weekend at the Broad Channel subway station and the North Channel Bridge which the A and S trains use to cross Jamaica Bay. MTA honcho Joe Lhota is devising a plan that would allow the Rockaways to have an internal rail shuttle (from Beach 116th Street to Mott Avenue) and then take a bus to the Howard Beach/JFK station.
Now that the president has been re-elected, he needs to focus quickly on creating a Marshall Plan for the region that's been ripped apart by the storm. I'm sure on the transportation front alone, Lhota has lots of ideas. There are hundreds more depressing photos like these.
Wednesday 11/7/12, 12:09 a.m.
I talk with NY Magazine’s Chris Smith about the delicate balance tonight between monitoring the election results at the station – while the storm is very much on my mind.
Tuesday 11/6/12, 7 a.m.
"When the sky is gray and the moon is hate, I'll be down to get you. Roots of earth will shake. Sinister purpose knocking at your door." -- Creedence Clearwater Revival
It's hard to believe that this is Election Day. At the station, we've worked for more than a year in preparation for this event and it feels like a footnote to everything that's happened over the last week. It was tough being back in the station yesterday and seeing people dispatched to my neighborhood -- and my house -- while I was sitting comfortably in our offices in the Chelsea Market.
After being almost constantly on the go after the storm in the Rockaways (at least during daylight), it was unnerving being in an Election Day planning meetings for hours, where we were just sitting and talking. While the storm clearly didn't have the same impact in Chelsea that it did out in our part of Queens, I could finally see firsthand how the station soldiered on without power for a week, with packages of water and junk food scattered across the station. Seeing so many people in such a short amount of time required creating a storm narrative with stock answers (yes, I was scared for a while; yes, the house is still standing; yes, the boardwalk is largely gone.)
Meanwhile, the mayor announced this morning that trash pickup is going to be reduced in areas in the city that weren't affected by the storm so that the pace of debris removal can be accelerated in the areas hit by Sandy. That makes a lot of sense -- especially when a nor'easter with heavy winds is headed toward the mountains of loose trash that have been erected outside of many homes in Rockaway and Staten Island.
As good a job as the governor, the city, and the MTA have done in trying to communicate what's going on, I can't say the same for the Long Island Power Authority -- a utility that had the gall or the stupidity to tell our office that just 69 customers were without power yesterday on Rockaway. LIPA doesn't count people whose homes are damaged and can't receive electricity as somehow being "without power." While their reasoning might make sense in a boardroom somewhere, it does nothing to explain how much in the dark Rockaway really is. (The answer right now is almost everyone. That's roughly the entire population of Hartford, Connecticut.) Here's a bureaucratic nugget from LIPA's website: "From the over one million LIPA customers who lost power due to the super storm that affected eight million electric customers along the east coast, 219,000 customers remain without power, excluding those customers in the most severely flooded areas that may currently be unable to receive power." That means the blackout number is really a moving target. Is my home truly "unable to receive power"? Our power lines are all still up and my fuse box is still there so who knows? I realize that the cleanup and recovery from this storm is a unprecedented challenge but papering over the numbers is dishonest and unhelpful. Maybe the Sikhs and Occupy Wall Street should be put in charge of our electricity when this is all said and done.
Tuesday 11/6/12, 5 a.m.
Who would have imagined that I'd be on "Inside City Hall" last night and not talk about Election Day?
Monday 11/5/12, 4:50 p.m.
People keep on asking me how high the water got at the height of the storm last Monday night. I didn't realize that Mac Sillick shot this with his iPhone on my porch:
NY1: NY1 Blog: NY1's Bob Hardt Reports On Sandy From Rockaway Beach
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Monday 11/5/12, 10 a.m.
It is very weird being back in the office. The number of kind words, hugs, and stories are overwhelming.
Monday 11/5/12, 12:10 a.m.
"High water risin’, the shacks are slidin’ down Folks lose their possessions—folks are leaving town." -- Bob Dylan
This was a very long and bizarre day that included an early-morning bike ride along the near-deserted beach in Rockaway, a confrontation with two Red Cross workers, and a bubble bath in a Meatpacking District hotel. I feel like a case of the emotional bends is coming on.
I needed to leave Rockaway today to get ready to go back to work because of NY1's election coverage but I still felt like a guilty soldier running from battle when I left my house this afternoon with a construction garbage bag full of dirty clothes and two small pieces of luggage. The house -- or at least the basement -- is in much better shape than it was just a few days ago but there is still a lot to do. Meanwhile, the army of volunteers continued to swarm out across Rockaway Beach -- with a large clothes distribution hub established in the parking lot by my house. A woman's voice urging order blared over a megaphone for most of the day to the locals who slowly sorted through the donations. (No one could find any Size 16 shoes for one man.) Beyond the helpful volunteers, the neighborhood has also started to be visited by disaster tourists: people who drive to the peninsula for the afternoon, take a few pictures of the mammoth mess, and head home. (One woman was taking several photos of a pile of old windows in front of my house. Were they really that interesting?) I fear that the Hurricane Sandy buses will be next.
I finally saw two Red Cross workers in a truck and when one of them offered me water, I just snapped at them: "Nice of you to finally show up!" After a snippy back-and-forth, I finally told them that while I appreciated that they're in the neighborhood, most residents are pretty mad at them for basically sleeping in on the biggest storm day of the decade for the East Coast. (A quick side note: when well-meaning aid workers or volunteers see you, the first thing they do is to offer you water. Do we all look that incredibly parched?) They nodded gamely and I felt bad for putting them on the spot because they're not running the Red Cross' slow-motion show.
A major question is how long will the peninsula remain without power. There is a lot of speculation about how quick it will return, but I honestly can't see how the Long Island Power Authority (Con Ed supplies power to the rest of the city) can restore electricity to these bombed-out neighborhoods without putting people at risk. Cleanup of the big stuff (the shards of boardwalk and dead cars scattered about streets as well as broken light poles) must be taken care of before the "On" switch can be pulled. The other problem is most residents have no heat -- and another storm is on its way this week.
Leaving the peninsula in a reporter's car as the sun was setting was evocative of an evacuation scene in a war movie, the Cross Bay Bridge was jammed with all sorts of departing traffic and we slowly cruised through Broad Channel (an island of about 3,000 people in the middle of Jamaica Bay) where I saw the wreckage there for the first time. A large pleasure boat sat stranded in the middle of Cross Bay Boulevard. (Someone spray painted "I (heart) DSNY" on its side.) As we drove toward Brooklyn, more and more lights were visible in buildings until Rockaway's darkness was in our rear-view mirror.
My first reaction as we pulled into Manhattan was anger. I wasn't mad at the people walking around the Meatpacking district, seemingly oblivious to a disaster less than 20 miles away from them. I wasn't mad at the Red Cross or the city or even the weather. I was just mad. I was also embarrassed because now I'm in this cushy hotel while everyone else I have been dealing with over the last week is still back in the Rockaways. But putting aside guilt or anxiety, I don't think the solution is for everyone to rush into a car and try to offer a Rockaway resident some cleansing water. But maybe just try this today when you're taking a bubble bath or about to go to bed: remember that there are still tens of thousands of New Yorkers out there who are sitting in the cold darkness, waiting for things to start working.
Sunday, 1:20 p.m.
My first spotting of American Red Cross workers in six days. It's more challenging than playing "Where's Waldo?"
Saturday 11/3/12, 11 p.m.
I have the most amazing friends who came out to the house today and cleaned out my basement. It was a mammoth task, involving makeshift crowbars, old water tanks, and destroyed model trains. While most of the day centered around throwing out lots of disgusting waterlogged things, we did carry a massive bench from a destroyed portion of the boardwalk and planted it in my backyard -- a fitting memento from the storm and a hope that there will be a new bench on a new boardwalk someday.
The other striking thing today was the rush of volunteers from other parts of the city, who were helping out people in the neighborhood. Strangers asked me if I needed help and while I didn't take them up on my offer, a friend who lives nearby managed to get her basement cleaned out by two total strangers. Two men with a mini-van filled with lentil soup asked me where they should distribute it. These volunteers have been more present and forceful in offering help in Rockaway Beach than groups like the Red Cross. My only fear is that while there are so many well-meaning people coming to our rescue, there is little or no coordination of their efforts. It's still heartening to see residents from across the city come here to help out.
Elected officials also showed up, including Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who stopped by my house and marveled at the mammoth temple of basement trash that my friends erected on the sidewalk. Tonight, friends came over and we watched the Breeders Cup and college football on my generator-powered TV. The plumber temporarily fixed my hot-water heater so I took a shower after the cleanup.
