Manhattanites Flee the Country for City Sanctuaries as Sandy Approaches

Brown Harris Stevens broker John Burger spent the better part of Sunday afternoon dashing from one listing to the next.

Both the Carlyle and the Waldorf-Astoria are fully booked for the storm.

Brown Harris Stevens broker John Burger spent the better part of Sunday afternoon dashing from one listing to the next. He wasn’t preparing them for a slew of Monday showings (although there were a handful still scheduled), but for Hurricane Sandy.

“I’ve been visiting all my unoccupied listings, making sure that everything is hunkered down and bringing planters and furniture in off the terrace,” Mr. Burger told The Observer. “Those planters and outdoor objects become flying objects when a storm hits.”

Mr. Burger said that he’d also been checked to make sure that all windows and doors were properly latched in the empty apartments. Although unlike the subway, showings were not stopping for the hurricane. As of Sunday evening, one of his listings on Fifth Avenue still had three showings scheduled for Monday, although so as not to leave out any buyers marooned in the country, they were postponing the sealed bids until Wednesday at 6 p.m.

As for the occupied listings, most of the owners had rushed back to Manhattan.

“People are, if anything, in the city,” he noted.

Indeed, Manhattanites seem to prefer sitting out Sandy in apartments, townhouses and hotels. Even those passed the better part of the weekend at their country homes battening hatches and moving lawn furniture opted to drive back to the city before the hurricane struck.

“I just spent all day in the country. We were trying to decide, do we stay in the country or come back to the city. But in the country we were afraid we’d lose power, that there would be trees falling,” said painter and Upper East Side social fixture Michelle Marie Heinemann, who left her Connecticut country home in the care of the two live-in caretakers before motoring back to the Upper East Side.

Ms. Heinemann told us that she been rushing around for the last two days, laying in extra cell phone batteries, food, candles, formula for the baby, buying games and coloring books to keep the children occupied, and gassing up the couple’s four cars in case of emergency. She had also asked her laundress to come in yesterday to do all the washing. “I thought if she couldn’t come in I’d be stuck,” Ms. Heinemann said.

“I do feel safer here than in the country. The country is beautiful and we have a generator, but you never know and it’s a big house,” she said. “I’m totally prepared. I bought a ton of coffee and I have a lot of champagne here, so I know I’m stocked up.”

Kirk Henckels, the executive vice president at Stribling, had also zipped back to the Upper East Side from Millbrook with his wife Fernanda Kellogg.

“I didn’t want to be trapped outside the city,” he said. “I’m not worried about losing power on the Upper East Side. I am worried about losing it in Millbrook.”

Mr. Henckels said that he’d laid in a supply of food, movies and a couple of good books. He expected that most appointments would be canceled on Monday as at least one of the four people present at each would have a hard time making it, although life would most likely continue as always on the Upper East Side, with doormen and a skeleton building staff staying at the buildings for security purposes.

“I think there are going to be a lot of very soggy doormen who are asked to walk the dowager’s poodles,” he noted.

His colleague Elizabeth Ann Kivlan, the director of marketing and business development, had also just come back from the country after she finished securing her Connecticut home—dragging everything outside inside lest they become projectiles.

“I came back. I know the odds of me having power here are a lot higher. New York is a better place to ride it out. I’m in a town of 2,000 in Litchfield County.”

Nor had Prudential Douglas Elliman broker Lisa Simonsen fled the city. “We’re not going to leave, we’re staying right here on Fifth Avenue,” said Ms. Simonsen, adding that most of her friends were staying put as well. Even the nanny was coming into the city to stay with the family until to storm blew out to sea. Having taken care of all her preparations, she would wait, see, and hope for the best when it came to the family’s home in Southhampton, which was, unfortunately, very close to the beach.

High ground is certainly an advantage in a hurricane—and most of Brown Harris Stevens broker Paula Del Nunzio‘s listings are on high ground. Not that showing them during a hurricane will be easy, Mr. Del Nunzio told us.

“I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to do, but we do have some very die hard people who still want to see listings,” she said.

In fact, even some people who don’t have apartments in New York have packed their bags to wait out Sandy here. Both the Carlyle and the Waldorf-Astoria, along with just about every other hotel in the city, are booked full.

“The phones have been going nonstop since I came in at three,” said Theresa Zimmerman, the Carlyle’s front desk agent. Ms. Zimmerman said that guests had been arriving from Connecticut and Long Island, as well as from other parts of New York City, particularly Lower Manhattan and Tribeca. She had also seen more than a few refugees from glass highrises, wary of the combination of high winds and high floors. All hotels are required to have generators, she told us, so guests are not only assured of room service and fresh linens, but also electricity. (Staff are staying at the hotel to guarantee five-star service even if the subways remain down for several days).

The Waldorf-Astoria was also full Sunday night, with evacuated New Yorkers, grounded travelers and wealthy New Yorkers who’d decided that they’d rather not spend their time hoarding food and other supplies. The restaurant in the hotel would stay open no matter what, we were told.

“Generally, a hotel is the best place to be in a storm,” the man at the front desk told us. “We have food supplies for a week.”

Food and a staff to cook it. Certainly beats stale bread and canned soup.

Manhattanites Flee the Country for City Sanctuaries as Sandy Approaches