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Time for a Sandy Smoothie before Frankenstorm hits

New York City is in lockdown for Hurricane Sandy. But the city that never sleeps can’t shut down entirely — “Sandy Smoothies” and $85 gumboots are out on sale, reports Alice Brennan from NYC.

City workers swept the wet, deserted streets of New York early Monday morning as the city boarded up its windows against Hurricane Sandy.

While some intrepid couples in bright rain jackets and gumboots took stimulating strolls along the East River greenway, the park (normally full of picnickers and wedding parties) was empty. As were the boutique cafes and supermarkets, so packed the day before with panicked shoppers rushing to buy their comfort provisions.

New York, the hustling metropolis where stroppy business types and eccentrics push past each other to get to somewhere very important, ground to a screaming halt. The 8.5 million people who use the sprawling subway each day: immobilised, forced to stay put. Even the New York stock exchange was shuttered, for the first time since 2001.

But as the transport system shut down and businesses closed their doors, mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the compulsory evacuation of 375,000 residents in low lying areas. That meant enclaves of activity popped up in schools, halls and other makeshift emergency shelters. Bars put out signs with half price beer and “Sandy Smoothies” — one read “Sandy Baby: Come beat this hurricane, board up and drink beer with us”. The local 99c store, dealing with a rush on flashlights and wet weather gear, upped their prices. How much for one small torch and batteries? $26.50. What about a pair of gumboots? $85.

I’d rather have me some wet feet,” huffed one woman as she stormed out of the crowded shop. Wall Street might be under water, but the equally unregulated Frankenstorm economy was moving in to fill the gap. On the ever reliable Craiglist, tickets to popular Broadway productions were reduced by at least 50%, Mom and Pap businesses advertised Sandy sandbags and pre-emptive yard clean-ups, and limo services offered a smooth ride through the torrents.

Thanks to last year’s hurricane Irene, the city is much more prepared this time around and the residents more relaxed. One police officer on Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn suggested it might be to their detriment. “We’re finding that a lot people aren’t evacuating as they should be,” he said. “Irene passed with minimal drama here in New York, so they’re sceptical about how dramatic Sandy is gonna be.”

Only about 100 people and their pets escaped to a Park Slope high school on Sunday night. During Irene at least 1000 people from Red Hook and the Rockaways piled into the same space.

But Sandy is already shaping up to be a much more ferocious storm, or storms, than Irene, and she hasn’t even made landfall yet. At low tide on Monday morning artsy Red Hook, once a busy freight port, had sections already under water, as were parts of Battery City in the lower Manhattan financial district.

And authorities are getting tough. Housing management locked Columbia University professor Bob Shapiro out of his high rise in Battery Park City. He heeded warnings and evacuated to a hotel uptown, but for residents who refused to leave they were emailed this warning: “If you plan on leaving please do so before noon otherwise you will need to shelter in place and will not be able to exit the building”.

The email added that emergency personnel would not be entering evacuated areas at all, as Bloomberg had previously warned. “That means no fire, police or ambulance,” the email read.

Shapiro, although relieved he’d got out in time, was battling the media hype. “Midtown is drizzling and only a bit windy. It hardly feels like a major disaster may occur even elsewhere in the city,” he told Crikey. “We’re just hoping this will all settle down in 24 hours and we can return home by Wednesday.”

But as Sandy pounded the US coast and winds picked up in New York, politicians busied themselves on how to manage what could be The Perfect Storm. Both Romney and Obama made some hefty schedule changes rerouting and cancelling appearances.

The stakes are higher for Obama though — the President needs to strike the perfect balance between crucial campaigning and proving he can fulfil his official role as a leader. He flew back to the White House on Monday afternoon to monitor Sandy’s progress and assign emergency services as needed.

Everyone is watching the TV, so campaigns that are on the air with ads are getting maximum viewership,” Obama senior advisor Jamie Fox told Crikey. “Obama will control the news for critical days before the election, which will allow him to display his presidential prowess. This will give Romney no opportunity to attack him.”

