Upper West Side's Irene blues: No Zabar's but lots of parking
The streets were empty. There were so many places to park, one driver seemed overwhelmed by the choices as he crawled down Riverside Drive. Many people were out strolling Broadway, but they seemed at a loss. There was nowhere to shop, nowhere to eat but a diner and a few pizzerias. Even Zabar’s and Fairway were closed. For New York, that's historic -- never mind gale-force winds.
Michelle Leibowitz bundled Gizmo, her Maltese, into a tiny yellow slicker she had bought at a local pet store for $9.99 in honor of Hurricane Irene and walked him down to the Hudson River on Sunday morning to survey the damage.
The café at the 72nd street pier was intact, she was relieved to see. The tables and chairs that usually are packed with patrons drinking coffee were tied together in a cluster, but safe.
"I was nervous when I went to sleep because I didn’t know what I would wake up to," said Leibowitz, a 34-year-old executive assistant at Goldman Sachs. She had stocked up on food, candles and batteries, and was prepared to hunker down, even filling her 5th-floor apartment bathtub with water in case she needed a drink.
"I’m not really disappointed," she said of the storm's reduced impact on the city. "I’m just curious about this nonevent."
Fatih and Zeliha Kemahli, jewelry designers, were taking pictures of each other by the river to email to family in Turkey. Zeliha smiled as her blonde hair blew in the wind.
"We want people to think we survived 100-mile winds," Fatih said, laughing. "Pictures can’t tell how slow the wind is."
Adam Friedman, a caseworker at a Harlem center for domestic violence, was walking on the pier with his wife and two little boys. As the light rain misted his glasses, he said he'd just stay home if there was no public transportation. He seemed numbed by more hurdles.
"After an earthquake and a hurricane, what’s next? The locust?," Friedman said.
Back on Broadway, Alberto Guzman, a manager at Fairway, stood guard with coworker Sean Holmes in front of the iconic New York supermarket. Every few minutes another person politely asked, "Are you open?"
"Nope," said Guzman. "Not 'til tomorrow."
Later he confided, "It feels weird. If the subway was open we’d be open. But we can’t get enough workers."
Still, based on Fairway's lines out the door and empty shelves Friday and Saturday -- you couldn’t buy a loaf of bread -- nobody on the Upper West Side is going hungry.
-- Geraldine Baum in New York
Photo: A New York disaster: Sunday without gourmet deli Zabar's. Credit: Geraldine Baum / Los Angeles Times