It almost felt like a normal Saturday night. Almost.
Friday, 11/2/12, 9 p.m.
The days end so much earlier here than before the storm; it feels like it's midnight out and the streets are so quiet. After digging out more of the basement today, I was able to have my first hot shower in four days at a neighbor's place. Never has hot water felt so decadent while also being energizing. I sort of now understand why New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin wouldn't get out of the shower on Air Force One to talk to President Bush after Katrina.
The progress in the basement has been remarkable; I was able to unite two rooms that were separated by random debris that included unidentifiable construction material, downhill skis, pantyhose, and a VCR tape of "The Wizard of Oz."
Tomorrow, some friends are arriving to help me move my giant backyard trash mound to the front of the house -- as well as remove a several very large pieces of furniture that remain stuck in the basement. The rest of the house looks like it's been through a very long non-alcoholic party filled with junk food, mud, Ramen noodles, and lots of bottled water. Davide and Dean -- the last two members of our original crew from Sunday -- are being subbed out after today and I will miss them. We managed to create our own civilization, with important staples like Popeye's chicken, Gatorade, beef jerky, and trail mix. And my skill sets for my resume now include a strong level of comfort with operating a portable generator.
I took a long bike ride uptown this morning to Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor, and Neponsit. It's stunning that while the structural damage there is much worse than here, people seem calmer because, I think, they are more affluent and have more resources at hand: Nobody in the nearby Hammels houses went away to Long Island for a few days and is now just popping back in to check on the situation at home.
But I don't want to minimize what the many residents uptown went through. Whole sections of homes -- especially along the beach -- were hit so hard that they'll have to be razed. The city's Buildings Department has already dispatched inspectors who will evaluate the safety of each house and place green, yellow, or red stickers on homes -- with red meaning that the building is structurally unsound. I'm sure there will be a lot of fighting about this quite soon with some people insisting that their wrecked house is just fine.
Beyond all the debris removal going on, there is also a military vibe in the air, between the Army helicopters flying over the beach to the Naval battleships that are situated offshore. If the National Guard comes, it will become Camp Rockaway.
The most popular gripe topic today was the mayor's ill-fated push to hold the marathon this weekend. Police union president Pat Lynch came by the house and expressed his dismay. And he's right: police shouldn't be on marathon patrol while their assistance is in high demand in much of the city. It's good to see that organizers -- and the Bloomberg administration -- came to their senses. People are in a different kind of New York marathon this weekend -- and we just want to be one of those runners who's able to finish.
Friday 11/2/12, 11:05 a.m.
Two pieces of graffiti spotted on a morning bike ride to Riis Park. On a handball court wall: "No Hope" Someone then crossed out the "No" and it became "Hope Always." Another one on a hot water tank: "Kiss my ass Sandy."
Friday 11/1/12, 12:16 a.m.
An automated MTA e-mail stating the obvious: "UPDATED: Rockaway Park shuttle Train, Service Suspended."
Thursday 11/1/12, 11:24 p.m.
Amazing. A sanitation truck is here picking up a very large mound of basement detritus I built earlier today in front of my house. The DEP and Sanitation folks have been amazing this week and deserve a lot of praise. Let's see what happens with the scarier mound that I'm still building in the backyard.
Thursday 11/1/12, 8:53 p.m.
It's been an exhausting day. Luckily, I didn't need a pump for my house because the four feet of water in my basement drained away almost entirely on its own-- leaving me with the task of clearing everything out in that now-ruined space. I created two massive mounds of trash in the front and back yards. Looking at all the stuff (there was a rowing machine in there?) made me realize how useless that basement was for me in my home's previous life. It was -- in the late George Carlin's words -- a place for my stuff. An ex-girlfriend's forgotten possessions were in one destroyed basement space. Throwing out all of her waterlogged belongings reminded me of things I hadn't thought about in more than a decade. It was like some unwritten Bob Dylan song from "Blood on the Tracks" about a house that had nearly been ruined by a flood and the distant memories of a long-dead relationship.
