Dispatch from the home front: Financial District

The streets all smell like gasoline. Many are still wet. Some are covered in sand–sand, on the island of no beaches.

The traffic jams of black cars and dark suits have been replaced by ConEd trucks and haz-mat suits.

Last Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg said that the City was “open for business.” This may have been true in some sort of billionaire-philosophical figurative sense, but it certainly wasn’t true in any literal civil-servant sense, as most City offices were very much closed for business, given that they had no power or basic sanitation.

But it was this “open for business” attitude that led to me working from Lower Manhattan today, despite doing that work in a building lacking basic sanitary and office services. My building, along with 444 others in the neighborhood, received a yellow sticker from the Department of Buildings indicating that its use was “restricted.” Work was not among the allowable uses.

We didn’t have heat, or running water, or any business technology that Americans have come to rely upon in the past three decades. As I walked through the lobby, I had to step over the power lines of our emergency generators, and over the pump hoses of our basement drainage system. That still put me ahead of most other buildings on my street.

The Chipotle on my corner, which normally has a line out the door for a few hours each day is “closed indefinitely.” So is the Starbucks further down the block. Peek in the windows there and you’ll see upended furniture covered in muck.

There’s a Chase Bank on Water Street that still has plywood over its windows. There’s a cell phone store across the street that has plywood up, but no windows. Further down Water Street, there’s another cell phone store that has been completely gutted, in part by nature, in part by man. While a construction crew tended to the inside of the store, the phone company contributed to the well-being of New York with a makeshift retail kiosk set up right on the sidewalk. Get the newest iPad, $499 and up.

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