Superstorm Sandy and New York City’s Dark Recovery


Things to be Seized during the Coming Insurrection


1. NYU’s Power Plant

New York University, the city’s third largest landowner, is currently running on its own separate power grid. On the night of the blackout, nearly all of its properties dotting Manhattan’s Greenwich Village were lit up and they remain so tonight, even though many are empty—save perhaps the tortured souls of all the slaves who were lynched across the street in Washington Square Park and whose bones are literally the foundation of NYU’s vast enterprise.

The university’s electricity cogeneration plant, located at 251 Mercer St, stretches a block underground and accounts for nearly a third of the school’s electricity usage on a normal day. With the rest of lower Manhattan in the dark, the plant has been put into high gear to satisfy NYU students’ thirst for power as they feverishly check and re-check their Facebook walls and study for midterms that will never come. The monolithic Kimmel Center, erected a few years ago after a contentious battle with local residents, is serving hot meals and WiFi to students in dire need of access to their Netflix queue. NYU ID only—no locals allowed.

Just as a cogeneration plant runs on waste heat, the power of the coming insurrection will be generated from the industrial-scale processing of bureaucrats everywhere. During the coming insurrection, we promise that the university’s administration and its corporate board of trustees will be subjected to the midterm of their lives.

2. The Armories

Usually reserved for army training drills, ridiculous art shows, and graduation ceremonies for NYPD recruits, New York City’s huge armories become natural gathering points for the city’s dispossessed during times of crisis, providing services and shelters for those in need. The Park Slope Armory, in recent years a gym, has been emptied of its yuppie joggers and fully turned over to the people, providing food, warmth, and shelter to hundreds. The type of mutual aid happening here is what’s truly helping the city to recover—FEMA and the multinational non-profits are nowhere to be seen.

Politicians are a different story. As the sun set on lower Manhattan earlier tonight, Chinatown residents massed in a public square to get the bottled water that the city had promised them. After much waiting, it was revealed that the water was already there and that what the volunteers were really waiting for was the Mayor’s arrival. Reporters and photographers in tow, he had to be seen personally handing out the bottles. Similarly, New York State’s senior Senator was observed early this morning at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn walking gingerly alongside a bus queue hundreds of people long, shaking hands, mugging for the news cameras, and telling people to “keep the faith.”

For all those currently lined up in queues across the city, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: When Mayor Bloomberg speaks of “recovery,” what he means is the recovery of Wall Street. As the New York Stock Exchange opened this morning on emergency power, elderly and disabled people mere blocks away remained virtually stranded in their NYCHA housing by authorities who preemptively cut off water and power—including heat and elevators—to their buildings, many of which reach upwards of 20 stories. Reports of volunteers finding infirm 80-year-old residents wailing in pitch black stairwells with no way to descend are heartbreaking and proliferate. But perhaps they can hear the opening bells of the stock exchange and take comfort in knowing that the gears of finance are turning, grinding, moving ever forward in a veritable flood of meaningless numbers and transactions.

3. The Casinos

As Atlantic City drowns under 5 feet of water, its casino towers stand in the emerald swamp gleaming with an emergency-generated glow of lost fortunes and spent futures. A skyline housed in a glassine sleeve—but step off the boardwalk, head inland, and find a town with problems all too familiar for anyone who resides in a city undergoing its own endless rebirth. Even a brand new $2.4 billion glass monument to better times can’t hide the brutal precarity of life in the World’s Favorite Playground.

The people of Atlantic City have been underwater for decades. All the while, oxygen tanks roll, penny slots wheeze, and the cards fall where those in power choose. Even the machines know their math: the more you play, the better their heuristics—and the worse your odds.

4. The Libraries

If only to gain warmth—both physical and spiritual—from the burning of the documents on which this cruel world was premised.

—New York Year Zero

How to help the relief effort: