Friday, November 2, 2012

Light and Dark in New York City

New York City, the dark half, on Halloween night

Light and dark is the defining dynamic of post-Sandy New York City.

Usually in Manhattan, day or night, light wins. While New York may even feel dark at night, it really is perpetually quite bright. If you walk around on any normal night at any odd hour, light will stalk you through the quaintest of side street, over bridges and even underground. No bedroom is safe either. An essential investment made by a well rested New Yorker is heavy window shades.

Thanks to Sandy there are now two New Yorks: Light New York, which exists above about 30th Street with power, wifi and seemingly complete normalcy. Dark New York, which is completely without power and in parts near pitch black at night.

Dark New York is striking for a number of reasons:

The ingenuity of local bar keeps, restauranteurs and grocers to stay open by candle light, generator or even car battery.

The glow of midtown always present in the distance.

The failure of a single chain store to stay open.

The constant uneasy negotiation between motorists, pedestrians and bikers at major intersections with non-functional lights and no crossing guards.

The number of large building that NYU’s able to power by generator which didn’t include its hospital.

The alarmingly low percentage of people who have flashlights (did they leave them at home or do they not own one?).

The ability to easily tally how many of your neighbors are home by the presence of any light in their windows.

The novelty of walking around Manhattan with a flashlight.

Watching the number of neighbors dwindle every night the black out continues.

Not being able to see what’s in front of you without a flashlight.


The awful smell of garbage wrought by only a couple extra days at the curb.

The lack of candles at every store.

Walking isn’t a choice, it’s usually the only way to get around.

How inadequate candles are at matching the light from bulbs.

The complete lack of cell coverage in many areas.

How quickly your eyes will adjust to any level of light.

The ideas you have without distractions from texts and push notifications.

Light from just a three wick candle can feel uncomfortably bright in the new normal.

The usefulness of radios.

The slow speed of time.

The 100 costumed souls who paraded in the village on Halloween even though the Village Halloween Parade was canceled.

How good a quality scotch tastes served neat.

Thank you, Greg Galant, for this glimpse of how the other half of the city is living this week. 

In the dark half of the city, food trucks saved the day.

New York magazine's amazing cover this week


  1. I know this post-storm darkness so well but cannot even imagine how it goes in New York City. It's so unbelievable.

    1. Exactly. It's so familiar yet not.

      I hope this builds camaraderie!

    2. Florida and Louisiana in the house!

      Who ever thought New York would have such an intimate experience of the aftermath of a hurricane.

  2. It is so eerie when the power goes out. It is one of the few things I am afraid of. For that reason I keep regular and rechargeable (wind up and plug in) flash lights in my earthquake box. I also keep candles. I also have a wind up radio!

  3. no chain stores open. the same chain stores that keep their doors open in mid-summer, air conditioning going full blast, to lure customers in.
    oh my; my heart goes out to all New Yorkers--and New Jerseyites.

  4. And what about you? How are you?
    This is a fabulous repost.
    Be safe. love d

  5. Interesting! I keep imagining how it must be in my old apartment building now. I don't think I'd be out walking the streets after dark -- at least not more than I had to.

  6. lol. each of your sentences was like a heartbeat. and i love the last one. :)

    1. Candice, I wish I wrote this, but I didn't. It is by blogger Greg Galant. I felt that heartbeat, too.

  7. We've had electrcity out here and more often in Michigan but I'm sure it's not at all the same being in the country dark with lots of open space and the sky right there, or even in a city neighborhood with mostly single level homes and trees, as it is being in a big city with tall buildings. Must be darker than just plain dark.