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Downtowners once again are coming together, helping their neighbors — so the comparisons between Hurricane Sandy and 9/11 are natural. The key difference is that the devastating and tragic loss of life this time does not approach the magnitude of the attack 11 years ago. That of course does not make it any easier for each grieving family.
The scramble back to homes for evacuees, the frantic group emails, the search for information, for places to charge cell phones, has an all-too-familiar ring to many. Once again we are inspired by the stories we’ve seen and heard about people helping – offering everything from beds to showers to food to batteries. At the Seaport, devastated businesses are helping each other recover. In northern Chelsea we saw a small group of police officers Monday lifting heavy wood from the street clearing a dangerous situation rather than waiting for another agency to do it. In the Two Bridges area on the Lower East Side, residents banded together to help senior citizens trapped in their high-rise apartments without access to food or water.
There are so many more stories like these.
As we look at what comes next, foremost in our minds is that low-lying Lower Manhattan is one of the most vulnerable areas to storms. We hope by now, you the reader, have your lights back. We also hope the subways return to Lower Manhattan as they the rest of the city. It did not seem that long ago when the trains could run rain or shine but that day has passed and will never return without the political will for large scale investment.
The science is clear that these storms will continue with more frequency and ferocity going forward. We shouldn’t rush in with massive expenditures on storm protection, but on the other hand we can’t throw our hands up and wait for better environmental policies to reverse the tide. That’s what Mayor Bloomberg seemed to do the other day. While he has been a leader on climate issues he should not be so dismissive of costly measures that would likely help.
We’re riding in subway stations built over a century ago. Short-sighted politicians will scoff at spending hundreds of billions both to protect people living near the water as well as at least some of our transit system. If that’s what it costs, it would still pay when you consider the multi-billions of dollars everyone loses when our lives and jobs are so disrupted.
How many times a year will Lower Manhattan be asked to pack up and flee?
In the meanwhile, we still stay on the Sandy aftermath story from our new temporary offices, updating our web sites as well as two most welcome post-9/11 advances – Facebook and Twitter.
Lastly don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. For those with difficulty getting to the polls, you may still get an absentee ballot application Monday if you go to 450 W. 33rd St. 10th floor. It’s too late to get the candidates to promise better protection this year but you can still hold the winners accountable.