MANHATTAN
     
New York 1911, George Bellows

new york Wednesday 31_10_2012. Electricity recovered Sunday 4_11_2012
Thursday, 1st of November 2012, the Aspen Institute held in New York the annual awards dinner. Some days before this event, the hurricane`Sandy` hit the east coast of the U.S. The New York Magazine wrote the article `The City and the Storm`;

The calm before the storm was much too calm, which should have been a clue. Forecasters had been talking about a potential Halloween hurricane—the Frankenstorm was its ­headline-ready name—for two weeks. They thought it might be bigger than the hurricane of 1938; its barometric pressure was already a few ticks lower. The twist about this one, endlessly dissected, was that it was actually going to be two storms: Sandy would head north and encounter another weather system coming down from the northeast, a bank shot that would send the storm directly at New Jersey and a surge straight into the harbor, which is a natural funnel—New York’s own perfect storm.

The subway was shut down early on Sunday night, more than 24 hours before expected landfall, and Mayor Bloomberg, a reborn weather alarmist after the 2010 blizzard, canceled school and told people to read a good book. Monday felt like Sunday on Seconal. For entertainment, we had breathless newscasters standing in puddles in their wet-weather gear, heralding the Storm of the Century that no one believed would really happen. “What preparations are you making?” asked an out-of-towner. “We have a lot of tea lights!” said the New Yorker, suggesting that anything more might be overkill.

Outside, there was a gusting breeze, pulsing sheets of blowing spray. Inside was a flashlight, maybe some tuna and sardines, a disaster pantry left over, unused, from Irene.And then it started. It hit New York first out in the boroughs, a fourteen-foot surge pushing into the swampy lowlands of Staten Island, floating houses off their foundations, flooding people’s cars before they realized they were in danger.

At Breezy Point, a fire had started at seven with the tide rising. In Red Hook, the water had crested the bank that afternoon, making no exceptions, swamping the housing projects and the Fairway and the artisans’ studios with six feet of water. Finally, Manhattan itself began to be submerged. Water poured over the esplanades that are one of Bloomberg’s most impressive legacies, swamping bodegas on the East Side, lapping the High Line on the West Side. At ground zero, 30 feet of water poured into the famous bathtub—submerging our last disaster. But that was only the beginning. Because then, the lights went out. Well, some of the lights. The city was sharply divided, zones of dark and light, a whole new demarcation of haves and have-nots. The line ran diagonally across the city, from 39th Street on the East Side to roughly 26th on the West. North and South quickly became two separate cities, one rich in power, the other suddenly, stunningly impoverished. And within the lower half, there were further new divisions.

Those with cars (and means) could leave, the rest were stuck; some had gas burners, the rest ate their food cold; those with water towers had at least a few days with running water, others had to make do with hydrants. The drama of unequal division uncannily defined the crisis, just as it had an election year that was finally coming to an end.

While Manhattan seemed to occupy center stage for much of the time, Sandy’s real sufferers were in the boroughs and New Jersey—Breezy Point, Staten Island, City Island, the Rockaways, the kinds of blue-collar places where most of the first responders came from, too. This was one of the many ways in which the event couldn’t help but bring memories of 9/11 to mind.
The first major symbol of the storm was the collapse of the crane atop One57, the very well-hyped 90-story tower that was poised to be the most expensive residential building in the city, with a $90 million penthouse. Comeuppance perhaps, but the omens were mixed.

The generators at NYU’s hospital flooded and failed, leaving doctors and nurses to carry patients down the stairs in near darkness; but the Goldman Sachs tower was a supernatural beacon of light in the midst of the storm. Who did they have to pay? was the obvious thought.

When power was restored, Manhattan got it first, leaving many of the city’s suburbs in the cold. And yet most of Kings County woke up after the storm to full power, and Internet and cell-phone service, where lower Manhattan would be dark for days, which was just another reminder of Brooklyn’s ascendancy.

For those without power, the days after Sandy were a strange interregnum, a kind of shadow life. It turned out that what we were waiting for right before the storm was waiting, which was its own special kind of suffering. It was the calm after the storm, and calm is not why New Yorkers live here. Without electricity, the whole point of New York seemed to fray, then disappear.

New Yorkers live with the illusion that you can do anything in the world that you might possibly want to do, even if in fact you may pass out on your couch. For the abruptly powerless, this faith was shaken—if a cup of coffee was a struggle, what else could you aspire to?

And the absence of phones and Internet further cut our ties. In New York, many of us live partly vicariously. We’re image processors, symbol manipulators. Things that happen elsewhere are evaluated and reworked and sent back out. After the gusts, there was a sense of airlessness, which was the absence of information. Cell phones drained to 45 percent, then 37, then 8, a metric that augured the end of connection itself. “It’s almost like you’re dead,” said a downtowner. “The people are trying to contact you, but you’re beyond all that now.”

With nowhere to go, the pace slowed down. Downtown was populated by walkers in groups of two to three, ambling like hayseeds—or extras in The Walking Dead—looking for an open deli, of which there were only a few, to be browsed in the dark with a flashlight. Suddenly, downtown was not the place to be.

Because life was going on elsewhere. Uptown, they had lights and cell phones and coffee and web service and delis and restaurants. They could live like New Yorkers, like human beings. Rumors filtered down from this paradise, rubbing it in. But making the trek uptown could be disappointing. The borderland is not the most appealing of neighborhoods in the best of circumstances. But at the dividing line between darkness and light, residents of SoPo (newly coined, for South of Power) engaged in a hellish 10 a.m. scramble for coffee and bagels, or queued up in long lines for Korean-deli steam tables, as the morning patrons of Muldoon’s on Third Avenue had their smokes and watched.

The most desperate search, of course, was for outlets to charge cell phones. A couple of days in, the always trendy Ace Hotel took pity on these poor refugees and ran power strips onto the sidewalk—attracting a kind of information breadline.
In the West Village, people lined up with their phones on the waterfront, trying to catch a signal from New Jersey.

monument Absence of reflection

Europa Cafe 1_11_12 Madison Square

towards UN

Obama visited Staten Island

to fight climate change, New York goes Dutch

A bit gallingly, downtown’s most foresighted and well-heeled swells had already relocated uptown. Graydon Carter and Anna Wintour, among others, were said to have taken up residence at the Mark; a lot of the younger crowd, led by Emma Watson, were at the Carlyle.
Uptown was the new downtown. On Halloween Night, Bemelmans was packed.

Lower Manhattan, rather than the ultimate destination, became a place to go through to get somewhere else, as the enormous traffic jams attested. Downtown was driveover country. At night, it seemed to be a natural landscape, a dark canyonland, gorgeous and lonely. As in all New York disasters, New Yorkers weren’t strangers anymore. Out surveying the damage with flashlights, people stopped to talk in tones of hushed amazement. Neighbors needed food and news. Just as with 9/11, the community of New York, always present, was brought into the open.

In some ways, Sandy confirmed our communitarian values, underlining the importance of a government that makes a point of helping out—and that global warming was a problem to be dealt with. (Chris Christie even precipitously switched presidential-candidate best friends.) But no New Yorker can stay a sentimentalist too long. It didn’t take much time before the complaints and bickering began, and everything turned darker as the real misery became more apparent.

The death toll kept rising as searchers pushed into the worst-hit areas—it stood at 100 people as of Friday—and some lost everything, over 100 houses in Breezy Point alone. And the city was not exactly overwhelmed with rescue workers and Red Cross trucks. Fury mounted with every hour that electricity and heat and food failed to arrive. In Alphabet City, in Red Hook, out in Staten Island, there were people who needed to fill buckets from hydrants, or scrounge from Dumpsters. By the end of the week, it was clear who was suffering and who had been merely inconvenienced. The news from the outer-boroughs was especially grim; people were fighting over gasoline; scenes from The Road.

The images of water pouring into subways and banks, cars submerged on Avenue A, escalators that needed to be ridden with scuba equipment, brought to mind an apocalypse of a specific kind, another lost city—Atlantis. Was this what New York could become? It’s hard to remember, a decade after 9/11, how fragile downtown seemed then, and how long it struggled. But one of the many differences between that event and this one is that, for all the struggle, no one doubted for a moment in the months after 9/11 that New York was at the center of the world, which was a consolation, reinforcing the amour-propre that is a city hallmark. Out-of-towners were solicitous for years afterward. Whereas by Thursday of last week, Los Angelenos were already complaining about not getting their calls returned.

One of the ways to look at a natural disaster is as a test, a challenge to be met, and by these measures, New York City was succeeding. By week’s end, normalcy was being returned—if not yet those L.A. phone calls.

The arguing over the marathon was a healthy sign: not could we, but should we? The world should have such troubles. But for hundreds of years, the harbor had given New York its power. In less than 24 hours, it took it away. As we are reminded more and more often these days, it doesn’t take long to turn everything on its head. Estimated financial damage: $ 60 billion.

Almost one year ago, Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore. In that short time, we've made incredible progress rebuilding. 19 August, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan released a report from the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force highlighting all the ways we're helping the affected region -- and how communities can plan for the future:

Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: Helping Communities Prepare for the Impacts of a Changing Climate

From New Orleans to Cedar Rapids to Tuscaloosa to Minot – I have walked the streets and looked in the eyes of families whose lives have come crashing down around them under nature’s wrath. But nothing prepared me to come back home to New York City last October and look in the eyes of my friend who lost his daughter to Hurricane Sandy.  Nothing prepared me to see neighborhoods—many of which had served as the backdrop of my childhood—completely unrecognizable. This was all due to the devastating storm that hit our shores in the fall with a power and a fury unlike anything most of us had ever seen before. Entire neighborhoods were flooded. Families and small business owners lost everything in a single night. Infrastructure was torn apart.  In short, it was one of the most painful chapters in the region’s history and the Obama administration has been committed to helping communities turn the page.

