Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

As Power and Subways Return to New York, Normalcy Is Still a Long Way Off

The big news just breaking in New York City is that the 4, 5 and 6 subways, collectively known as the Lexington Avenue Line, are running end to end from the Bronx through Mahattan, all the way to Brooklyn, and the 7 line serving Manhattan and Queens is running, too. This is a substantial step forward for a city that relies so heavily on its mass transit system. On an average weekday, 5.2 million people rode the subway in 2011, and the entire system clocked more than 1.6 billion rides last year. Yet, as that now-iconic construction crane atop that high-rise construction site on 57th Street shows, things are still very much bent out of shape.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo just made the subway announcement in a press conference and via Twitter. Still ahead: Full service on the West Side lines, including the 1, 2 and 3, which, when I rode them on Thursday, only had service from the Bronx to only as far south as 34th St. in Manhattan. As you can see from the latest version of the Metro Transit Authority’s service map, updated this morning, there’s still lot of the system that’s not functioning.

#subway service btwn #Brooklyn & Manhattan! Gov: #MTA has restored 80% of NY #subway system #recovery
Andrew Cuomo

As you can see from Cuomo’s tweet, the other big news here is that power is starting to return. The friend I visited on the creepy darkened block on 39th St. the other night just emailed to say her power is back. The cable company has yet to restore TV and Internet service, but at least now she can stock up on groceries and take a hot shower. Power in other areas will unfortunately take longer to restore, and this will become a problem as the weather turns colder. The temperature in Central Park is not expected to get above 48 degrees this week; lows are expected to drop below freezing on Sunday and Monday.

A few other updates: Squarespace, the Web site service that chronicled its efforts to remain online when its hosting infrastructure was flooded, continues to run, thanks to a pump that replaced an ongoing bucket brigade that went on for days. Its latest status update is an iPhone-shot video showing the fuel pump operating.

Other cloud services and data-hosting providers in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn were variously running on backup power or not at all, or simply not saying anything, as ConEd promised that most of lower Manhattan would see power restored by tonight. Worst hit appeared to be Datagram, which said it was in the process of installing a new generator this morning.

Wireless carriers said they continued to be partially operational, and still struggling to get their full networks back on their feet. As of this morning, Verizon Wireless said that 98.1 percent of its cell sites in the Sandy-affected zone were operational, including some in Lower Manhattan. That’s up from 97.2 percent Friday morning. The company also updated its list of emergency device-charging stations, where people can top off the batteries of their numerous devices.

11/3 Update: 98.1% of VZW cell sites in #Sandy impact area operational; significant improvement in NY/NJ Metro, incl. lower Manhattan.
Verizon Wireless

AT&T was also setting up charging stations and setting up mobile cell sites to supplement its own damaged network.

Update: I just received an update from an AT&T spokesman on the latest concerning its network:

“As of Saturday morning, 96.5 percent of our cell sites are up and running across the region impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

“More than 90 percent of our cell sites across New York City including in Manhattan are up and running. We expect to make continued good progress as power and other infrastructure issues are resolved.”

T-Mobile, which operates a big switching center in the Tribeca section of Manhattan said it had deployed a temporary cell site on that building’s roof. T-Mobile said that, as of Friday, about 85 percent of its network in New York City was running. Sprint said its network was 90 percent operational throughout the affected region. It also said it will credit customers in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island for any late fees, overage charges or call-forwarding fees racked up between Oct. 20 and Nov. 28.

The Federal Communications Commission said that, as of Friday morning, about 15 percent of all cell sites in the affected areas it was tracking were still down. It hasn’t updated that estimate as of Saturday morning.

I wish I could report similarly good news for the wider region. While the media coverage has tended to focus a lot of attention on the power failures in Manhattan and the destruction all over New Jersey, especially on the famous Jersey Shore — and on the late and controversial cancellation of Sunday’s New York City Marathon — the scale of destruction and loss in Queens and especially Staten Island has only started to become clear. The official death toll in New York City is now 41, while the national total has risen to 109, on top of another 69 confirmed deaths in Haiti and Cuba.

As is always the case in these things, relief efforts can’t arrive soon enough if you’re the one in need. NBC held a one-hour telethon in primetime last night, which started with a moving performance by Staten Island native Christina Aguilera (see video below). The Red Cross said that by Friday it had raised $35 million for Sandy-related relief efforts, a lot of it via its $10-per-text campaign.

Of course, it goes without saying that if you haven’t done so yet, you should send a text message. Here’s what you do: Send a text saying REDCROSS to 90999 from your phone, and a $10 donation will appear on your next bill. You can also give online here.

You can also give to the Salvation Army by sending the word STORM to 80888 and then replying with the word YES to the follow-up text you receive.

In case you missed it, here’s a pair of clips from NBC’s benefit concert:

And if Christina isn’t your thing, there’s always The Boss. New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen finished off the show:

(Image via Flickr from Michael Arefyeff, of Coney Island the day after the storm. Used with permission.)

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