The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Surveying the damage and the darkness in Lower Manhattan

Posted by on October 30th, 2012 at 8:26 pm


Church St., Lower Manhattan
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Coverage from New York City
made possible by:

Lower Manhattan — including the Financial District, One World Trade Tower, and Chinatown — are all still without power tonight. It’s surreal down there. Pitch black and relatively quiet except for the frequent blaring of sirens (and cabbies yelling at each other).

Unlike the rosy tone of my Williamsburg/Brooklyn post earlier today, I’m afraid things do not look good for Lower Manhattan. Crews are working feverishly to pump water out of high rises and the Hugh Carey/Brooklyn Battery Tunnel is still completely submerged.



Battery Park is one big mess, with downed trees, branches and debris scattered all about. The storm surge had its way with the sand bags.




On the way over, Brooklyn Bridge was packed with people. And of course, there are quite a few people out on bikes. With no traffic signals and very few cars, riding around Lower Manhattan right now is pretty fantastic (if you’re into that sort of thing). Anita Singh of BrooklynByBike put it best, when she posted to Twitter, “If you haven’t gotten your #bikenyc out, lower manhattan is all dark and relatively car free. Once in a lifetime biking experience.”




The Municipal Building, lit by floodlights.


The One World Trade Center tower is dark for the first time ever (for some reason, a few buildings in Battery Park City (on the left) have electricity).

The Chrysler Building stands like a beacon over Lower Manhattan.


Watch where you’re going!

View from the Manhattan Bridge with Chinatown in the foreground and the Empire State Building in the background.

Actor and comic Frank Von was biking around and shooting video for his documentary. I met him on the Manhattan Bridge


Hudson River Greenway.

The Manhattan Bridge is especially interesting. Half of it has power, and the other half doesn’t. I heard several people riding toward Manhattan, and upon noticing the path lights suddenly go dark, they hooted and hollered into the darkness (and one guy just yelled, “Awww, shit!”)


Looking east toward Brooklyn.

Looking east toward Brooklyn, right at the light/dark threshold. This couple stopped to look back at the Manhattan skyline.
Sandy aftermath - Lower Manhattan

And here’s the view the other way, into the darkness of Lower Manhattan.

Thanks for following along with my New York City coverage. I know I’ve got some Portland stuff that needs to be covered. I’ll get to that… just as soon as my brain can fit anything else in by this amazing city.

— This post is part of my ongoing New York City coverage. I’m here for a week to cover the NACTO Designing Cities conference and the city’s bike culture in general. This special reporting trip was made possible by Planet Bike, Lancaster Engineering, and by readers like you. Thank you! You can find all my New York City coverage here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Shetha October 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Stunning photos, Jon. Wow… Thanks for sharing with us.

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  • Machu Picchu October 30, 2012 at 8:42 pm


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  • Sean G October 30, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    What a time to be in NYC. Glad you’re there to share it first hand with the folks at home.

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  • Joe Adamski October 30, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Billy Joel comes to mind:

    I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway-
    I saw the Empire State laid low.
    And life went on beyond the Palisades,
    They all bought Cadillacs-
    And left there long ago.

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    • Tim Davis October 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      And to think that Billy Joel was only 5 years off (Miami 2017)! Sorry, couldn’t resist. 🙂 Wishing the best for everyone in the wonderful New York area…

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  • Dan Kaufman October 30, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Thanks for getting out there and shooting, Jonathan. The images are eerie and striking.

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  • Ryan Aslett October 30, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Seriously man, this is awesome.

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  • a_pom3 October 30, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Wow! That looks like a lot of fun. I’m jealous I can’t experience such a night ride 😀 Would be so cool to blaze the city with 3000 lumens, zippin’ and ridin’ around blowing all the dead signals.

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  • annefi October 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Your photos keep getting better and better. Great on the scene reporting!

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  • Ted Buehler October 31, 2012 at 1:19 am

    Thanks for the on-the-scene reporting.

    The Oregonian reported, last week, that the Portland/Metro 2040 plan would have zero reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions from transportation. Reduction from current levels. (I cant find the link. Anyone?)

    If frickin Portland is unwilling to even make an attempt at reducing GHG emissions, it’s time to raise the seawalls in Battery Park by about 5′. & everywhere else in the world…


    Ted Buehler

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    • peejay October 31, 2012 at 8:00 am

      Really, I have lost all hope.

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  • Al from PA October 31, 2012 at 3:44 am

    Stunning photos, the best I’ve seen on post Sandy, global climate change era lower Manhattan (more to come…). The red-sky photo is particularly chilling.

    It’s significant that the best way to get around in this landscape is the bicycle…

    btw, “not sure what building that is”–Empire State–

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  • patrickz October 31, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Stunning is the right word for the photos and I enjoy the “man on the ground” reporting —or “man on the bike”. Some of these images are close to being art.

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    • joel October 31, 2012 at 8:04 am

      I think all of them are art!

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  • joel October 31, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Great reporting and amazing photos. I would love to show them in my gallery in Spring- you down??

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  • thefuture October 31, 2012 at 9:20 am

    This is excellent research to bring back to Portland as we face our own pending earthquake disaster. When transportation is disrupted bikes are so much more versatile right after the disaster and in the days and weeks following to get people mobile again. All indications are that after the earthquake we are going to be isolated in many ways when the bridges fail. Fuel supplies will run low but do bikes need gas? No.

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    • jim October 31, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Cargo bikes will play a huge roll when the big one does hit portland. We may not have power to run gas pumps, debris blocking roads…
      This is a good reminder of how important it is to have a decent head light, not just a blinky light, but something that will actually light the road.

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  • Terry D October 31, 2012 at 10:36 am

    No hurry on PDX coverage….I am sure anything can wait a few more days. Keep the NYC coverage going!

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  • Anonymous October 31, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I thought this was Bike Portland and not Bike New York?

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  • Joe October 31, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Gotham City STANDS STRONG! Thanks for the coverage

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  • William Furr October 31, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Similar experience, though not quite as intense, with a big Boston power outage earlier in the year. All the drivers were amazingly polite and lots of folks stayed home. It was quite the cycling experience.

    Sadly, cycling in the aftermath of the storm in Boston is actually pretty shitty. Bike lanes are choked with piles of wet leaves and lots of sticks and branches. Car drivers are as sociopathic as ever, and not at all sympathetic to cyclists riding in the travel lanes to avoid the trash in the bike lanes.

    I can only hope the street sweeping crews hit all the streets and clean up the gutters and bike lanes soon.

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  • Editz October 31, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Waiting for Snake Plissken to show up.

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  • Ted Buehler October 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Here’s the link, kids.

    “As they work on a wide-ranging plan for the future of the central city, a blueprint to ensure that downtown Portland’s next 20 years are as successful as its past 40, planners and citizen volunteers have come up with a strange, fascinating, seemingly counterintuitive equation.”

    “For Portland to remain the healthy cultural and financial heart of the region, they say, the number of trips made downtown each day must double. The amount of greenhouse gas emitted must remain the same.”

    Um, okay… Whatever you say, experts…

    Ted Buehler

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  • Ted Buehler October 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    The catch here, of course, is that it’s nice that Downtown Portland knows what it needs to do to remain “the healthy cultural and financial heart…” but they’ve overlooked a simple fact that if Portland does this (and every other metro area) it will NOT result in the desired vibrancy because the resulting greenhouse gas emissions will cause many other downtowns around the world to become modern Atlantises…

    Ted Buehler

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  • jack October 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    great shots. riding in Manhattan with no lights sounds wild.

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  • Ed Vranizan October 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Perhaps bicycles should be considered as an intergral part of disaster response planning.

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  • Matt October 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Love that 3rd picture. Well framed with great detail in the shadows. Keep it up!

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  • Craig Harlow October 31, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    I wonder if–and how many–people seized this opportunity to fly to NYC with their bikes? If only….

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  • Mt October 31, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks for the great pics!

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  • aaron November 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Jonathan thank you so much for the pictures. I’ve been watching a lot for coverage of bikey-ness in Manhattan post Sandy. Of course no media will touch that with a pole. The pictures really help.
    Keep up the good work

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