We have worked closely with State and Local governments up and down the East Coast to help prepare for and respond to the storm.  Within a week of Sandy making landfall we had 17,000 federal responders on the ground, helping displaced families find shelter and getting communities back on their feet. In addition, the scope of the damage made clear that more assistance was needed, which is why the President fought for, and Congress ultimately passed, a supplemental funding bill providing tens of billions of dollars to help rebuild impacted communities. The President also knew that we needed to do two key things:

1. cut red tape to get assistance where it was needed as quickly as possible, and
2. coordinate the efforts of all of the Federal agencies to support local communities as they rebuilt in a way that made them more resilient. That’s why he created the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, which I have the honor to chair.

For the past six months we have worked closely with our Federal partners to find ways to get funding and other assistance where it’s needed more effectively and efficiently. To date, the Administration has provided assistance to nearly 255,000 people and thousands of businesses. FEMA alone has provided $12 billion in funding to individuals and communities. Additional funding from the supplemental funding bill continues to flow into the region. And, today, I’m proud to release the Hurricane Sandy Task Force’s Rebuilding Strategy (for highlights from the strategy here) – which will help guide the investment of these funds and, in the bigger picture, assist communities across the nation in preparing for the increasing risks caused by extreme weather.

The President has been clear – most recently in his Climate Action Plan– that we have an obligation to protect the planet for the next generation, just as our parents and grandparents handed us a better planet. He has outlined a plan to cut carbon pollution that harms our health and our planet – and that is contributing to greater risks of asthma attacks and more severe floods and heat waves that drive up food prices. He has also been clear that, as we take responsible steps to cut carbon pollution, we must prepare communities across the country for the impacts of climate change, many of which are already being felt.

The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force’s Rebuilding Strategy lays out a series of recommendations that will help the Sandy-impacted region rebuild in a way that will prepare them for these impacts – and that will serve as models for communities across the country. 'Rebuild by Design' was founded as a response to Superstorm Sandy’s devastation in the region and is dedicated to creating innovative community- and policy-based solutions to protect U.S. cities that are most vulnerable to increasingly intense weather events and future uncertainties. Initiated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, Rebuild by Design’s aim has been to connect the world’s most talented researchers and designers with the Sandy-affected area’s active businesses, policymakers and local groups to better understand how to redevelop their communities in environmentally- and economically-healthier ways and to be better prepared.

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During the Aspen Institute's annual awards dinners were honoured:

2014: Reed Hastings, Founder of Netflix, Inc.; Lynda Resnick, business, and Vice Chairman of Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Board of Trustees; serves on the executive boards of the Aspen Institute, UCLA Medical Sciences, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and the Milken Family Foundation; and is a trustee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

2013: Henry A, Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc, talked about geopolitics in the 21st century (*);Wynton Marsalis, trumpeter, composer, music educator, arts advocate and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City .

2012: The Honorable Gabrielle Giffords, Former US-Representative (D-AZ), Accompanied by Commander Mark E. Kelly, George Lucas, Film.Producer, Screenwriter, Director, and Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive of Lucasfilm; David M. Rubenstein, Co-Founder and Managing Director, the Carlyle Group

Aspen Institute Annual Awards Dinner 2013 2014

(*) Kissinger on Iran (reported by the Aspen Institute, 'The ASPEN IDEA'):

"The American nostalgia is to assume that foreign policy issues can be solved by conversion, which is to say that the other side suddenly changes its attitudes and therefore thinks that you don't have to deal with the actual issue. My answer always is ....... if the crisis or the challenges has an objective basis, then it must be possible to express the need for resolving it in some concrete terms. And that will be the fundamental issue with Iran. Are there no inherent conflicts of national interest with Iran as a national state maybe the only genuine national state in the region, the one country that was conquerred by the Arabs that did not adopt the language of the conqueror? From a purely national interest point of view, there need be no conflict between the US and Iran.
But the Iranian nuclear program challenges the stability of the region. And when it is coupled with a theological state that transcends the idea of national interest, then that is the essence of the immediate problem. So the test will be whether it is possible to reduce the Iranian nuclear program to a level from which it cannot break out rapidly, or at all. And that will require a serious discussion.
If we can settle the nuclear problem, then on the friction of national interest there is no real conflict between Iran and the US. Now, the Russian problem, they problaby have concluded that the Iranian nuclear program is too far gone to reverse. And, at any rate, they have this concern that they become the principal target of Islamic outrage. So, my judgement is that they would be delighted if the nuclear program could be abolished. But probably they are now focusing, as we seem to be, on seeing whether the limit can be established. And on that I think they will cooperate with us".