I took a break from the cleanup to check on a friend's house which allowed me to get a handle on the recovery of our neighborhood, the Holland section of Rockaway Beach. While Belle Harbor and Breezy Point felt like they'd been eviscerated, our neighborhood was merely methodically worked over with a tire iron. Other houses were having their basements pumped out, pushing rivers of water down the streets and forcing planks to be used to cross the road. People were generally in good spirits despite the fact that their cars had been destroyed and large portions of the boardwalk were surreally sitting in the street.
There continues to be mounting frustration from other residents here. The Red Cross is quickly becoming the villain because it has been invisible. It's a bad sign for the world that Occupy Wall Street and a Sikh group from Queens are doing a better job at distributing hot food than the largest international relief group in the world. It was also bizarre to see Independence Party activist Lenora Fulani tour the area with State Senator Malcolm Smith -- but at least she's here.
The other interesting debate that's percolating is the fact the New York City Marathon is still happening this weekend. At first, I thought that was a strong symbolic gesture to keep it going but now it seems like a foolish waste of resources at a time when much of the city is literally in the dark. It's more bread and circuses than a statement of civic unity and it also promises to send a false picture to the country that the city has recovered when it very clearly has not. Wars and disasters shouldn't stop elections -- but they should postpone a sporting event that will tie up an already reeling city.
The reporters and shooters have generally gotten some kind of break from their long days and nights here. Mac Sillick went back to his home in Brooklyn overnight and was having readjustment problems when he walked in to his local bar and they were holding a blowout Halloween party. "I felt like I should just go home," he told me. I know the feeling.
P.S. There was a rapping at my door as I was editing this. This ensues after I answer the door.
Channel 7 tech guy: Hey, how's it going? I'm from Channel 7.
Me: Do you need to use my bathroom?
Channel 7 guy: No. But do you have a mouse?
Me: A mouse? I haven't seen any here, no.
Channel 7 guy: No. A mouse for a computer.
Me: Um. No.
Thursday 11/1/12, 4:09 a.m.
Not only has he been shooting great video for us in the Rockaways but Macnair Sillick has been taking the most amazing photos that I'm trying to share. From the remnants of a Broad Channel volunteer fire truck to a pileup of cars outside the Irish Circle bar on Beach 102nd Street to a group of people trying to charge their cell phones, Mac has an amazing eye. This last photo across from the 100th Precinct makes me think of the tree in "Waiting for Godot."
Wednesday 10/31/12, 11:37 p.m
I once helped pry free a woman who was trapped in an elevator in an apartment building. She was so relieved that even though I was a total stranger, she hugged me for 10 seconds. That's how everyone here is behaving a lot of the time. Small acts of kindness are noticed and appreciated. A neighbor who I let put her garbage on my trash pile almost started crying in relief. People are thrilled just to have their cell phone charged by our generator or truck. Will this create a new norm of behavior here? Or does it all go away after I rebuild my fence?
Wednesday 10/31/12, 8:45 p.m.
Another night where it feels like it's 4 a.m. even though it's just been a few hours since it got dark. The hum of the generator is the only thing I can hear in my living room while the two lights in the kitchen give the house a comfortable prairie glow on the dark street.
I had no luck contacting my insurance companies -- although my mother has reached out to both of them for me. Insurance inspectors have already arrived to look at some of the large apartment buildings in the neighborhood to assess the damage. A complicated online FEMA application supposedly awaits me whenever I can finally access the Internet.
Tomorrow, hopefully, I will be able to pump the water out of the basement -- courtesy of a neighbor. And the broken main that had been pouring water down the street was closed by the city. (We actually had a small plank that served as a bridge to cross the street. It felt positively Tom Sawyer-like, especially at night.) Progress is being made.
I took my beach bike with its Humvee tires on a long ride across the peninsula this afternoon to assess the damage. The boardwalk from about Beach 85th Street to the end at Beach 126th Street is completely gone. Going further east, chunks of the boardwalk remain in portions. But even smooth flat patches of the boards there suddenly twist horizontally like in a weird funhouse mirror.
But it was a beautiful day and the beach with its smooth surface from the hurricane was amazing to ride on. You could almost forget that anything bad was going on as people who had been shut in all night in the dark were grateful to get some air. One father pushed his son on a swing in an eerily empty playground.
It was a different story uptown. While I didn't see the worst -- at Breezy Point -- the damage in Belle Harbor and Rockaway Park was shocking. Just the aftermath of the fires would be worth attention let alone the massive flood damage. Flames still flickered in one building as I biked by. But there is a large presence of first responders. Rescue crews from as far away as Virginia have even been dispatched here.
