Shortages Hit NYC

In my Hurricane Sandy liveblog, I casually asserted that “New York City doesn’t have to worry about [shopping for dry goods and water, packing an evacuation kit, etc.] largely due to the fact that it’s a highly developed, well-networked city with phenomenal trade and infrastructure.  Hurricane damage would have to reach massive proportions before NYC residents really had to worry about going without food or water long enough to starve.”  It appears that I was wrong.

I woke up this morning to a line of cars around the corner outside my apartment. They’re waiting to purchase gas at a Shell station 8 blocks away (feel free to click on the pics; they’re really big).

It wasn’t until I walked to the gas station that I was fully struck by the desperation:

I’ve posted a slideshow of the line at every block from 116th to 124th below.

This is the first real signal of humanitarian consequence in my neighborhood. I live some 80 blocks north of the power outage and probably another 50 blocks north of the areas of lower Manhattan that suffered the worst damage. If you had been in Harlem during Sandy and lacked access to the outside world, you’d just think it was a windstorm.  Some trees got knocked over, the lights flickered a few times, and then the next day we went back to normal. After seeing the stores and restaurants open the next morning, I didn’t expect the consequences to leak into our lives.  But there’s a good old-fashioned gas run happening outside my front door.

And this is miles from any real damage in one of the most high-commerce cities on the planet. Staten Island was steamrolled. When I spent a few minutes looking on Google, I found that New Yorkers DO have to worry about going without food or water long enough to starve:

For those of you in the Harlem/Morningside area, the Riverside Church is taking donations today until 11pm.  Warm clothes, work gloves, cleaning supplies, and garbage bags, etc. for clearing storm damage are needed in addition to canned food and bottled water.  Evening temperatures are forecast to dive below freezing and can’t be expected to climb back very far as November drags on.  I’m donating an old goosedown winter jacket among other items.

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UPDATE: Returning home from the Riverside Church donation dropoff point (120th and Claremont for those interested in donating) at around 5pm, I passed by a gentleman holding what appeared to be an empty gas can.  I overheard him tell another man that the gas station had run out of fuel.  Upon arriving at my block, the line of cars is gone.  I checked out the station and it is indeed out of fuel:

When I asked the station attendant, he claimed that more fuel will arrive tomorrow.

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