Saturday, November 03, 2012

The boat ride to work; the long walk back.

My subway link to Manhattan, where I work, was cut all last week because of flooded tunnels. On Thursday and Friday I decided to take the East River Ferry. Here's the Fiorello LaGuardia approaching Pier 1 at Brooklyn Bridge Park Friday morning.
On our way to the 34th Street ferry terminal in Manhattan, we passed the Con Edison 14th Street power plant, site of the transformer explosion that blacked out lower Manhattan.

Arriving at 34th Street, I boarded a free shuttle bus that makes a loop through Midtown, and dropped me off two blocks from where I work. Elapsed time door to door was about an hour and a half, because I just missed a ferry and had to wait twenty minutes for the next one. Also, the shuttle bus had to negotiate heavy traffic.

On Thursday, I left work at 4:15 to avoid the rush, and was able to get on one of the free shuttle buses the MTA was running from Midtown to Brooklyn during the subway blockage. There was a small group waiting for the bus at Lexington Avenue between 54th and 55th streets, so I was able to get on and find a seat. The bus became very crowded when we stopped near Grand Central Station, It took us about an hour to get to Jay Street in Brooklyn, about a ten minute walk from where I live.

On Friday I left work at about the same time, but found the sidewalks near the bus pickup so crowded that I decided to walk down to the ferry terminal. A few blocks below 42nd Street, I noticed there were no more traffic lights, or lights of any kind. I had entered the blacked out zone. When I got to the 34th Street terminal, I found a line of people waiting to get on the ferry that extended as far as I could see. Since ferry service was to stop at 6:00, I decided that it was likely not all of these people were going to get on. My only realistic option was to walk home, something I did before during the December 2005 transit strike.

I walked south on First Avenue, past the blacked out New York University and Bellvue hospitals, both of which had been evacuated.  As I passed shuttered restaurants and bodegas, I noticed the pungency of decaying food. After I crossed 14th Street, I passed a little cafe that was lit up and crowded with people. "Does that place have its own generator?" I wondered. Then I noticed that the pedestrian crossing signal ahead of me was working. After four days of blackout, power had been restored to the East Village.

A resident celebrated by playing his electric guitar on the fire escape.
The sun set as I walked through Chinatown toward the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge walkway, and I crossed the bridge after nightfall. I arrived home at about 7:30, just over three hours after leaving work. Detours to the bus stop and ferry terminal added to the time; otherwise I could have made it in about two and a half hours.

Subway service has now been restored between Brooklyn and Manhattan, so my commuting will no longer be so adventurous.

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