Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hurricane Sandy and the Yellow Cab: My travels and lack of travels in words and still frames. part 1

In the hours preceding the storm. I was still deciding weather it the Storm was a big deal or just another silly story to keep people pinned to the tv screens, newspaper sources, radio, what have you.

"Sandy? a hurricane, really?" Some people asked me my opinion on it, in both cases, no wait, several cases, all people who brought up this topic were here for vacation or business and wondered how quickly they should leave town. They had made up their minds already for the most part; they were leaving. One group of ladies booked it to JFK airport the day before and even had rental car reservations backed up incase the flight never happened. They were from Kentucky where they said they had seen many times the devastation a hurricane could cause. I thought they were crazy. In my 31years of growing up here, I had heard of freak storms every year, and every time a storm came that made threats of tornados hurricanes, 10 feet of snow, devils with pitch forks, it always bluffed. We've had a few snow storms, a casual crazy that puts the city at a limp for a week, but it's snow is all, and when services aren't fooling around they deal with it correctly. We've started to get mini tornados, but what those do apparently, is rip the roofs off of 5 houses in the city. But what we got that last week of October was something completely unknown to even be an eminent threat to New York City. I told people about my prior knowledge of news reports, and what they said versus what has happened, and their piss poor record. A storm will always either pass around New York City, to the west, or to the east, why? because it is colder in the west, and because there is more water to the east. I believe the difference this time was that we got two storms, and one of them liked the west, while the other liked the east... Presto, they both came together and had a honeymoon in New York City.

Brooklyn, Bensonhurst - October 29th
Parking, Brooklyn
At about 7pm, the storm was reported to hit at 8pm. The situation at this moment was starting to feel a lot more ominous, a lot more apparent that it was indeed real. It was cloudy for a long time before 8pm, the wind was getting stronger, however the rain was mild. Better to be safe than sorry i figured. And of course I over did the safety. I just couldn't decide where to park the car. Every available parking space; of which there are usually none so late in the evening was next to, or in the possible path of a tree or power line poll should one decide to fall. During my parking search a few electric cords started to break and fall to the street on just about every corner. and one large tree already fell into its own driveway crushing a car.

Brooklyn, Bensonhurst - October 30th
down line -neighborhood
 my neighborhood went relatively unscathed, not without some reminders that things weren't particularly normal

all the entry points to Manhattan were closed from Brooklyn. Damage was beyond what I knew at the time, unbelievable. But here locally it looked like a few home repairs gone wrong, no sign of serious troubles.
Reparking the car- neighborhood

I moved the car to this parking spot that next morning as I chose an illegal one over night; knowing that it was far from any trees or power lines next to a solid brick building. no tickets hooray!!
Soon enough though, the bridges between Manhattan and Brooklyn were open. I figured with all uncertainty, more uncertainty than usual?? Yes even more than usual up in the air, I'd take a trip to the city. If anything I'd take the opportunity with the fortune of having the only transportation into and throughout the city to take some pictures, and get everywhere quickly to scope the damages. 
Traffic was light, pretty much non-existent. And I started to realize what may or may not happen here. Either everybody would need a cab, desperate for transport, with no other ways to get around, or everybody without anywhere to go, nor with any reason to go anywhere may just stay home. I saw an old little Toyota Prius Taxi in front of me, the kind of car that is always driven by an old guy with glasses and a set of brains who owns the car and the medallion. I figured he'd know what was up. I rolled down my window, to discuss with him what he thought, about if anybody would need a cab, and if so what we should charge them. You see, the radio was already stating that cab drivers were allowed to pick-up more than one fare at a time. I know!! I know!! that's insane crazy and it has the possibility to triple profits! But of course it never actually works. The questions always are, what do we charge, who will take accept these terms, and how can this be done fairly and legally?
Of course, he knew nothing of this news, nor did he look up pricing. I went on my computer before I took the car out, and brought it with me, open to a webpage from the Taxi and Limousine Commission suggesting a fare structure based on zones, on a per person basis. I charged my first 2 fares, 3 customers, based on this structure, and made a bunch, but then I charged another on the same zone structure without picking up another as there didn't seem to be a shortage in available taxicabs. I noticed 99% of the cabs were just going about business as usual, turning the meter on etc.. so I cut the nonsense and did it that way. 
Sure enough over the course of the next week or two, the taxi and limo commission and the mayor kept encouraging drivers to pick-up multiple fares at once, and even approved of all licensed car service drivers, not just yellow cabs, to pick up people. eventually they did release an official pricing "suggestion" and of course, magically, just like in the last hurricane we had, my pricing chart disappeared as if it never existed. the new way to do this was to pick-up the first fare and use the meter as usual, but then each additional rider would go by a suggested negotiated rate, they suggested 10 dollars, but as time wore on, i realized that their pricing scheme was a very good suggestion, and i would tweak it appropriately for longer rides etc... this was never necessary, as it seemed most people who got cabs had an air about them that suggested an expectation of personal space.
I only used this fare method one more time, on november 1st to enable myself to get over the Brooklyn Bridge and into Manhattan as a high occupancy vehicle, while that restriction was still in effect.

