Hurricane Sandy and the Aftermath

picture from the UK Telegraph, post by Jessica

Hello gentle readers!

As many of you know, we’re located right now in New York City. It’s been a crazy couple of days here in the Big Apple, but I am glad to say that R and I are doing quite well. NYU is closed until at least Monday, since there is not enough power on campus to run both classes and keep those living in the dorms comfortable. NYU has a small power generation plant, so even though they are squarely in the zone without power, they have a little bit they can use for emergencies. The Yeshivah is opening again tomorrow, so R has found a way to get to school with the limited bus service, and we’re hoping that subway service will be restored soon. In the days leading up to the hurricane, we bought food, stored water, checked flashlights, and made preparations. Although our lights flickered and the noise from the wind was very loud and intense, in the end, the only damage to our area was some downed tree branches and a rip in the flag at the school across the street. I am sincerely grateful for that outcome.

We have been lucky. In a city this big and this dense, the difference of a few blocks makes all the difference. Lots of classmates and friends have had their lives disrupted in a much more personal way, and I wanted to give some information about how to volunteer or where to send donations if you’re interested in helping out, but are far away. There are many other places looking for volunteers, and a quick google search will help with those. I do suggest signing up somewhere – often going into a disaster area with just a desire to help but without a plan will not be as useful as you hoped.

For those in New York City:

TO VOLUNTEER
* The City needs volunteers for a wide variety of purposes. If you can help, please email nycservice@cityhall.nyc.gov with your name, email address and borough.
* To volunteer with the Red Cross’s relief efforts, contact staffing@nyredcross.org.

For New Yorkers and those farther away:
TO DONATE BLOOD
* To schedule a blood donation or get more information about giving blood, visitredcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)

TO MAKE A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION
* To make a financial contribution towards Red Cross relief efforts: visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
* For comprehensive list of non-profits accepting donations for disaster relief, see: http://goo.gl/288n7

New York has an incredible collection of agencies, officials, first responders, and others who are helping the city to recover. Our city is harmed but not destroyed. The death toll, although no life is insignificant, is impressive given the sheer size of the population of the Northeast. No person can be replaced, but the loss of physical objects is much easier to recover from.

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A Year in New York

Post by Jessica

Time really, really flies. I still feel like a new New Yorker, and yet, here we are, just passed our one year anniversary of being here.

So, what have I learned about being a New Yorker? Partially, I feel like saying “Ask me again in another year.” Things move so quickly here that I feel like I hardly have a moment to think about it.

In any case, my somewhat stream-of-consciousness list of ten (plus 1) things. I reserve the right to add as I see fit.

1) I can tell the tourists from the regulars. This is harder than one might think when there is a throng of a hundred people around you, but its getting easier. Most of the time I can’t even say why, but then I overhear them talking about going back to the hotel.

2) I love subways and hate subway stations. Basically, trains are awesome, give or take the occasional crazy person, but the stations are loud and hot and unhappy. And I’m fascinated by subway history.

3) There are things we don’t do because they are inconvenient. In fact, the flight better be free to make it worth us flying out of any airport but LaGuardia. One trip to Newark convinced us of that fact. Or the Target in East Harlem might as well be on the moon. They’re not impossible – it’s just too much for us, right now.

4) I’m still kind of a homebody. Even living in this fantastic city hasn’t turned me into some kind of metropolitan goddess. In fact, I think being in the city makes me need my alone at home time even more.

5) People still aren’t that rude. Really. I wrote about it before – we haven’t had it that bad. Although, I am starting to suspect it might be the neighborhoods I find myself in the majority of the time.

6) Being a two-student couple totally shapes the way we view the city. We have school friends, book clubs and a big difference between what we’re doing during the summer and winter. We vacation with the school schedules and have all kinds of things going on as extra-curriculars. And the budget is everything.

7) I really like our smaller space. I hadn’t really thought about it until a friend posted about minimalism. We’re not really minimalists (the five bookcases in the apartment should tell you that), but I really enjoy that we have figured out how to put our space together so that it is cozy but not cramped, and that we have just enough. And there really is an amazing feeling when you get rid of something, even something small, when you live in a smaller place. Plus, it’s much easier to keep it clean when you realize that just one bowl and a cup will make the coffee table feel really full.

