Hurricane Irene: Ready for storm, but at what cost?

Anthony Cali uses a hand saw to cut up a tree downed by Hurricane Irene along West Houston Street yesterday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed New Yorkers he will do whatever it takes to fight Mother Nature — but at what cost to the city and his reputation?

A 42-hour shutdown of the city’s transit system displaced more than 5 million riders who normally ride the rails on weekends. An MTA spokeswoman said they don’t have an estimate yet of how much the shutdown cost them. But if every one of those riders bought a $2.50 single-ride MetroCard, the closure would cost NYC Transit nearly $13 million just in farebox revenue.

In Queens, cabbie Muhammed Yakubu lamented the $400 he could have made driving Saturday and Sunday, when New Yorkers were told to keep off the streets. 

“They kept on talking about it 24/7 and getting everyone scared,” he said. “I think it was too much.”
The other cost may be to Bloomberg’s image among New Yorkers, some of whom said he was merely trying to redeem himself after a botched response to the December blizzard.

“How many people did they evacuate in Zone A that they didn’t need to?” wondered Robert Champeau, 37, a Greenpoint resident who was asked to leave his home, but instead stayed.

But Staten Island fire captain James Melvin — whose firefighters rescued 61 people trapped in an apartment complex filled with water — said saving lives is priceless.

“I think they did a great job,” he said. “You’ve got to use a little caution.”

Still in the dark

More than 60,000 homes in the city lost power over the weekend due to the storm, and more than half those homes still remained without power as of yesterday afternoon. According to Con Edison, 32,000 homes were still in the dark, many of those outages due to downed trees on power lines. Queens was the worst hit; 21,000 homes there didn’t have power, followed by Staten Island. 

Complacency next time?

The next time the city orders residents to leave their homes for a hurricane or other natural disaster, New Yorkers may not listen, warned Ronaldo Dailey, a Red Hook shop owner who decided to ride out the storm in the apartment above his store. “People are going to say, ‘Oh no, you made me do it last time, and it wasn’t worth it. You were wrong.’” 

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @AlisonatMetro.


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