Romney might need some disaster management of his own. He spent much of the morning deflecting attention from his 2011 call to privatise federal emergency relief. He told Larry King it was “immoral” to spend money on disasters rather than deficit reduction. When asked directly whether disaster relief should be cut, Romney responded: “It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.”

For the 60 million people in the US, or almost 20% of the population, who are expected to suffer under Sandy’s destruction over the next week and who will be clamouring for electricity and flood relief, that might be an unnerving statement.

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  • 1
    Madonna
    Posted Tuesday, 30 October 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Although this climatic event continues to cause devastation for thousands of lives as I write this. The super-storm inadvertently presents President Obama with an opportunity to display his leadership skills to the American people. Although there are no guarantees he’ll be re elected if using former Premier Anna Bligh as a precedent.

  • 2
    Ian
    Posted Tuesday, 30 October 2012 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    It does not matter what Obama says. It’s what he does that matters and he has proved himself to be a fraud like nearly all the other corporate politician in America.

    Australia is no better.

  • 3
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 30 October 2012 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Nice for the Mittbot to clarify his priorities - screw the common weal, it’s the bottom lines wot’s important.
    But are there enough functioning neurons evenly distributed amongst the elctorate to note this?

  • 4
    Ian
    Posted Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    AR,

    It’s really time Americans woke up (although I doubt they will) and realized there are basically only very small differences between Romney and Obama and these are to do only with personal liberties. As far as foreign policy and subservience to big corporations and the banks are concerned it’s chalk and cheese.

    The incessant wars, Israel, Haiti, Cuba, Latin America etc etc are part of the entrenched status quo pushed by both parties. Both too are beholden to big banks, big oil, the health care/pharmaceutical lobbies and others.

    These are the issues that confront the world and between them threaten our so-called civilization and there is precious little chance that either candidate will put any real effort into addressing them.

    Climate change has been ignored by both candidates in this campaign and although the causes of Sandy and other record climatic events are now pretty well certain I would eat my hat and more if any serious effort were made by either of these two corporate functionaries to deal with it.

    Voting the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil and there are in America, as there are here other parties/candidates who would at least be serious in tackling all the problems facing our countries and our world (and I don’t mean by privatizing it).

    Democracy Now as well as RT USA have both done their best to expose these other candidates to the public by holding debates and interviews with them. RT USA will hold one on 5 November between the two “winners” of a previous four candidate debate. This debate (between the Green and Libertarian candidates) was supposed to be today (30 October) but has had to be post-poned because of Sandy.

  • 5
    Madonna
    Posted Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Interesting points.
    Ian you seem knowledgeable in this area…
    Given the fact people move beyond apathy and cast their votes,the newly elected president will be inheriting a massive clean up bill from Sandy. This adds to the existing US financial problems Mitt Romney has used to campaign.
    Maybe off topic but do you have any thoughts on The US Centrist Party?

  • 6
    Ian
    Posted Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Madonna,

    I hadn’t heard of the Centrist Party until now so I looked it up. As far as I can tell from a quick look at their website they are not fielding candidates themselves but looking to pragmatic alternatives within the established status quo. They seem to be concerned about fixing the economy (a good thing) and recognize things like climate change as major problems but I didn’t get the impression that they saw the military/industrial complex and foreign policy as a threat to America and the world.

    Also they carry on with the fiction of a left right battle between the two parties that is to my mind absurd. Both parties are right wing parties and, like here, moving further to the right. Unfortunately if you accept that idea of left and right you end up operating within an extremely narrow framework and exclude all other possibilities.

    Third parties have absolutely no chance of winning in this concocted presidential race but somewhere, sometime a start must be made to loosen their grip on power. occupy wall street is one non-violent aspect of this fight back and voting for a third party would be another. What else can you do?

    Apathy is a problem but that will disappear when people are forced to respond because their personal lives are being ruined. The Arab Spring, the massive protests in Europe and student protests in Quebec and in Chile are signs that these populations at least are no longer of the apathetic variety.

