Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fishs Eddy vs. Sandy

Part 1

I know, I can’t be sarcastic or funny about Hurricane Sandy because it was a horrible thing that happened to the city. Before I go on, let me make it clear...I and everyone at FE is sending positive thoughts, volunteering and sending warm coats to those in need. And while the damage was minimal, something unexpected did happen to Fishs Eddy.

If you walk out of my apartment building on the 25th floor in Battery Park City and turn twenty feet to the left, you’d be leaning over a railing looking at the Hudson River.

The day before Sandy was due the police were driving around Battery Park City demanding all residents to evacuate “Danger Zone A.” Our son Ben is in college up at SUNY New Paltz, so he was fine. Dave, my 16-year-old daughter Susie (more about her later in the section of this blog called YIKES!) and I were at home bracing ourselves.

Dave loves this stuff so he decided that he would send Susie and I “off to safety” to his sister’s empty apartment on West 26th Street. In Dave’s words he was going to stay and “ride this bitch out.”

Susie and I took a taxi to Dave’s sister Lisa’s apartment. Oh, more on Lisa later because she’s super cool and designs Mario Batali's restaurants, logos, cookbooks, you name it.

My sister-in-law Lisa & Mario Batali
We go up to Lisa’s tiny apartment on the 42nd floor. It’s all cool. So what if there’s no food, one small bed, nothing to would be mother/daughter bonding. We’d start with a great movie. What? The TV doesn’t work? No problem we’ll just call Lisa at her country house and she’ll tell us how to work it.

Lisa told us her TV hadn’t worked in weeks. A few hours passed. Poor planning on the food situation. OMFG Susie forgot her flat iron! I forgot my book. Bickering turned into bigger bickering which turned into a full blown fight about I don't know what and it only stopped when we both realized we were in the same boat. Bonding schmonding! There was no way we were going to survive each other with no food, no TV, and (for Susie) no make-up bag, in that tiny apartment for however long Sandy was planning to stay.

GET OUT OF MY FACE! ...says she
We didn’t care that the police were pacing Battery Park City screaming into their stupid megaphones to evacuate Zone A. WE WERE SNEAKING BACK IN! We left Lisa’s and convinced the one taxi on the road to take us back downtown to the danger zone.

I’m not really sure what Dave was planning to do in our apartment all alone for the next few days, but if you could’ve seen the look on his face when Susie and I walked back in after he was sure he shipped us off...well, imagine you’ve just been told your winning lottery ticket was fifty cents, not fifty million.

I hadn’t even finished explaining to Dave why I was back home, and that I’d rather sink with Sandy than be stuck with "it" when we felt our building sway with the gust of the wind. Me, Susie and Dave stuck our heads out the window and stared down 25 floors to literally watch the Hudson River creep up to our front door. 

Room with a view

We took turns looking outside at the river and back at CNN thinking, any minute now our power will go down. We looked across the river and watched Jersey City go dark. We watched One World Trade Center and the other buildings north and south of us go dark. The news said that Chelsea went dark. OMG Lisa’s apartment, it's in Chelsea!

Our view of One World Trade Center 

We must have been in some strange lucky grid but we never lost power, not even for a minute. You should have seen my face when I realized I narrowly escaped being stuck on the 42nd floor for who-knows-how-many days without power, and WITH Susie!
...well, imagine that someone told you your fifty cent lottery ticket was really fifty million!

But in all seriousness, we did win the lottery by coming out unscathed. The damage isn’t going away and neither should our efforts to help.

And that’s where the next part of Fishs Eddy vs. Sandy comes in.

Part 2

The day after Sandy left town Dave and I went to the store to assess the damage.

We got out of the taxi at 14th Street. It was so strange to see Union Square filled with hundreds of Con Ed trucks parked neck and neck, instead of a farmer's market.

