In my six-story building (the magic number) we were lucky. When the power went out on Monday evening we still had gas to cook by and running water, together with our supplies of candles, flashlights and food, of course. (It turned out I even had an old transistor radio and a telephone landline that worked! Vital items for any emergency kit !) Plus, we had the added bonus of good neighbors, with whom I enjoyed a cheery evening sharing wine and cheese by candlelight while Sandy blew through. Although at high tide the water from the Hudson came all the way up to Washington Street, flooding Zone A basements along the way, in our block, between Washington and Greenwich Streets, Zone B, they stayed dry!
Next morning, with the river back in its proper place, the Hudson River Park looked remarkably untouched. However, walking inland up Perry and Charles Streets, camera in hand, I realized there’d been a wind tunnel effect in play; huge branches and whole trees were strewn about the neighborhood and, at the corner of Charles and Bleecker, the splendid Callery Pear I’d photographed for WestView every spring had simply snapped off mid-trunk – gone.
Yet on a second sortie, that afternoon, already there were signs of life. The newsagent on Hudson was selling flashlights and batteries. Down the block, the owner of “The White Horse” was giving out free coffee and donuts; at the corner of Perry and Greenwich Streets my favorite watering hole was Open !
Lit by dozens of flickering candles, as the daylight faded, “Left Bank” was a beautiful, gleaming beacon in those bleak surroundings. While chef Laurence was managing to cook up a mini-menu in the candlelit kitchen, co-owner Micheline was holding the fort behind the bar and welcoming the astonished locals. From that very first post-hurricane evening, the “Left Bank” crew were there for us, their grateful neighbors, hungry for the camaraderie their little oasis offered.
While, by Day Two, it was possible to get a (crowded) bus uptown to ‘the other world’ for showers with kind friends, to use ATM machines, buy milk, charge ipads, etc., it was what happened right here, in our little corner that was so comforting and quite extraordinary.
By Wednesday night, we had Six neighborhood spots within a couple of blocks offering food and companionship, by candlelight – “Dublin 6,” “Lievito,” “Spazzo,” “Aria,” “Spotted Pig” … and “Left Bank” – filled with locals getting to know each other, comparing experiences, offering help, swapping news of good deeds and survival tips … and enjoying one another’s company. It was just like the ‘good old days’ in our West Village corner!