As Sandy Strikes, Storm-Night Exploring, Instagram and Ruin...

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OCTOBER 30, 2012

As Sandy Strikes, Storm-Night Exploring, Instagram and Ruin Porn

When the worst of the storm was over, the tides had gone down, and we’d drunk enough wine and been cooped up inside long enough to feel daring, my roommates and I left our apartment for a fact-finding mission. We were lucky enough to have power, and, like many home-bound New Yorkers, had been monitoring twitter all night for vital information and frightening pictures and middling jokes. There were already terrible, sad stories when we left our house–the Chelsea apartment building whose facade had ripped off, the awful news that the NYU hospital’s backup generators had failed, the utter devastation of the Atlantic City boardwalk, the death of a man in Queens from a falling tree, the dangling crane at One57–and more tragedy and cost is going to emerge this week and month. But the most compelling image, we agreed, was the photo of Jane’s Carousel in the not-far-from-us Brooklyn Bridge park, lit up and jewel-box-like, but surrounded by water from the East River. It was oddly beautiful, and a metaphor for ... everything. Man v nature. Bloomberg’s gilded New York. The compulsion to instagram during a hurricane. You name it. But was the picture real?

It turns out the most risk-embracing New Yorkers are the dog owners, closely followed by the smokers, and then the amateur photographers. The streets, as we moved from our nearly dry high elevation into Dumbo proper, were actually lovely: quiet and full of wet, fall-smelling leaves and only the occasional aluminum siding or stray screen window. The trash was stacked nicely. The storm seemed, possibly, exaggerated, and the mild wind was a little bit thrilling. People hadn’t wanted to leave their fancy high rise apartments in the neighborhood, and it seemed as if they weren’t so wrong after all to assume their money would buy them safety.

Our first stop was the Vinegar Hill Con Edison plant: it was, as Twitter had promised, flooded. Oh. Photos. A half-lit Manhattan just visible over the horizon. Texts. Next up, the public space near the Dumbo archway, where planters too heavy for any of us to lift were blown clean over. Tweets. Next, down a dry street and past some ineffectual police tape until a swamp stopped us. Powerhouse Arenas, the neighborhood’s bookstore, was completely flooded: the proprietors had packed up the premises as best as possible, but stray paperbacks idled in shallow, scummy water, barely visible through the night-dark glass. The carousel wasn’t gettable, but this was a pretty good metaphor too. I zoomed on with my camera to no effect; so did the half dozen or so other adventurers getting in on the ground floor of the ruin porn game. “That’s a really cool shot if you had the right lighting for it,” said one.

He was right, and I felt gross. We went home.

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posted in: atlantic city, new york, new york, bloomberg, nyu, the plank

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