Power unites: New Yorkers come together, charge together

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the teeming streets of lower Manhattan have become an eerie, empty wasteland. Amidst the cold and the dark, the most pressing need is not for food or water — but for power to charge phones and laptops.

Fortunately, New Yorkers are looking out for each other as they always do. Outside bars and bodegas, merchants with generators are sharing them with residents who need to charge up and contact the outside world. This was the scene near Avenue A in the East Village where Percy’s Tavern set up tables with dozens of power outlets to use free of charge:

Similar scenes played out in front of hairdressers and coffee shops around the blacked out part of the city. Strangely, for this week at least, the cell phone habits of many New Yorkers resemble those of rural Africans who regularly pay small sums to charge their mobile devices from a generator.

The situation in Manhattan also highlights how, in a crisis, the city’s post-industrial economy still ultimately depends on very industrial fuels like diesel. (To see how we might one day progress beyond this, see the excellent reporting by Katie Fehrenbacher earlier this week.)

Finally, this scene on 2nd Avenue shows that water is also an issue for some New Yorkers in the black out zone: