East Village Weathers the Superstorm

UntitledDaniel Maurer FDR Drive near East 10th.

East Villagers woke up to waterlogged cars, downed trees, limited cell phone reception, and an acrid smell in the air – a lingering reminder of a circuit-breaker explosion at the Con Edison plant on 14th Street that preceded a blackout affecting nearly all of Manhattan south of 39th Street.

Next to the facility, on 13th Street east of Avenue C, a half dozen people attempted to dry out and jump-start cars that had been underwater hours before, as other vehicles sat in garages where water still stood above tire level. On Avenue C, a Stuy Town resident tended to a Volvo with a smashed window. The man, who did not want to be named, said he had tried to drive the car out of an underground garage after he looked out of his apartment window and saw river water beginning to gush up Avenue C.

UntitledDaniel Maurer

Within five to ten minutes, he said, the water was up to mid-thigh level. “I tried to get out of the garage and as soon as I hit the gate it was a wall of water,” he said. When he realized the water had reached his car window, he bailed out and waded through a chest-level “river,” dodging floating vehicles as he tried to get to shallower waters on 14th Street. “Cars were afloat. All I needed was one car to blow me into the wall. It was chaotic,” he said, adding that the scene became “9/11-like” when a circuit-breaker exploded at the Con Ed plant, just a block away, and plunged the neighborhood into darkness around 8:30 p.m.

On Avenue D, Joseph Rossello, a resident of Jacob Riis Houses, said he heard a “heavyset” woman screaming as the water rose above the bumper of her car, near East 10th Street and Avenue C. She had to be helped out by authorities, he said.

UntitledDaniel Maurer Tree down at Cooper Triangle.

The lobby of 411 Avenue D and other buildings were flooded with about four inches of water, Mr. Rossello said.

At East Eighth Street and Avenue C – where one of the storm’s more dramatic photos was taken – a car that had been submerged in water was littered with leaves.

This morning, block-long sections of FDR Drive were still flooded. East River Park, where many trees were down, was still closed to pedestrians, though many disregarded police tape and used overpasses to access the disheveled park.

UntitledDaniel Maurer BP sign at 1st and 2nd Ave.

On Avenues D, C, and even B, businesses spent the day pumping water out of basements. At Edi and the Wolf, one of the few restaurants open Monday night, the owners, who had partied with the windows open the night before, quaffed wine and nibbled on cheese as they used a generator to pump water onto the sidewalk. One of them, Laura Tribuno, estimated that the storm may have done as much as $100,000 worth of damage to freezers, a beer system, and dry goods in the basement.

“Until 9 p.m., everything was great,” said Ms. Tribuno. But as she noticed water threaten to enter the dining room, she kicked out customers and closed up shop. “By the time we left it was at waist level,” she said.

Further up Avenue C, the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space took advantage of a bicycle-powered generator, originally designed by Time’s Up for use at Occupy Wall Street. The museum had planned to open Nov. 17, so its basement was stocked with artifacts of the urban homesteading movement when water began gushing in.

UntitledDaniel Maurer Garage on C.

Bill DiPaola, the co-founder of M.O.R.U.S. said he and his colleagues were able to save about 20 percent of the basement’s content, including back issues of anarchist newspaper The Shadow and photos documenting the Critical Mass, Occupy Wall Street, and community garden movements. Some of Harvey Wong’s photos of Adam Purple were damaged by water, said Mr. DiPaola.

Many of the neighborhood’s bodegas were doing business this afternoon. “Thank you for being open,” a local resident told an owner of Sheen Brothers on Avenue B.

There were many freebies to be had: outside of St. Mark’s Market and others, owners gave away pints of ice cream. A few dozen people lined up outside of a candlelit 11B for free slices of pizza; around the corner, Northern Spy Co. ladled free corn chowder into paper baskets. Ray’s Candy Store and Ciao for Now sold ice coffee while B.A.D. Burger managed to sell hot cups for $3 a pop. Elsewhere Espresso enacted a “bring your own” cup model. On Avenue B, Paradiso sold tiramisu at three for $5.

UntitledDaniel Maurer Flooding on C.

A block away from Paradiso, fallen limbs, branches and trees were strewn about Tompkins Square Park, which remained closed, and adjacent sidewalks. Fallen or damaged trees were also seen at Jardin del Paradiso, Cooper Triangle, and various community gardens, and on sidewalks throughout the neighborhood.

Other fallen objects included store awnings, signage at the BP on the corner of East First Street and Second Avenue (it fell about an hour before the storm touched down, according to an employee) and a streetlamp that, DNA Info reported, injured two people when it fell at FDR Drive just north of East Houston Street. Near 23rd Street and the East River, a gas pump at a BP station had toppled onto its side.

At the ConEd plant, workers cleared standing water as rubbernecking residents, who flooded the area around Avenue D in unprecedented numbers, took photos of the plant’s tattered American flag. Mayor Bloomberg said this morning that the vast majority of those without power would not have their service restored before the weekend, though he also said “service in some places will come on in the next day or so.”

UntitledDaniel Maurer ConEd cleanup.

The spectacular, booming explosion of a circuit-breaker at the 14th Street facility – captured on a video that has gone viral – wasn’t actually responsible for the power outage that immediately followed, Con Edison’s senior vice president for systems operations told The Times. Rather, the outage was triggered by a water surge that submerged relays. As a Con Edison spokesperson told The Local early in the morning, 10 distribution networks went offline. (See our liveblog archive for a real-time, photo-driven account of events as they unfolded until 4 a.m. this morning.)

The Times also reported that service has been restored to several bus lines, the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade has been cancelled, and the Army Corps of Engineers has been called in to clear subways of water.

As of 6 p.m., 18 storm-related deaths had been reported citywide.