But is it enough? There's a growing level of anger in some of the people who are basically trapped here without power, hot water, or electricity. Some flock around our news van in the hopes of just charging their cell phones. The transportation options out of here are limited, although a handful of buses were seen evacuating people. I wonder if the chance of escaping will allow the simmering tension to ease or if it will get more heated as time passes.
My tenant and one of my neighbors both evacuated today (in friends' cars) and the house is quieter and less welcoming without them. Another neighbor drove out to assess the damage but not stay. I think there will be a lot of visiting but not staying by residents who have fled. People already have an "us versus them" attitude here so I wonder how much further marginalized Rockaway will feel as the place slowly recovers.
Amid the sadness, there is also a lot of humor; the last phone call I got on my landline in the height of the storm was an automated phone call from the power company saying my account was fully paid and in balance. The political TV and radio ads remind me of my day job and it all sees so weird and foreign to me that the presidential election is in less than a week. But how can you cast your ballot if your polling site is surrounded by a moat and the electric scanners?
Wednesday 10/31/12, 11:51 a.m.
The mood in the neighborhood is turning a little ugly. Because most people have no power or heat or hot water, they want help. Yesterday's adrenaline has worn off and the novelty of the boardwalk being in the middle of the street has been replaced by questions of how long it will stay there.
People are starting to address the nitty gritty like insurance concerns, the (somewhat receding) flood water in their basements, and whether their car was destroyed.
It's hard to believe but supposedly, bus service will be restored today and regular household trash pickup will resume tomorrow. It makes you remember that New York City is a vast empire and that because of its sheer size, it has many resources at its disposal.
Wednesday 10/31/12, 12:15 a.m.
Finally going to bed. There's a light, cold drizzle out and the generator has been powered down. It's amazing to hear the sounds of a bulldozer clearing away some rubble in front of my house that's less than 36 hours old. This is already morphing from a disaster area to a recovery scene. But when will it go back to normal?
Wednesday 10/31/12, 12 a.m.
Here is an amazing photo taken by our Mac Sillick:
Tuesday 10/30/12, 11:24 p.m.
Our first of what likely be many interactions with FEMA: a team of inspectors looks to see that there are no bodies in the basement and that we are not operating the portable generator inside the house and breathing carbon monoxide.
Tuesday 10/30/12, 10:52 p.m.
No more hot water left in the tank. It's time for some bracing Scandinvian-style hygiene before bed. I got an e-mail from a colleague who just made it back to his Brooklyn home from 36 hours of work at NY1 in Chelsea: "I just got home and it's like nothing happened." Grrrr.
Tuesday 10/30/12, 9:21 pm:
After a dramatic 36 hours, the house here is almost quiet. Socks are being dried in my tenant's oven (we can't light my oven's pilot light), the hum of the portable generator is almost soothing, and the only visible lights in the neighborhood outside the house are from emergency vehicles and our satellite truck.
Most people are exhausted and sleeping while a few of us are still awake. I reek of gasoline from the generator and I'm going to take a shower with the supposedly hot water that the house still somehow has.
Last night seems like two weeks ago. At some point around 10 p.m. we all realized that the water wasn't rising anymore. While the ocean was splashing up onto the porch, it didn't seem to be advancing. I was counting how many steps to my porch the water had risen -- but then I lost count. (Was it at five steps or six? Was it going down or rising?)
When it seemed to have stopped, I just wanted to lie down in bed for a couple of hours. My tenant, Jules, had put her cats in my bedroom for safety when we still thought the first floor was in jeopardy. They were a pleasant distraction from the chaos below.
At some point -- close to low tide at about 2 a.m. -- I woke up to find that the water had somehow vanished. While the ocean was roaring, it had retreated far back onto the beach. Left in its wake was a muddy, lunar landscape.
With the help of a flashlight, I could see that my basement windows had been blown out by the water while weird trash was strewn about my lawn that included a bicycle helmet, an Irish novel, and VCR tapes of children's movies. Water filled (and still fills) my basement. No lights were visible in the other homes; everyone was asleep or quietly freaking out in the dark.
