New Yorkers are famously aggressive at times and surprisingly compassionate at others – and they have a knack for coming together in times of crisis.

Both of those tendencies surfaced on Monday as parts of lower Manhattan were paralyzed by Hurricane Sandy, with several subway lines and important highways such as the FDR Drive underwater. Bridges and tunnels were shut down. Millions of people were left without electricity.

One of them was Lauren Hutter, an advertising executive who lives in Gramercy Park – an upscale address on the city’s east side below 23rd Street, which was hit particularly hard. With her cellphone dying and no electricity to plug into, she decided to venture out Monday after the worst of the storm had passed, hoping to hail a cab uptown to visit friends who still had power.

“It feels like a scene out of Survivor, with trees everywhere and people looking a bit desperate,” she said in a phone interview after an eerie walk downtown. “People are out roaming aimlessly, looking for what to do and how to get out.”

With subways down, buses stopped and most bridges and tunnels closed, however, most people quickly learned there was nowhere to go, except on foot.

Hutter, 42, walked down eight flights of stairs – the elevator was out – and found that the doorman’s phone was still working, even though her cellphone was out of service because the local network, AT&T, had shut down.



“I don’t know many young people who have a land line at home anymore,” she noted. “Most of us rely on cellphones, and so when that’s out, who even has a land line to turn to?” Nearly everything was closed, except for one New York deli, which was running on a generator.

“There were people lining up to get in, stretching three city blocks long, and people were fighting on the line over who was there first,” she said.

The next mission: hailing a cab. With public transportation paralyzed and some people afraid to be on the road, taxis were few and far between. Approximately one-third of cab drivers couldn’t get to their depots for lack of public transportation.

“I headed over to Park Avenue and dedicated myself to getting a cab. Finally one came, and I went flying across the street to stop it, and at the same time, another young woman had jumped out and was trying to get the same taxi,” Hutter said.

“We looked at each other with a bit of sympathy and agreed to share.”

Not only is that rare in New York, it’s technically illegal. Taxi drivers are not allowed to stop to pick up a second passenger once they’ve picked up one already.

However, given the emergency circumstances, the city’s taxi authority signed an order allowing drivers to take multiple passengers – whether the passengers agreed to it or not.

Meanwhile, in the storm’s aftermath, airlines serving the American northeast continued to cancel flights to and from Ben- Gurion Airport.

Tuesday’s US Airways flight US-797 from Tel Aviv to Philadelphia and United Airlines flight UA-91 had already been canceled by early evening, while El Al flights LY-027 to Newark, New Jersey and LY-001 to New York were still listed as delayed on Ben-Gurion’s live website. The first El Al flight was delayed from 12:35 a.m. until 5:40 a.m., and the second was delayed from 1 a.m. until 7:40 a.m., the airline’s website said.

Flights to Israel from northeastern US airports were canceled for Tuesday, but there was no decision yet by press time regarding whether flights Wednesday and onward would be canceled.

Some Israelis hoping to return home soon were on their toes waiting to hear if their flights for the next few days would still be running.

Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth from Ra’anana has a flight scheduled for Wednesday evening, which he said he hoped would take place as planned.

Neuwirth, who weathered the storm on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, was among the lucky few in the city who did not lose power.

“We didn’t suffer from any power outage,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“Here and there, you see some branches on the roads, but no scary things have happened.”

He said that prior to the storm, he had debated whether to leave New York for another part of America, but ultimately decided to stay.

Even if his flight does leave on Wednesday, he added, he hopes he can actually get out of the city over the George Washington Bridge to Newark Airport, as all of the tunnels are flooded.

“My advice is, next time there is a storm and you’re stuck, go to the Upper West Side,” he said, laughing.

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