Manhattan, Upper West Side -
Broadway and the 70's
Manhattan- Upper West Side, Broadway

Manhattan, Far West Side -
11th Avenue and 33rd Street, above the West Side Rail Yards.
Manhattan - Far West Side - 11th and 33rd. Tow Pound

I noticed something weird here, A tow truck guarding average cars. Cars parked in what are normally lanes for traffic and spaces for delivery trucks waiting to deliver.

Then I realized, the tow pound for Manhattan is on a pier, like so many city owned facilities concerning power and specialty vehicles the tow pound was also in jeopardy. And most certainly I would guess the tow pound had serious flood damage. To prevent damage to personal properties the cheapest parking garage in the city, the tow pound, moved the cars to this dry location.

Manhattan - Far West Side - 11th and 33rd. Tow Pound

Manhattan, Upper West Side -
Amsterdam Ave and the 60's
Upper West- see previous

- Broadway and Amsterdam
While Uptown had power, trees and debris fell in various places. This traffic light didn't want to get up in the morning.
Upper West Side - 71st and Broadway

Brooklyn, Williamsburg -
Grand Street and Lorimer
Williamsburg - My favorite coffee!
24 hours? almost, sometimes, but in this storm? Hey we we were all glad to see people working there. Although for me maybe it was more fantastically amazing as I was catapulting myself through time and space between downtown Manhattan: A lost civilization where people had to negotiate a world without power, and Brooklyn: a mostly high ground county of king with all these amazing thneeds and necessities. The place was swamped, and every guy and girl with glasses, a plaid shirt, jeans that barely fit, and an apple laptop could be found there with tabouli in hand and some water for their scruffy dog too. The coffee is 1.50 for small 2.00 for large it comes in a thick white paper cup with sippy top lid with no advertising, and soy milk is available!! does it get better than that??

Manhattan, Lower East Side -
Bowery and 1st Street
Manhattan- Lower East Side -Traffic light reference.
All the traffic lights below 39th street were off because all the power was out below 39th street, for the most part.

Brooklyn, Industry City -
39th Street and 2nd Avenue
Where there is smoke- Industry City, Brooklyn
Where there is smoke there is fire? Well i guess so if the fire department was going there. but all day i saw that kind of smoke coming from utilities in Manhattan, i guess that wasn't supposed to happen over here where everything was supposed to be normal. Note the traffic lights on the left are off, and traffic lights on the right are on.

Where there is smoke 2

Brooklyn, Fort Greene - October 31st
Washington and Myrtle Avenue or nearby.
Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
This was not the most significant sight I'd seen yet, but it was the best presented to me and the camera. In Manhattan just down the street from The Museum of Natural History a big tree in Central Park came down on Central Park West and collapsed the roof and broke all the windows in a brand new Mercedes ML sport utility vehicle. I know, I know, this doesn't all seem that significant.. ahh but that is what i've seen pretty much. As you can see the people here who own these town houses, or rent out the floors in these places, are pretty lucky, doesn't look like any significant damage.

Don't get me wrong however, the city experienced some very tragic stuff, and is still going through serious issues, I've seen some incredible images of stuff I never expected to see, and I have eventually seen stuff first hand that I didn't expect either.

I should probably take this moment in the article to guide you over to other internet sites if you have an interest in seeing such images, I wish I could put it in perspective for you how untouchable we all felt, and how the border lines within the city limits never saw so much damage except for say, the blizzard of 1888??