It's a different kind of night tonight. It seems less uncertain or new because everyone knows the mess that they will be facing tomorrow morning. Rebuilding seems odd or unlikely to many at this point but it's already slowly happening.
Tuesday 10/30/12, 6:48 pm:
I apologize to everyone for not filing a dispatch quicker than this or put something on Facebook but our world caved in about 24 hours ago. This will be the first of several dispatches I plan to send tonight.
As you all know by now, the storm surge swept across the Rockaway peninsula last night, flooding us and causing devastation from Far Rockaway to Breezy Point. Here, at Beach 94th Street, around 5 pm, the water first resembled last year's stream from Hurricane Irene but then it quickly grew into a terrifying river -- and then wave after wave of water that shattered our fence into deafening splinters and sent a half-block portion of the boardwalk cascading down the street.
My brain was unable to really process what my eyes were seeing; it was an image that reminded me of the hurricane in the opening of "The Wizard of Oz" -- a scene I always found comical but now I understand Dorothy's sheer terror. We all took shelter on the second floor of the house, unsure how high the water would rise because it was rising so rapidly. The ocean had come to our doorstep and was rapidly flooding the basement.
Amazingly, the lights stayed on in the house as other homes were losing their electricity, flickering off one by one like so many errant Christmas lights dotting the neighborhood. As the wind was whipping across the porch, we could see red skies to the west, the light of fires devastating the neighborhood of Belle Harbor, thirty blocks north of here. (Even further north, a much stronger fire was devastating Breezy Point.)
Finally, like a remaining cabin in The Titanic, our power flickered and went out. It wasn't dark, though, because the full moon, the moon that raised the tide up even higher, was lighting the streets. The sound of the ocean, a sound that usually is so welcoming and peaceful, filled the air with fear.
How much higher would this water go? We brought our boogie boards to the second floor and all I could think of was those were our life preservers if things continued to deteriorate. We turned on a radio to try to figure out what was going on but we were more aware of what was happening because we weren't in a faraway news studio.
(More to come.)
Monday 10/29/12, 8:37 p.m.
We are hanging out in the dark. Hunkered down. It is a total disaster in the Rockaways but we are OK.
Monday 10/29/12, 7:50 p.m.
We are in the dark on the second floor....hanging in there. I'm waiting for the tide to end.
Monday 10/29/12, 7:15 p.m.
The situation has badly deteriorated here but we are all OK and hunkered down on the second floor of the house, waiting for the tide to subside.
Monday 10/29/12, 5:52 p.m.
Both streets surrounding the house have become small foamy rivers and the tide has another 2.5 hours to go. My neighbor's basement is going to be flooded and the lights are flickering on and off here. It's going to be a tense few hours.
Monday 10/29/12, 4:58 p.m.
With the tide coming in, the ocean has created a small river flowing down the street in front of the house. It's basically at the high water point of Irene from last year. The problem is the tide will be coming in for another 3 hours and 40 minutes. And then there's tomorrow morning's tide too. I wonder if the basement has a chance. Rocco and Dean and Davide and Mac are running around shooting video while it's still light. We're actually at relatively high ground on the peninsula which means many of my neighbors are getting it much worse. I can't even imagine what's happening on Broad Channel and lower points on the peninsula. While it already has caused serious damage, it has at least 15 more hours to wreak havoc. It is going to take the city a long time to recover from this.
Monday 10/29/12, 4:12 p.m.
The lights flickered twice -- an ominous sign that a power outage could on its way. The way I irrationally deal with it? Turn the lights off.
Monday 10/29/12, 3:25 p.m.
The wind is blowing so hard the rain is falling sideways and then back up into the air. It's beautiful to watch out the window here -- as is the roaring powerful ocean. The leak in the kitchen is dripping metronomically as NY1 is on in the other room, with the focus on a massive crane collapse in midtown. State Senator Joe Addabbo was coming here for an interview but I think he's stuck in Howard Beach. A neighbor friend is afraid she'll be blown away if she comes back for another visit.
Monday 10/29/12, 2:55 p.m.
Not surprisingly, the kitchen ceiling has started leaking. And the roofer was just here last week. Rocco and Davide are back from their venture into other neighborhoods that got socked more than here -- where residents are suffering from a lot more than leaky ceilings.
Monday 10/29/12, 1:47 p.m.
The sky looks mean, like out of a scene in an occult movie where a demonic character casts an evil spell. Meanwhile, the trees in my backyard are getting a real workout from the wind. A quick jog up to the boardwalk was a challenge because of the wind and then -- once on the boardwalk -- the driving sand. I had to walk up the steps backwards, facing West so that I wouldn't get a mouthful of sand, which then was pinging off my windbreaker like little pebbles. Besides my laptop and the house itself, my only other prized possession is my beach bike -- which I just moved out of the basement and into my library. I've never had water in the basement in the 15 years that I've lived here but this could be the day where it happens.
Monday 10/29/12, 1:22 p.m.
Ok, the sky has taken on a very nasty grey pallor. The winds are driving so hard I thought they were going to sweep City Councilman Eric Ulrich off my porch when he was doing a live interview. People are nervously eating food like caged rats on a leaky ship. I don't like this wind one bit.
Monday 10/29/12, 12:19 p.m.
How could I ever doubt Dean? Not only does he have a life vest but he tells me he brought his own "personal generator." I'm not sure what that means.
Monday 10/29/12, 12:07 p.m.
Complete with two rotisserie chickens, chicken wings, and a frozen pizza, Dean Meminger has arrived. The canned Viennese sausages that he brought for Hurricane Irene are still in my kitchen cabinet. If we have to eat those, you know we're in trouble. Last year, Dean brought a life vest and didn't need to use it. It's a bad omen that he doesn't have one this time. Several of us are watching the mayor's briefing on NY1 and his epic struggle to properly pronounce the name of the Goethals Bridge. Rocco will do a live shot once the mayor stops talking. We're less than two hours away from when the storm is supposed to really kick in.
Monday 10/29/12, 10:32 a.m.
WNBC reporter who is using my bathroom: "You don't have to go in to work today?"
Me: "Um, this is work today."
Monday 10/29/12, 10:11 a.m.
The Sanitation Department deserves kudos this morning. My landlord neighbor last night put out five barrels of trash for his apartment building and I was sure that he was being an idiot because I figured there would be no trash pickup on account of the storm. I was already imagining the wind getting hold of all of that wretched refuse and cascading it across the neighborhood. Well, about an hour ago, New York's Strongest arrived and picked up the trash. We all applauded from the porch and one of the workers saluted us.
Meanwhile, the winds are picking up. State Senator Malcolm Smith just came by and did a live shot with Pat Kiernan. "You guys sure you want to stay here?" he asked me before the interview. Five minutes after he left, one of his aides called me to say they almost got stuck on a flooded road. Dean Meminger -- who will be reporting tonight from here -- is en route. Rocco is surveying roads that have already flooded on the bay side.
I think I've figured out this portable generator. On it, there are multiple warnings NOT to operate a large gasoline-powered device within your house. I wonder how often that happens.
Monday 10/29/12, 8:09 a.m.
Oatmeal and beef jerky -- the breakfast of hurricane champions. I think this storm is going to be a lot worse than Irene. Sandy hasn't even really arrived and the boardwalk has been breached by the high tide. Last year, the boardwalk wasn't really roughed up until high tide at the height of the storm when water and sea foam briefly took over a few streets. Luckily, the tide has almost peaked so I don't anticipate the street turning into a running stream this morning. It will likely be a different story at high tide tonight.
Meanwhile, some of the local delis still opened, and amazingly, my New York Times was delivered. (They're getting a big tip.) The storm hasn't yet reached scary proportions: the rain and wind on the boardwalk make you feel like a tough sea captain, not a sea captain who's about to be done in by an evil whale. Rocco and Davide are running all around and even extended professional courtesy to another reporter here and let her use the bathroom. I wonder if we'll all be huddled together singing Kumbaya in the dark tonight. I think it's time to figure out this portable generator...
Monday 10/29/12, 7:10 a.m.
I haven't even left my bed yet and I can tell the storm has definitely picked up. More rain. More wind. Rocco and Davide, meanwhile, are working hard outside in the dark. I'm going to put on some tropical storm-appropriate gear (with NY1 branding) and check out the boardwalk. The windows have whistled quietly twice -- the sign that real wind is arriving here.
Monday 10/29/12, 3:30 a.m.
