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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
New Yorkers get by with help from friends
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Nov 1, 2012


After US storm, governor Cuomo warns price-hikers
New York (AFP) Nov 1, 2012 - New York state governor Andrew Cuomo warned utility companies Thursday against price-hiking after superstorm Sandy, as he announced further reopening of subway lines and trains servicing the suburbs.

"Do not try to take advantage of New Yorkers," he said, stating that if the state believes public energy and transport companies are not being diligent or doing the right thing, they could lose their certification.

"It is not just restoration of power, families are living in hardship," Cuomo said, encouraging locals to check on their neighbors.

"Most utility companies are working very hard... but it is not about a good faith effort, it is about getting the job done," he added.

Several lines connecting Manhattan to Long Island and northern areas will reopen or return to normal service late Thursday or early Friday, along with subway lines between the Queens area and Manhattan.

The Holland Tunnel, a highway tunnel under the Hudson River that links the Manhattan to Jersey City, will also reopen Friday, but for buses only.

Tunnels under the East River that had been flooded after the devastation were finally cleared and will be reopened once power returns, Cuomo said.

New York is slowly bringing its subway system back online after water gushed into much of the network, and traffic jams have snarled the city's streets.

But transport remains impossible on the southern tip of the island, where there are still power cuts.

Shellshocked by Hurricane Sandy, their homes dark, cold and sometimes wet too, many of the New Yorkers worst affected by the storm are relying on the kindness of friends, relatives and even strangers.

And in a city often depicted as harsh and unfriendly, residents have rushed to offer support -- in the form of electrical supply, a bed for the night or a hot meal.

Jordan Elpern-Waxman lost electricity and heat in his Lower East Side apartment when the storm hit, and turned to Gina Shedid, a friend in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, which was largely unaffected by the storm.

"There's no electricity, no heat, no hot water. I decided I was going to leave pretty much right away because I needed to work," he said.

"Everybody in Manhattan was housing people, it's like upper Manhattan became a refugee camp for everyone from lower Manhattan. I talked to Gina and she said 'We have this extra bedroom.'"

Angie Dykshorn, a 36-year-old photographer, lost power in her East Village apartment and has been charging her phone at a makeshift stand powered by a bicycle, one of many free charging opportunities across the city.

"There are a few places serving free food: Charcoal BBQ on Avenue C and a noodle place on 10th Street giving out free fried noodles," she said.

Other businesses in the city have been doing their part as well.

Banks, grocery stores and even food trucks have offered up their power supply to those in need and some gyms have offered free use of their shower facilities to those without hot water.

A group of bike messengers have also banded together to provide free delivery to those in need.

Online, dozens of people posted messages on Craigslist and various listservs, offering to help however they can.

"Setting up supply/food/water hub on the Upper West Side to take down to the Lower East Side," wrote Monica O'Malley on one network calling itself "Occupy Sandy," after the Occupy Wall Street protest movement in New York's financial district.

Non-profit worker Cecilia Pineda, 22, signed up with various websites offering her time. She participated in a cleanup effort in Brooklyn and has been organizing food and meal supplies for those affected by the storm.

"I just felt very fortunate for where I was and that nothing happened to me. I lost power, but realizing the damage that other people went through, I wanted to help," she said.

In Melissa Maldonado-Salcedo's Lower East Side building, many residents are too old or frail to leave.

"Some people have cooked everything they had in their fridges, so it wouldn't spoil, and have been sharing food door-to-door," she said.

"I live in a gentrified neighborhood... but 'hipsters' and people from the projects pulled together."

Maldonado-Salcedo has helped neighbors by hauling water from city pumps in the streets up multiple flights of stairs in their building, where the power outage means there is no elevator.

Beyond the most immediate needs -- food, water, shelter -- other New Yorkers are helping small companies survive while their offices are unusable.

Charlie O'Donnell, the 33-year-old head of a local venture capital fund, has helped organize "coworking" opportunities -- connecting displaced workers with offices willing to offer them temporary workspaces.

"It was right after the storm when I started reaching out to companies that I had invested in," he told AFP. "People started reaching out to me to see if I knew places where they could work."

Using the Twitter hashtag #sandycoworking, he has helped match dozens of companies in need of a space with free desk spots.

For some, the spirit of coming together in the most difficult of times recalls the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"It's similar to after 9/11," Dykshorn said. "It's hard to get news with no power so we are all relying on each other for information and all helping people out."

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