When Hurricane Irene finally blew through the city Sunday morning as a mere tropical storm, many New Yorkers were left disappointed. No, not primarily because of the inconvenience of suspended Subway service, the annoyance of a flooded basement or the over zealousness of a few public officials, though there was plenty of that, too. No, these New Yorkers were angry at Mother Nature for not putting up more of a fight.
“I have to say, if we’re going to be stuck inside for 48 hours, I was hoping for at least more excitement,” Carly Frasier Doria said yesterday afternoon, the sun shining from the clear blue sky as she was returning from a Starbucks run at 43rd and Sixth, Frappuccino in hand. “It’s good nobody got killed, I guess. But a little more excitement would have been good. Not so much that anyone died, but enough to keep things interesting.”
“The worst part was that they shut the subways down,” her coworker Emily Turner said, sipping on a grande. “Even though it was boring, there was nothing to do. You couldn’t go visit your friends.”
“All the bars in Dumbo were closed,” corrected Ms. Frasier Doria. “That was the worst part. I really needed a cocktail. And the next morning, there was no coffee.”
Irene was no hurricane. It wasn’t even a tropical storm, it turns out. It was a case of tropical depression.
It was something The Observer began to hear Sunday morning, before the storm had even entirely cleared. We’d woken up with a twinge of it ourselves, having (for the most part) slept through the worst of the storm, cooped up in our apartments with ample supplies of candles and tuna fish. The one upside is the liquor cabinet is now more fully stocked.
Joe Ammon lives on Clay Street in Greenpoint. “We are across the street from Zone A, but we weren’t as concerned about Newton Creek jumping it’s banks as we would’ve been if we were in the Rockaways,” he told The Observer in an email. “We did the most basic preparation. Stocked a bit on food (and beer/wine), bottled water, batteries for flashlight and radio.
“I definitely figured I had more time than the city was giving me to make a decision whether or not to evacuate—but then again, I’m a 26 year old single guy, and I can pack up and leave in half a minute,” Mr. Ammon continued. “I guess I’m disappointed I didn’t live through a hurricane, but I’m also a little relieved that the city seems to have a plan for these kinds of emergencies.”
Jen Chu actually thought the storm was a missed opportunity for New York. “I think the idea of some kind of a disaster brings people together and gives us a way to relate to each other,” she said. “Events like this create dialogue between strangers which is exciting and refreshing so in that sense, everyone wanted to be a part of the hype.”
While a more severe storm posed a certain threat, there was really only two things Ms. Chu was worried about. “I wanted to witness it, but I live in a 115 year old building so the practical part of me knew that I would most likely have to deal with roof leaks,” she said. “And let’s be honest, everyone wanted the hurricane to hit hard—as long as the Internet stayed on. What would we do if we were cooped inside without Netflix or Twiiter?”
Rami Metal, a community liaison for City Councilman Stephen Levin (almost all of whose Greenpoint-to-Brooklyn-Heights district was in Zone A), echoed the digirati’s concerns. “I think most people had some fun with it and in retrospect some of the prep seems a bit overkill, but I don’t really think that people wanted their power down for a few days,” Mr. Metal wrote in an email. “It would have made witty tweeting more difficult.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his Sunday afternoon press conference, was having none of it. “They should just look in the mirror” and be thankful he said of the tropically depressed. “They’re alive today.”
Ava Asher, a medical student living on the Upper East Side, was annoyed that she might not be able to fly out the next day for a month-long rotation in Denver. She had just returned to the city from a rotation in Norwalk, Conn., so that she could fly out. That was before the storm sort of hit. “I got an automated message on Friday night that my Sunday morning flight had been cancelled, ‘please call us back if you would like to rebook,’” she said. “An hour-and-a-half of hold music later, I’m flying tomorrow.” The Observer informed her that the mayor had just said there might not be any flights then. Her depression grew.