Here are some articles with amazing photographs: 

This particular picture was the most unbelievable: 
Far Rockaway, Queens, NY. Fire damages more than 100 homes -

While many pictures are of New York City, some are of other areas that had seen the effects of Sandy too:

Hurricane Sandy: The Aftermath

12 most memorable photos 

And while we're on this topic, let's not forget about, Haiti / Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas: 

csmonitor: In Pictures, Extreme weather 2012 - Those first few pictures at this link are of Sandy just before and during the storm in Cuba and Haiti, and then you get into other random images from 2012, it was the best I could find, as we only seem to think about ourselves, millions of pictures are of the New York Region, followed by Virginia etc.. but we must realize we are not alone in our suffering, but they are alone in their grief for continued weather conflicts and limited relief efforts. We have a scale of support that is at its greatest in midtown Manhattan, and the lower east side gets less help, followed by the other boros, Far reaches of Queens always get forgotten and passed over as if they were counties of Long Island, the suburbs of New York City. I purposefully mention Staten Island in its own sentence, Staten Island never gets good service, and the people of Staten Island are still trying to fix things. Similarly, Northern New Jersey, which is practically spooning Staten Island and closer to Manhattan then Brooklyn or Queens, was also hit harder than New York City. I believe things are pretty much back to normal there.

Okay, I hope that hasn't turned your stomach too much, there are plenty more pictures if you want to look, but that's the general idea. Well, on with my trivial journey- -

Manhattan, Upper East Side -
64th Street and York Avenue
Manhattan- Upper East - York and 64th

Manhattan, tree at 64th and york

umm, okay, I guess i'll be sure to get gas, huh?

This believe it or not is one of the more informative messages we will recieve on our computers.
umm, thanks for that, so you're telling me to get gas? I get gas everyday what else is new... Didn't know until the end of the day, that this was a HUGE PROBLEM!!! message should have said, ATTENTION, STOP DRIVING IMMEDIATELY, NO GAS!!
my other driver didn't listen to me either. which is the starting point for the proof that our business relationship wasn't working out. short story, i'll explain later.

Brooklyn, Brighton Beach -
This is where it got real. I couldn't really translate it to the camera. I didn't want to try too hard to do that. It was shocking, not as shocking as some of those images in the links above, but definitely some definitive moments in these residents lives. You can't really get a picture to describe what was happening unless you really got out there and rather than helping people, started to get in their face with a camera, and I wasn't about to do that.
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn
You may notice that I am driving on the left side of the road actually, as the tree has crashed on the right side, blocking the road and tangling up that yellow Hummer H3.

I got to Brighton Beach as a fluke, heading off the the exit ramp of the highway at Ocean Parkway to save some miles on my gas tank and perhaps look for some gas stations, I got hailed. A guy's car quit on him, I don't remember why; maybe he lost gas. The lady he was transporting needed to get to her apartment in Brighton Beach, so I gave her a quote of 10 dollars for the ride.

only about 5 blocks forward into the trip things started looking really interesting. ... I took Brighton Avenue below the elevated train line, not in operation of course, and things were all weird. the whole street was covered with a layer of sand from the beach which is about 200 steps to the right. I saw cars all cased with sand, including a stretch limousine. there was no electric power, and no traffic lights, but some stores that sell produce through holes in the walls were still operating the old fashioned way; no lights, no power, no cash registers, no computers, just fruits vegetables and pockets full of money to be exchanged.

I went down this avenue until I couldn't get further. The fire department closed down the street for some emergency repairs. and the whole avenue below the el became wet. This was the first time I'd been driving to see no working traffic lights outside of Manhattan. And this was worse too, because the damage was very evident to the left and to the right.

I made a u-turn and then a right, and upon these small side streets, were smaller residential buildings. There were occasional police cars and ambulances tending to whatever calls they had. People with cars looked relatively average, but people on the street were all on the street for immediate necessary reasons. Fire hydrants were opened for access to fresh water, and mattresses were piled up outside small homes to be discarded due to flood damage. it looked like most of the activity outside was people cleaning out their houses and figuring out where to dump everything. I drove though a tiny space in the street where another cab was stopped and what looked like three cab drivers were all talking, probably in shock as well, not sure what to do with the situation. No gas, no money, no customers, no place to park the car. gah!! After I dropped her off at her building which looked like a very sturdy brick building, however it had tape in front of the door, contractors were fixing the entrance, and a fire hydrant was open right in front too, so I wasn't sure how she'd get around the water and through the door, also how she'd get to her apartment if the elevator wasn't in service, all puzzles. Anyway after I did that, I went back to Brighton Avenue and saw a corner where it looked like people had 5 or 6 shopping carts, like those metal cage shopping carts you get at the super market. One cart had several watermelons and only watermelons in it, and the others were full, of stuff. I saw people yelling and hand gesturing with wads of cash in hand, so it looked like a bizarre shopping experience. the people with the carts had mostly situated themselves on high ground too, they were up on an entrance ramp for wheelchairs, an entrance ramp to a building that was closed i guess?? while all the other civilians looked up at them calling out numbers and showing currency, it was like the original stock market for produce.  Anyway, not sure what this was, not even sure weather this was weird, or quite normal for this neighborhood. But that was the experience over there, at which point things really fell into perspective. here an entire neighborhood not only ran out of temporary conveniences, but they were losing their stuff, they may have had no food, and everybody had to fight for what was left, and then to get water you had to use the fire hydrant, i hope they still had their gas working...

