Scenes from Hurricane Irene: Another Lower East Side Walkabout

Posted on: August 28th, 2011 at 4:44 pm by

While assessing the damage on a post-hurricane walkabout, the streets on Sunday around noon – during the peak brunch hour – were eerily quiet. Almost every place was shut down, with virtually no cars along the usually busy First Avenue and Houston Street. Even businesses who normally boast that they are open 24 hours were closed up (which reminds us of the Steven Wright joke about how his nearby deli was open 24 hours…but not in a row).

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But some things are essential. Standing out among otherwise empty streets were the buzzing tables and benches at The Bean. Hard to tell whether the customers were there to swap hurricane stories or just in search of their typical Sunday morning caffeine and sugar rush.

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Large dislocated branches and fallen trees surreally populated the streets and sidewalks. Damage was visible inside the temporarily closed Tompkins Square Park and the Sunday farmers market was nowhere to be found. A very sad sight was spotted at La Plaza Cultural garden on East 9th Street where an enormous 45 year old willow tree had fallen over, its roots gaping up at passers-by. A small crowd straining at the police tape snapped cell phone photos, undoubtedly destined for their Facebook (or Bowery Boogie!) posts.

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Even earlier still, at our midnight dog-walk just before the height of the storm (with unhappy raincoated canine in tow), few beside those led by a dog’s schedule were out on the street. The only places open anywhere near Houston Street and Allen were the nearly empty National Underground (we’re guessing the few bodies at the bar were staff), along with a very quiet Stop One Deli on Allen Street. Checking in with the comically self-promoting deli owner today, we were proudly told “the hurricane was no big deal,” and that they always stay open, “so send all your friends.”

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What sold at the delis? Polling various local (and exhausted) store staff right before the storm, we were told the most in-demand items were (in no particular order): chocolate, ice cream, beer and condoms. “Go bags” be damned!

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Story and photos by Lori Greenberg

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