New Yorkers treating Sandy as a storm in a teacup

Tue, Oct 30, 2012, 00:00

While Mayor Bloomberg warned the hurricane could kill, the city’s nonchalant residents prepared to party, writes INES NOVACICin New York

SANDY’S FAST-APPROACHING high winds and high waters did not seem to faze many New Yorkers yesterday. Behind the increasingly ghost-town appearance of city streets, it was party preparation, popcorn, and even business as usual in some stores as late as yesterday afternoon.

“I’m open because I was told to be open,” said a sales assistant in a clothes shop in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighbourhood, who asked not to be named. “And we got people: people are coming in to shop, you know. But I keep one door closed, one open, just in case of the wind.”

The shop is just two blocks away from Zone A, currently the only mandatory evacuation zone designated by New York City authorities. Down the street, Jay-Z and Kanye West songs blasted from a laundromat. Two young women were hunched over paperwork flung across the counter. The shop was empty but a few machines were spinning and piles of folded clothes sat on the shelves behind the women.

“We’re open until five and our last wash is at three,” said one of the young women. “Two people came in, and a couple called to say they want to do their laundry. I guess people do do their laundry when there’s a storm,” she said, laughing.

Asked if they were nervous about Sandy, both women said no, they were looking forward to family time and relaxing indoors with wine.

Many of the neighbourhood’s residents roaming the streets in last-minute grocery shopping or dog-walking seemed to share this sentiment.

“It’s fine,” college senior Amanda Wallace said. “I bought a ton of pasta and pasta sauce.”

An elderly woman sweeping leaves on her front porch said people around there did not worry too much. “We’re hoping for the best,” she said.

Most of the media, and even the mayor’s office, must have picked up on this nonchalance, as they urged New Yorkers to take the hurricane seriously.

“This is a storm that could easily kill you,” the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, warned during a midday press conference. He added that his biggest fear “is that people don’t leave, when retrospectively they should have”.

Popular news programmes such as ABC’s Good Morning America and local channel NY1 repeated that Sandy was already worse than last year’s Hurricane Irene, for which the city also issued evacuation notices and launched city-wide lock-down of businesses, transport and schools.

Many New Yorkers, however, felt the precautions for Hurricane Irene were disproportionate to the damage it caused.

In Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighbourhood, overlooking Manhattan’s Lower East Side, as raindrops got bigger and skies murkier, more and more residents were locking themselves indoors, most with cases of wine or beer.

“I’ve just bought a box of wine, and as long as the internet holds, I’m gonna Netflix my 48 hours,” one young male resident said while rushing up the street.

Nicole Gates Anderson, a resident of Brooklyn’s Red Hook, said storms such as this were an opportunity to get together and have fun with friends.

“I live alone and I’m going to be stranded so I thought I may as well throw a hurricane party,” she said. “With all public transport down, I don’t know if everyone can make it tonight, but a few friends and I are going to basically apartment-hop and have drinks.”

#Sandyparty was trending on Twitter, and with the mayor’s announcement that school was out, people were tweeting things such as: “No classes till wed #stoked #sandyparty ?”

As night fell, New Yorkers heeded official warnings and headed indoors, but most likely with a glass of wine.