Why is there a cell phone ringing in my dream? Oh, it's because Mac is here and needs to be let in. Poor Mac for being up this early. Poor me for having to let him in. It's pretty much the same outside as it was when I went to sleep. Davide and Rocco are already up. Davide is making espresso and oatmeal. I need to go back to sleep. Low tide was a couple of hours ago which means the tide should peak around 8:30 a.m.
Monday 10/29/12, 12:31 a.m.
Ok. I really am going to sleep for a few hours. (I think). Natasha and Diego are wrapping up their work here and headed back to Manhattan. Rocco and Davide are sleeping upstairs. I just paid a quick visit to the boardwalk as the chilly air was spitting rain. No one was up there at all so it was eerie. The winds didn't seem as bad this time as they did a couple of hours ago and the receding tide was pulling the ocean away from the boardwalk, giving it a reprieve for a few hours.
Mac, an intrepid news assistant, is getting here at 4:30 a.m. and Rocco and Davide start work around then as well. Dean Meminger will be arriving to do the night shift. Meanwhile, that declawed tree is tapping at my window. It's better than the scratching.
Monday 10/29/12, 12:08 a.m.
And why the hell did I read this?
Sunday 10/28/12, 11:27 p.m.
The herd of the MTA buses has departed. Did they go somewhere to pick people up or back to their garages? Did anyone evacuate from here? As I get ready to go to sleep for a few hours, several 'What If" scenarios are playing in my head: Imagine if the Yankees were in the World Series right now. Or Election Day was THIS Tuesday. And maybe watching "The Walking Dead" before going to bed wasn't such a good idea.
Sunday 10/28/12, 9:36 p.m.
How does a portable generator work? How much gas must be consumed to fire up our portable transmitter when we want to do a live shot? And what happens when we run out of gas? These are the kinds of troubling questions that are better answered in daylight. Right now, all is mellow at Ice Station Zebra: the smell of empanadas pervades the kitchen; one of my colleagues is speaking calmly to his wife on the phone, the relaxed tones of a WQXR DJ are on the radio. My tenant is baking bread. Storm? What storm? My makeshift pruning job from my second-floor window has even silenced that evil tree. (Although poor Rocco thought I was throwing myself out the window when he happened upon me leaning far out of the second floor with a pair of large clippers.)
Meanwhile, media colleagues of mine are being put up in hotels across Manhattan. (One texted: "I just got takeout burritos and sufficient beers for 'Walking Dead.' "). The wind is teasing us right now by turning it down a notch.
Sunday 10/28/12, 8:25 p.m.
The wind has really picked up here -- and it's more than 12 hours before the storm is supposed to really take off. The tide is high and much of the beach has already been devoured by the surf. I can't imagine what high tide will be like tomorrow morning and tomorrow night. Last year, before Irene, it was oppressively hot and humid. If it wasn't for this wind, it would be a crisp autumn night.
It's almost festive here; my neighbors made our NY1 crew some delicious empanadas. A group of artists is partying at a Thai restaurant. Two members of our team -- Rocco and Davide -- went out for burgers. But there's a branch rapping at my second-floor window, reminding me of the reality that's clawing its way closer here. I'm going to get a pair of clippers and prune it from my window. It will be my own little push back against nature.
Sunday 10/28/12, 7:04 p.m.
It's deja vu all over again -- for the first time in a little more than a year, a mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the Rockaways because of an incoming hurricane. Again, 20 MTA evacuation buses are idling in the parking lot in front of my house, like an ominous opening scene in a zombie apocalypse movie. Almost 130,000 people live on the peninsula here but despite the warnings, it feels like few are leaving.
Because Hurricane Irene bent Rockaway but didn't break it, many of my neighbors seem hopeful about Sandy. I'm not so sure. Irene's winds didn't amount to very much so we never lost power. Sandy's winds are supposedly much stronger. My only questions are: When we will lose power (my guess is sometime Monday night)? And for how long?
Again, NY1 is dispatching two teams of reporters and shooters to my house to report on the storm. A huge tableful of food -- courtesy of NY1 Fleet Manager Yogi Colon -- awaits them as well as three large ice chests filled with water and Gatorade. We could actually ride out the zombie apocalypse here -- although I don't have any chainsaws or machetes.
Football and NY1 play in my living room as I prepare to inspect to boardwalk like a nervous Russian landlord before the revolution. Something wicked this way comes -- the only question is how bad will Sandy be?