On the Lower East Side, A Woman Emerges From a Dark High Rise for First Time

Thursday, November 01, 2012

It's been more than three days since power went out across large swaths of the city and beyond. And some New Yorkers haven’t ventured out of their apartments since the power went out. In multi-story public housing complexes like La Guardia Houses on the Lower East Side, getting in and out of the building can be daunting.

The stairwells in the 16 story buildings are pitch black and there are no emergency lights. Some residents have flashlights, but other don’t and batteries are running out in lights and cellphones. Some people were lighting their way through the darkened halls by the flame of a cigarette lighter.

Candy Silva and her son who moved from a homeless shelter in the Bronx to La Guardia Houses a week ago. As they felt their way out of the complex and into the sunlight Wednesday, they were desperate for news, and more importantly where they could go that had power and lights.  

“We have to get a cab,” the stressed out Silva said. "It's really bad," her voice beginning to quake, "And we just moved here a week ago.”

Silva said she wished she’d stayed longer in the homeless shelter in the Bronx.

Other people were also looking to get out. A family of Chinese immigrants, who have a car, were heading to Brooklyn just to shower at a friend’s house.  Another family was heading upstate to stay with a relative. They said they were going to take the M15 bus to the top of its route, in Northern Manhattan, where a relative was going to pick them up and rescue them.

Other residents were irate that there are no trucks or officials stationed around the neighborhood making sure people have flashlights, food and water. People filled jars and water bottles at fire hydrants, either to drink or flush their toilets because water doesn’t flow in tall buildings without power.

While some stores are open, people said they’re only taking cash — and many people in public housing use food stamps in the form of a credit card.  A partially open Rite Aid nearby only let in three people at a time. And transactions were cash only.

But there was some help.  Some residents said the Housing Authority management offices were running generators and letting people charge phones.

The Henry Street Settlement is among organizations that offer a lot of services in that neighborhood, such as senior centers where many get meals. On Wednesday, they were across the street giving out meal boxes, and at their headquarters they had gas burners going to cook hamburgers and hot dogs that would have gone bad otherwise.  They were also delivering meals to people who are unable to come outside on a regular basis, including elderly people who can’t do that now because of all the stairs.

One 87-year-old woman hadn’t left her apartment since the power went out. Margaret Maynard says no one had knocked on her door to check on her, and she hadn’t talked to any family or friends because her phone was out.

She was dressed in many layers of robes and house dresses and had a scarf wrapped around her grey hair to keep warm. She said she’d been eating crackers and juice. She had bread, various canned and boxed foods, and several bottles of water in her freezer. "I'm ok!," she insisted.

Maynard used this reporter’s phone to reach her best friend, Doris George, but resisted the woman's advice to leave the building. Later in the day, though, George telephoned Maynard's sister, who brought her nephew into the conversation. And by nightfall, Maynard was safely in Queens, staying at her nephew's home. Like it or not.


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Comments [9]

Randy from BRONX, NY

years ago back in 1980 i use to work in the playground of the Laquardia Houses across from the Pizza Shop on Jefferson and Madison st they use to call me the Park Teacher because i was the only one worked in the park and kept it clean, i was working for Dept of Parks, some of your might remember me, i would be helping the people there if i was still working in that area in the houses there, i use to work the elderly through the park because they was afraid, i came there in 1979, i use to talk to a friend that came in visit me in the park every day who lived in the area by the name of Dave Richardson, he passed away back in the 80's but that was my buddy i miss him, do any body remember Dave, he use to have this big afro, thin built had a big family there, those that remember holla at me , Randy

Nov. 18 2012 08:36 AM
Debbie Cox

I am so happy to hear of this news. My mother is Ms. Maynard's neigbhor and my family and I knocked on Ms. Maynard's door but no answer. I am so happy to hear that someone picked her up.

Nov. 05 2012 11:33 AM
Veronica from East 4th street

I live in Brooklyn and commute everyday to the lower east side. I cant even get their due to the trains the "F" doesn't run their. So i cant even work!!!!! That is until everything goes back to normal.The fact that i work in a gym and don't know whats going on or when the power will go on bothers me a lot. I just pray for all my friends and members at the gym are okay and have food in their stomach and a warm blanket. I am praying and hoping everyone stays strong. This is NYC we are strong and united in many ways.

Nov. 02 2012 04:17 PM
Krissy Kelly from Houston, TX

Driving home from work in Houston, TX...

Your outreach, Marianne, to Ms. Maynard very much touched me and I wanted to thank you for a beautiful story amidst all the devastation. God bless all of you!

Nov. 01 2012 07:51 PM
PeggyB from Brooklyn

My mother-in-law who is 72 will not and cannot leave her 12th floor apartment in the dark. She had no choice but to stay since there was no advance notice when the power went out. These buildings have no on-site managers and could be left to die without assistance during an emergency. There are never any working locks on the front doors and the drug dealers and other crooks run these buildings because of the lack of security. This is a wake up call for the city to practice emergency evacuations in high-riser projects in the future. If you're going to turn off all utilities your should offer an option for residents to get out.

Nov. 01 2012 04:51 PM
SKV from NYC

Jeneba, I believe ConEd is saying they expect power to be back for everyone by Saturday.

Nov. 01 2012 02:32 PM
Michael from Brooklyn

Absolutely incredible reporting!

Nov. 01 2012 11:33 AM
Chris Atkin from Needham, MA

Can't ladder trucks deliver food and water to people in high-rise buildings?

Many thanks for all the work going on and WNYC broadcasts which I'm listening to online.

Nov. 01 2012 11:31 AM
Jeneba from Kensington BK

There appear to be no updates at all about the restoration of power to lower Manhattan. I have searched all over the internet. PLEASE give us an update!!!!!

Nov. 01 2012 06:07 AM

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