    Do you have any thoughts on what our problems are and what might be done about them?

    Sandy should, but is unlikely to be yet another wake up call to everyone in the world.

  • 7
    Madonna
    Posted Thursday, 1 November 2012 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    Hi Ian, I’ll attempt to answer your question: Do you have any thoughts on what our problems are and what might be done about them?
    How much time do you have?  You might need to pack a lunch.
    • Law – Legislation is out dated and needs an overhaul. My hope is lobbyists and Law Students will be catalysts for change in this area.
    • Criminals - Early screening and monitoring of children showing signs of criminality based on environment factors and generational criminals, parents with addictions etc. Government funding for programs designed to modify behaviour and provide better pathways.
    • Courts – Improvement in turnaround time of cases before the court. There appears to be an inconsistency between the investigative processes by police in bringing perpetrators before the courts, only to have cases dismissed, or a small fine… and recidivism.
    • Prisons – The whole system is dysfunctional. For example many aboriginal offenders are in prison because they can’t pay fines or see their parole officer on time. Private prisons concern me, the concept of offenders being the reason a business profits from heads on beds, is hard to comprehend! The cost to society is phenomenal, there has to be a better way. I do like the idea of restorative justice. Treating the whole person and transitional housing, to help released prisoners integrate into the community , not return to a life of crime because of funding cuts to support groups.
    • Domestic Violence: DVPO – Some men ignore DV Protection Orders, so for cases where a woman fears for her life and her children/s, an idea would be to place a tracking device on the offender and have it monitored by authorities.
    • White Paper -The labor government introduced a white paper with the intention for every Australian child to learn an Asian Language. I question its feasibility in reaching all children. If the current system fails to ensure all aboriginal children are attending school, how does this proposal apply to those who fall through the gap? For example, if in the NT, where English is the second language and Indigenous Elders are competing for time in the class room to pass on their traditional language and customs, how is an Asian Language going to apply in these instances? I feel it is of utmost importance to maintain generational cultural identity of our First Australians.
    • Indigenous absenteeism in schools - I contacted the Andre Agassi foundation because I wanted to know what method and business model he used to encourage marginalized children to attend school. I wanted to suggest it to Education Minister Peter Garrett for Indigenous children. These children went all the way though to graduation! Mr Agassi’s media spokesperson said he had thought about opening a school in Australia, but decided against the idea as he wanted to maintain focus on helping children who were attending his foundation in America.
    • Environment – Corporate greed and violation of our pristine environments (Kimberley’s & Great Barrier Reef) for the almighty dollar. Another concern is Uranium mining is back on the agenda in Queensland! Coal Seam Gas and what it’s doing to underground water systems such as the Arterial Basin. The Australian government is top heavy, insulated and out of touch with what every day Australians want for their country.
    • Same Sex marriage: Quiet frankly, most same sex couples probably don’t want to marry anyway. The issue is the bigotry and discrimination from archaic mindsets. Ordinary people in government public office dictating to a couple that can’t marry the one they love because they‘re the same sex. I believe same sex couples should be given the freedom of choice, like heterosexual couples.

    Ian, I don’t have the answers, in fact I have more questions than I do answers and I certainly don’t have the political knowledge you do.
    In a former life, I worked for a Private Pathology company for 9 years. I learnt a variety of jobs and worked in the specimen receiving area (SRA), added tests department. When I wasn’t adding test codes, I would retrieve specimens and add tests and deliver them to the appropriate laboratory.
    I had been contemplating how to address the plight of homeless people because my involvement as a volunteer with the Indigenous Elders Police Patrol and had met some street kids and adults - culture shock. As I went about my job I asked work colleagues a hypothetical question. Would they agree to have $ 2.00 per fortnight deducted from their pay and deposited into a national account? I estimated (wasn’t sure of the actual figure), if 1,000,000.00 Australian workers x $2.00 pf. = 2,000,000.000.
    This equals 4million dollars per month times 52 weeks a year and total 208 Million Per annum to help street people. Build homes etc. The donation would not be tax deductable and of course would be set up with some sort of ethical body of governance. Not for profit.
    Most people said yes. One person wouldn’t even donate 50 cents, the reason given is she helped a charity by buying a pillow, that was her preferred method of donating, insisting she was opposed to giving cash.
    I thought how loose change, just a one small gold coin could collectively make a huge difference in the lives of others less fortunate. It was a community centric solution.
    What do you think Ian? Not quite Hurricane Sandy is it lol! I’m not even sure the moderators will permit this lengthy response.
    Cheers
    M

