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Darkness and light divide Manhattan

Oct. 31: Never before has the divide between uptown and downtown in Manhattan been starker. Or darker.

Yesterday, as New Yorkers coped with their first post-Hurricane Sandy night without power, the dividing line between north and south in the city was 25th Street.

South of 25th, the streetlights on the West Side were not working, and the buildings were completely dark. There seemed to be no stores there, no Starbucks, no places to charge a phone and no idea when the lights would go back on. South of 25th, the effects of the storm were deeply felt. Not so uptown.

“I just biked down from Hell’s Kitchen, and it is like a Friday night up there,” said Chris Degner, who lives in TriBeCa. “And then you get down here and it is like entering a zombie movie.”

He had been at a bar in Midtown called Valhalla. He struggled to describe what it was like to go from a “pub that is packed elbow to elbow” to streets where people are scrambling to find a way to find spare candles and were worried about locating a bag of ice.

There were no official charging stations in Chelsea or the West Village, so people congregated around a CNN satellite truck doing live shots outside the building on Eighth Avenue that had its facade ripped off in the hurricane. Bernada Pupovic, 21, had waited an hour to get her iPhone plugged into the power strip running from the truck. “I am at 25 per cent,” she said, finally getting needed juice.

By mutual agreement, the people there had somehow decided that when someone filled up to 50 per cent, it was time to unplug and let the next person go. But even if they did manage to get a charge, cellphone reception in much of downtown was spotty or nonexistent. “Everyone is helping each other out,” she said. “It is pretty cool.”

What people really hungered for was information. Few seemed to know that the blackout could last for days. And many said they recognised that other people were suffering from more than low cellphone batteries. But last night, many people seemed to be taking things in stride. David Labarbera, 32, and Erica Sauer, 32, found a little bar, Bunga Den on 14th Street, that was lit by candles and serving drinks. They relaxed with a glass before heading home to darkness.

 
 
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