He said most people stayed put despite calls to evacuate. One pregnant woman in the building started having contractions, and Sarich said that before the power went out, he nervously researched how to deliver a baby on the Internet.
"I said, `Oh boy, I'm in trouble,'" Sarich said. The woman managed to find a cab to take her to a hospital.
Uptown in Chelsea, the city's thriving gallery district was under waist-high water the night before.
Reggie Thomas, a maintenance supervisor at a prison located within striking distance of the overflowing Hudson River, emerged from an overnight shift there, a toothbrush in his front pocket, to find his 2011 Honda with its windows down and a foot of water inside. The windows automatically go down when the car is submerged to free drivers. It left his car with a foot of water inside, and unable to start.
"It's totaled," Thomas said, with a shrug. "You would have needed a boat last night."
The city's transit system suffered unprecedented damage, from the underground subway tunnels to commuter rails to bus garages, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Tuesday.
"We have no idea how long it's going to take," spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said.
All 10 subway tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn were flooded during the storm, as the saltwater surge inundated signals, switches and third rails and covered tracks with sludge, she said.
The entire system wasn't flooded and the authority was already pumping water Tuesday. Workers ultimately will have to walk all the hundreds of miles of track to inspect it, she said, and it wasn't clear how long that would take. Trains had been moved to safety before the storm.
The 108-year-old subway system "has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night," Chairman Joseph Lhota said in a statement.