After Sandy: A Look Back at New York’s Worst Storm Ever

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012
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While New York and the East Coast try to return to normal after the brutal Hurricane Sandy, AN takes a look at most dramatic storm-related sights as we batten down the hatches for the oncoming nor-easter. Our Lower Manhattan offices reopened on Monday with lights working but our steam-powered heat is still out (space heaters have been working overtime). Architecture for Humanity and AIA New York have already begun mobilizing the design community to help with the recovery effort, as have countless other organizations accepting donations and volunteers.

Damage to Pier 25 at Hudson River Park. (Courtesy Tribeca Citizen)

Damage to Pier 25 at Hudson River Park. (Courtesy Tribeca Citizen)

No one was quite prepared for the extent of the damage Sandy unleashed across the city, and New York’s infrastructure flaws were made painfully obvious. As the storm surge spilled into the city, subway and auto tunnels were inundated with millions of gallons of water, including some, like the L-train tunnel, which are still filled with water. Water inundated the World Trade Center site, flooded streets, made a mess of parks across the city, like damage above at Hudson River Park’ Pier 25, spotted by the Tribeca Citizen, and shuttered many buildings for months to come. ARUP’s Lower Manhattan offices on Water Street sustained major damage, forcing the firm to relocate its New York staff to Edison, NJ. Many high-profile projects that have appeared in AN over the past year were adversely impacted, including the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the South Street Seaport Museum, and Jane’s Carousel by Jean Nouvel in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Making matters worse, those around contaminated water sources like Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal faced toxic flooding in their neighborhoods.

Protective tent around the Space Shuttle Enterprise in tatters. (Brian Harmon / Twitter)

Protective tent around the Space Shuttle Enterprise in tatters. (Brian Harmon / Twitter)

Plaza Shops entrance to the Whitehall Subway Station. (Courtesy Governor Cuomo)

Plaza Shops entrance to the Whitehall Subway Station. (Courtesy Governor Cuomo)

The MTA released a video of flooding conditions at South Ferry and Whitehall Street Stations, two of the worst hit, indicating just how much water was inside New York’s subway system. Lower Manhattan’s 1 train service remains indefinitely suspended. The past week has been a case study on the importance of mass transit in cities, and New York’s system is slowly returning to normal, but with no buses or trains in the days immediately following Sandy, the city was in disarray. A phased reinstatement of train service continues across New York, which New Yorkers followed through regularly updated Sandy Subway Maps.

While the lack of transit created gridlock as many took to their cars, the storm was also credited with creating a bicycle boom, with bike counts more than doubling across the East River bridges. The city also set up an emergency bus rapid transit system in a matter of days to help people navigate the city.

Flooded 86th Street Subway Station.

Flooded 86th Street Subway Station.

Flooded entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. (Courtesy Governor Cuomo)

Flooded entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. (Courtesy Governor Cuomo)

Battery Tunnel Flooding

Flooding in Manhattan's East Village. (Nadiya Anderson / Twitter)

Flooding in Manhattan’s East Village. (Nadiya Anderson / Twitter)

Jane's Carousel flooded in Brooklyn Bridge Park. (Ana Andjelic / Instagram)

Jane’s Carousel flooded in Brooklyn Bridge Park. (Ana Andjelic / Instagram)

Flooded cabs. (Karl Frisch / Instagram)

Flooded cabs. (Karl Frisch / Instagram)

Flooded lobby of 140 West Street in Lower Manhattan. (Courtesy Governor Cuomo)

Flooded lobby of 140 West Street in Lower Manhattan. (Courtesy Governor Cuomo)

Above, a large explosion (at approx. 17 sec. mark) at a ConEd plant along the East River in Manhattan preceded a massive power outage. ConEd had previously cut power intentionally to Lower Manhattan in an effort to avoid larger outages caused by flooding. Combined, the outages provided eerie views of a dark Manhattan skyline, below. The Wall Street Journal put together an interactive slider showing the dramatic change.

The Empire State Building shines over a dark Manhattan. (Sharon Feder / Instagram)

The Empire State Building shines over a dark Manhattan. (Sharon Feder / Instagram)

Iwan Baan's cover photograph for New York magazine shows a powerless Lower Manhattan. (Courtesy NY Mag)

Iwan Baan’s cover photograph for New York magazine shows a powerless Lower Manhattan. (Courtesy NY Mag)

Among the non-flood-related disasters to hit New York was the partial collapse of the construction crane boom at Extell’s One57 Tower in midtown Manhattan, which has since been secured. AN reported on the crane collapse last week. Above, the front facade of a four-story building at 92 Eighth Avenue in Manhattan crumbled under high winds, landing in the street below. Fortunately, in both cases, no one was injured.

Like most major events these days, the story of Hurricane Sandy played out live on social media, a phenomenon made visual as the raw data was crunched following the disaster. Mirroring Iwan Baan’s dramatic photograph of a powerless Lower Manhattan, above, Foursquare check-ins virtually disappear in Lower Manhattan, where the new neighborhood of SoPo—South of Power—briefly existed and lives on in t-shirt form (there are plenty of creative t-shirts helping with the recovery effort available). Twitter accounts of the storm were more evenly distributed across the city. Google has also provided detailed aerial photography of the aftereffects of the hurricane.

A boat on train tracks for the Metro North line. (Courtesy MTA)

A boat on train tracks for the Metro North line. (Courtesy MTA)

Groups, organizations, and companies from near and far are pitching in to help the affected areas. Stanley Black & Decker  has sent a giant semi to its North Carolina distribution center where it will be loaded with tools to help with cleanup and rebuilding efforts in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Even the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore is joining forces with Architecture for Humanity as part of the organization’s Restore the Shore effort.

(Courtesy Stanley Black & Decker)

(Courtesy Stanley Black & Decker)

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