The point is this was just a hint of how bad it could have been, and if one was to go further to the deep parts of the city, entire houses were destroyed, and gasoline lines for cooking and heat were also cut, for safety

Brooklyn, Bensonhurst -
Back in my neighborhood.

I noticed as I drove back from Brighton Beach, and originally back from J.F.K. Airport, that really this major road, the road I live on, really was the most unscathed road furthest east from manhattan along the shore of New York Bay. you go further east, and it's another place. This street was essentially the border marker between neighborhoods with little damages, and neighborhoods with lots of damages.

You'll see a few down trees in the park here, but we had power, and no flooding. the land is a little bit higher here. i guess the grade of incline is just a bit higher here, steeper, than all parts east, into coney island, brighton beach, and jamaica bay, wow talk about lucky.

Brooklyn, Boro Park -
IMG_6796 copy
I saw this awesome tree down in the street while here in Boro Park, so I thought I'd pull into the bowling alley for quick parking. I went here once many years ago, and it was pretty neat, a nice old school place to get a cheap game in, my friend told me he thought it had closed already, but evidently by the opening and closing door and a full parking lot, they weren't just open, they were doing great business. Do they even have enough lanes to fit all these people into their bowling spot? Figures though, a big storm has passed through and there's nothing to do, you might as well take the family bowling.

Below is where said tree had fallen.

This was a bit more dramatic though.
IMG_6812 copy
I'm thinking at this point the blog article is getting pretty long. in a day of taxi work a lot can happen, even when it seems nothing is happening at all. In my mind, in our lives we exist to move throughout our places with high efficiency and to get things done, that all we really are right? we are evolved organisms, each one just a clamoring hyper mess, aiming to do his or her own intentions, and function to carry out their own agenda, and then vicariously through each of us, and each and every amoeba and atom, the world goes on to the next day... Sorry, it's getting very late as I write this, and I'm without a job now, and those two factors make my brain tick in the funny way that makes these words spill out.

the point is, there's a lot more to add about another few days, and possibly many days before all of this. I have many pics to show you from all the years previous to this one, and maybe a few stories i could pour into this blog with. I'll continue with part 2 of the week of the after effects of sandy, and how it was and why i stopped driving the yellow cab.. why i stopped for now that is.


Cloudia said...

Wow, ride safe and make money, Bro

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

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NYC taxi photo said...

Yay! fishies!! i'm thinking about finding some other job at the moment, need some sort of easy going night shift thing.

Mike said...

Great write up - great photos. Did not expect anything less. Naturally I also love to see a little flash of 9H33's sexy legs here and there.


Gusgamashuq Abunoori said...

Thank you sir for serving as local eyes for global readers.

steven taylor said...

I drive taxi in San Francisco California and blog also , though not as beautiful as yours I might add.

Was in New York for first time in August 2012 what a awesome city you live in.So much history so intense.

Anonymous said...

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.
You obviously know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

my blog post - plumber san antonio

NYC taxi photo said...

cool, thanks for your feedback, you're right, i should or could write more. I don't know if I should be putting a bunch of text together with a bunch of pictures and video. also wasn't sure if anybody would be interested in reading much, but always good to know what you're thinking, also more good to know that sombody's actually reading my blog at all.

NYC taxi photo said...

wait a sec plumber, do you actually have a blog, or do you just have picture? I just clicked on your link and all I got was a picture of a guy fixing something, no words there, also nothing to click on, no information. is this just a clever bot, or are you a real person? where is your blog?