Union Square

As we walked a few blocks north to the store we had no idea what to expect. We could be closed for days or even weeks. OK, so maybe Fishs Eddy has a big reputation, but we’re a small business and having to close is a seriously huuuuge deal but’s all relative.

No power in the building and no power to make up for lost sales, ugh. So we had this idea. We would do a window display. 

That’s right, at Fishs Eddy when the going gets tough, the tough do windows!

Noah lives in the East Village so he walked up to the store to meet us.
(Lots more about Noah later because Noah is Dave’s younger cousin and our partner and Noah is really cool) Jen and Mike came in to meet us as well. (Also cool and also more about them later.)

Noah and Dave, 1991 and now

Dave and I had this idea to fill the corner window of the store with a ton of yellow Post-It notes, notes from us to Sandy. Jen, Mike, Noah, Dave and I grabbed Sharpies and started writing. Mike’s notes got political, Jen and Noah's were witty and I’m pretty much hilarious so between all of us we were coming up with some interesting messages to Sandy. I climbed into the window to start putting up the first handful of notes. I have no idea what we were thinking. There was hardly anybody on the street. It was totally dark and eerie, and who even cared about a new window at Fishs Eddy?

I bent down (inside the window) to separate more notes to put up and that’s when I felt the shadow of a small crowd. 

Then more people started walking over to see what the first people were looking at. Keep in mind: This was not a normal day. Most people were dragging suitcases and garbage bags filled with their stuff, looking to relocate to hotels uptown or some place with power. But wherever they were going, they strayed over to our window.

There was no power, but the one light bulb that did go on was our heads. After seeing the crowds we immediately stopped writing our own notes to Sandy, went outside the store with a box of Post-It notepads and Sharpies and started handing them out to the growing swarm of people gathered at the window.

Apparently EVERYONE had something to say. It took no convincing. Anyone that did seem reticent to write a note was clearly visiting from another country, so I would just ask them “where are you from?” They would say either France, or Ireland, or Pakistan, or Brazil, and I would say, “It's OK write it in your language.” And they did!

By that night we had an entire floor-to-ceiling window of little yellow Post-It notes to Sandy. They were funny, snarky, sad, poignant and political. They were in Arabic, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. They were all brilliant.

Some Post-It notes asked Sandy if she was trying to prove to the world that global warming does exist. Some notes thanked Sandy for the extended stay in New York City and others cursed Sandy for leaving them stranded. One note had a little drawing of Romney's house and said, "Hey Sandy, you missed a spot!" Another note said, "You're welcome, President Obama, for all the jobs that Sandy will create." One kid wrote a note thanking Sandy for getting him out of his math test, and another kid wrote a note saying he never wanted to go back to school so badly. There were notes about having to walk up thirty flights of stairs and notes about having to be stuck up thirty flights of stairs with a mother-in-law. And there were plenty of heartwarming messages to people who weren't lucky enough to stand at 19th and Broadway and write notes to Sandy.

Our corner window became a makeshift bulletin board for stunned locals and stranded tourists who just went through the worst natural disaster New York City has ever seen. It felt good to know that during a very difficult time we brought at least a tiny bit of levity by giving people a place to gather and a place express themselves.


  1. I just loved this entry. The images were great about you & your family but I especially loved this part: "It felt good to know that during a very difficult time we brought at least a tiny bit of levity by giving people a place to gather and a place express themselves." Some of those post-it-notes made me laugh out loud too!

  2. This is really great, thanks for sharing the story behind this! You and your family are very brave! I would have definitely evacuated if I lived where you do!

  3. There's a reason why Fishs Eddy is such a fabulous store: you guys! What a post! Thanks!

  4. This is amazing. Thank you for this story. We were hit pretty hard by Sandy; your story wonderful to read. It brought me back, but in a good way. Sandy changed a lot of things for us. The way we felt about the holidays, our neighbors (who became our heroes) and the way we adapt (and realized that we are NOT untouchable). I am so happy for the photos of your window, and your daughter ;)