8) Related to “I’m a homebody” – I need to explore the city more. It’s like everywhere – if you live somewhere, you don’t do a lot of the touristy stuff. Not only that, I really need to find my favorite neighborhood coffee spot. It’s the problem with having an apartment that is so comfortable.

9) The sheer scale of the city is still crazy. We went home for a week this summer. I joked that LaGuardia probably had more people in it than the entire town we would end up in, if you include all the passengers and employees. I did a little research. I wasn’t wrong. I see more people between my apartment and the subway than I saw on our entire trip to Target when we were home. And on and on.

10) Yet sometimes, it feels like a small town. I keep running into people I know, often on the subway. Maybe we’re keeping similar schedules, but often it feels like serendipity wrapped in ridiculousness. I have, even, on occasion introduced myself to someone because I keep seeing them. So far, hasn’t turned into any serious friendships, but it has provided some funny conversations.

+1) I love this city and am proud to live here. Watching fireworks on the roof at a friends on the fourth of July – I realized that. Do we want to stay forever? Probably not. But don’t be talking smack about my city either!

The Myth of the Rude New Yorker

post by Jessica

When R and I moved here, we weren’t totally sure what to expect. On the one hand, we had a set of friends that hated living in the city and were keen to point out how miserable it can be. On the other hand,  most of what they complained about is true of many cities (rats, crime, lack of personal space, bad landlords).  I do have friends who are currently having trouble with their landlords (a common complaint here) and ours is sometimes less than attentive, but he’s been great with the big things – like making sure the exterminator came ASAP when we saw a mouse.

Of course, in a city with this many people, the nature of the people in general can help or hurt your experience. For instance, if, at every turn, someone is being nasty or rude, that will negatively effect your experience. Many people have the impression that all New Yorkers are like that, without exception – loud, rude, nasty for the sake of elbowing you in the stomach. Admit it – as you read that, you were able to conjure the perfect image in your head, whether aided by media or not.

The reality? A lot of that went out as the city grew more livable in the nineties, at least from conversations I have had with people who’ve lived here much longer than I. The new model New Yorker is less stressed out, less hassled by crime, and therefore, more friendly. However, there are a lot of things about city culture that could be interpreted as unfriendly – on the subway, for instance, I spend the majority of my time NOT looking at people, ignoring the fact that rush hour traffic has me squished up against a person I’ve never met (and will likely never see again) and then, a few minutes later, squished up against an entirely different person whom I’ve never met (and will likely not see again). Ask a New Yorker – they admit freely the attitude “if I’m not looking at you, you don’t exist.” This attitude can stray into the times when the subway isn’t that busy, or just onto the street in general, and can be perceived as being ignored or being unfriendly. Fair enough – but it’s part of city life.

At the same time, I hear people talking about giving directions to tourists and trying to help out as best they can. I even helped an older British duo (brother and sister) get to where they were going one evening on the 1 train, and a friend saw a woman go out of her way to help a foreign gentleman get to the right subway station for the hospital where his sister was being treated.

Are there those people you conjured above? The angry New Yorkers who hate everyone for no reason? Of course. A city of this size, this squished together and you’re bound to come into contact with them more often than even in a city like Chicago. But the old guy running people down in the grocery store with his shopping cart, the lady yelling randomly at me on the sidewalk for being surprised at a siren and the guys making rude comments about each other on the subway are the exception to the rule – three or four incidents since we moved here in August. We’ve also been lucky, I’m sure, and open to the city in the way that comes of knowing we have to be here, so why make it miserable for ourselves? Still, the fact that we can do that proves that it’s not such a bad place to live.

That’s not to say that the city has no failings: the trains are unreliable when you really need them to be on time, the cost of living can be astounding and everyone does have that one DOOZY of a story, but as far as the unrelentingly terrible New Yorkers? I get the feeling that that went out of style in the 90s…