Ms. Asher thought the whole thing was a ploy, a back-door economic stimulus plan. “I was in a taxi on Friday night, and the driver was like, this is all a plan to get federal financial assistance, and I was like, yep. It most likely is.” She saw evidence of this right outside. “I had never seen so much activity around the 92nd Sreet bars of Yorkville,” she said. “People were obviously staying close to home to get their drinks, which isn’t the usual agenda, which involves catching trains to the Lower East Side.”
In Carroll Gardens, at the nexus of Zone-A neighborhoods Red Hook and Gowanus, tropical depression was still blowing in off New York harbor yesterday.
“I was pissed off because I’m in from out of town to visit my sister and her boyfriend,” Nick Berks told The Observer while waiting for a airport-bound livery cab on Smith Street, a large chest tattoo poking out above the collar of his black T-shirt. “I wish it hadn’t happened, because we had plans to go to the museums and Broadway. It was a letdown, because if you’re stuck inside a bar all day and all night, it might as well have been for a good reason besides getting wasted.”
Bradley Guin, the boyfriend, blamed The Observer, in a way. “I think the media is responsible,” he said from under a Yankees cap. “They overhyped it and got everyone worked up.” It wouldn’t be the first time we’d brought on some mental malady
Next door, at eight-year-old institution Frankies 457, the backyard was packed, with a wait to get in. Apparently people were taking the day off from work, which had as much to do with the state of the M.T.A (actually pretty good!) as their state of mind (not so much). Nothing a meatball parm could not cure.
Cassandra Rose was sitting on a bench in Cobble Hill park, texting her friends about the storm while enjoying a 16-ounce sugar-free Red Bull. “I’m a photographer, so I was up all night working,” she said. “At about 6 A.M., I thought, O.K., this is a storm, but we had this two weeks ago. I was hoping for something special, because I don’t photograph landscapes, mostly just people. I was hoping for some real chaos so I could really go to town.”
Still, there were those New Yorkers who had been fortunate enough to have been spared by tropical depression. “That’s puerile,” a woman named Bridgette said from behind Jackie-O-sized black sunglasses on Carroll Street next to the rising track of the F and G trains, where they come up from underground. “I’m thrilled there was no hurricane and our toxic canal over there didn’t flood,” she added, gesturing to the nearby banks of the Superfunded Gowanus.
At Bar Great Henry, The Observer got perhaps the chilliest reception of all. We asked the bartendress if she had been suffering the effects of tropical depression, or had heard them from her customers. She stiffened. “No,” she said. “I wasn’t working this weekend, and I just opened.” Two juggernauts at the end of the bar, members of FDNY, DSNY or NYPD as best we could tell, began to mutter something about fucking ingrates.
Sam Roberts was walking his husky, Kameara, nearby. “Not me, but I’ve heard that,” he said of his friends and acquaintances who were suffering from the after effect of the non-effects of Hurricane Irene. “For me, anyway, I was happy there wasn’t more destruction because we’re right on the flood zone,” he said, adding, “I’m just glad we didn’t have to spend the night in a shelter.”
Mr. Roberts echoed a refrain The Observer heard from those who thought tropical depression was, like so many other psychiatric problems, an invention of an overactive mind, one that seems to gravitate to—and may even be fostered by—New York City. “If it would have been worse, people would have complained about that, instead,” he said.
Back in Midtown, at the Original Penguin store across from Bryant Park, the two saleswomen agreed. “Oh God,” Courtney said. “It’s just a stupid thing. In Florida and the Bahamas, people have to live through it all the time. People are just curious. It’s like the earthquake. Some people are like, ‘Oh, I missed it.’ Really? You want to live through that? I’m from Houston, but here’s it’s unusual, so I guess they do.”
“You should be lucky,” Genie, who grew up here, said. “It’s a New York thing to complain.”
Charles Cho will cop to that. “I was out Saturday night, at this rooftop party, and it was really cool,” he said. “Still, I would have liked to have seen some signs flying around and people falling down.” How depressing.