  • 8
    Ian
    Posted Thursday, 1 November 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Madonna,

    Our problems are enormous and worsening and I think we should do everything we can, whatever way we can, to address them - through volunteer efforts, donations, street action, voting and much else.

    Somehow we need to educate people and jerk them out of their apathy which is the hardest job of all when they are living comfortable lives and been brought up in a culture that increasingly values selfish acquisition above community, particularly remote ones with different cultures etc.

    Quite honestly I don’t believe any of our problems will be addressed by the current bunch of politicians or by trying to tweak our out-of-control capitalist system and we are (or have) run out of time on many issues.

    It is only in the last two or three years that I have really got to grips with the problems and ten years ago I was among those comfortably off selfish individualist that I now complain of. I was a financial manager up in the Kimberley for eighteen years doing my own thing then so what is happening there now is really devastating in my mind and symptomatic of all that is going wrong in our society.

    If you feel strongly about things it may be worth getting involved with the Greens or the Social Alliance or other socialist groups who do care about all these things.

    I am certainly no expert in mainstream Australian politics. I tuned out completely when I realized that they are more beholden to big business than their citizen/voters… and it’s getting worse… but I am a sort of expert on the US through alternative media channels available on the internet like Democracy Now and Breaking the Set, part of the RT channel. Reason? The US is the key player and culprit in the sorry state of this world.

  • 9
    Madonna
    Posted Thursday, 1 November 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Ian
    Firstly an apology for my mathematical miscalculation ~ it should have been 4 Million times 12 months not 52 weeks..but I thought you would grasp the concept…
    I’m leaning towards the Green Party - the conscious vote for 2013 I think. I had a look at the Socialist Alliance Australian Website…interesting, thanks for pointing them out.
    I’ve removed my rose coloured glasses in relation to Australian Politicians as of late. I feel what politicians want ‘the voter’to see and what is actually happening behind the scenes are in stark contrast.
    I also think the accumulation of wealth is a wonderful, money buys experiences and can help change lives if shared. I just think Whales breeding grounds and world heritage sites (GBR) are off limits shouldn’t be kicked to the sideline in order to profit. The view is short-sighted and scary. People must unite to stop it, hence the importance of, aligning with like minded souls and ethical members of parliament to intervene… I do admire WA MP Melissa Parke, who’s making a stand for the environment.

    It’s been lovely chatting Ian. All the best and I look forward to reading more of your comments in other ‘Crikey’ news articles. M

  • 10
    Ian
    Posted Friday, 2 November 2012 at 2:41 am | Permalink

    M,

    Sorry I didn’t address your question about 4 million donations of $2 per week. I think a lot of charitable organizations do try to encourage lots of small regular donations of the sort you envisage, the Wilderness Society is one and I guess they raise a fair amount of money that way. But it is a lot easier said than done and there is a lot of competition out there.

    Personally I don’t think Australians are a particularly generous lot and when they give they give to the causes they care about ranging from say, cancer research to climate change, the Palestinian cause and more, so you have to strike a chord with the potential donor to get him to justify parting with his/her money - even $2.

    I would say that I am pretty generous with my donations but I do pick and choose as I bet you do.

    Just my thoughts.

    I will keep a look out for your comments too and thanks for the complements. Meanwhile keep up the fight. Doing nothing will achieve nothing so its better to try even if you fail.

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