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Uneasy quiet: Sandy brought New York an eerie silence

November 03, 2012|By Shashank Bengali
  • Carroll Turk awakes from a night's sleep Friday in the American Red Cross shelter in Pine Belt Arena in Toms River, N.J. Hurricane Sandy has caused power outages for millions of people in the Eastern U.S. and crippled transportation in New York City.
Carroll Turk awakes from a night's sleep Friday in the American Red… (Les Stone / American Red…)

NEW YORK -- For a few days, at least, the City That Never Sleeps did just that.

With power out and transportation a shambles, many New Yorkers shelved their nocturnal ways and embraced a more subdued way of life that included earlier bedtimes than many were used to.

“I haven’t had nine hours of sleep in nine years,” said Ted Orosz, who commutes to Manhattan but whose neighborhood on Long Island was without power for several days after Hurricane Sandy. Orosz found himself in bed by 9 p.m. and awake before dawn, commuting into a city that seemed unnaturally quiet.

“It’s easy to sleep, actually,” he said. “No planes, no sounds. The only disruption at night is the sound of generators.”

Naima Rauam, an artist who lives in Lower Manhattan’s financial district, where power still hadn’t been restored as of Saturday morning, compared the silence of post-storm New York to the woods of Maine, where she lived for several years in the 1970s.

“It’s like Maine with no trees,” said Rauam, who at the start of the blackout last week dug out her old woolen socks and tried to paint and catch up on bills by candlelight. She soon found that difficult to keep up — in part because she paints watercolors, and she was trying to reserve all her water for drinking and bathing.

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“I was being very dry in my watercolor technique,” she said.

Rauam, who usually stays up until midnight watching television or reading, also found herself turning in by 9 p.m.

For several nights, the all-night vibe of lower Manhattan, including the Greenwich Village and Chelsea neighborhoods favored by the young and financially confident, gave way to a strange, almost sinister darkness. Some pedestrians walked behind the dim beams of flashlights and cellphones, but others moved in the shadows. Rumors of muggings and robberies swirled through the well-lit parts of the city.

But New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said that statistics showed crime was actually down by 35% since the storm compared with the same period in 2011. Burglaries were up 7%, but police reported only one incident of burglary in Manhattan, where four men were arrested for breaking into a high-end sneaker store on the Lower East Side.

By Saturday morning, only about 5,800 residents of Manhattan awoke still without electricity. But on Friday night, some New Yorkers spent one final evening walking around in the darkness.

Andy and Emily Harris, who were uptown visiting friends where the power wasn’t lost, started walking south when they heard reports that the lights were coming on near their Midtown neighborhood. It was nearly midnight when they reached their apartment, only to see the block of 31st Street still swathed in darkness.

To Andy Harris, the scene brought to mind the Will Smith movie set in a post-apocalyptic New York. “It’s still ‘I Am Legend’ over here,” he said.

shashank.bengali@latimes.com

Twitter: @SBengali

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