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October 31, 2012

After Sandy, New Yorkers find a changed city

(Continued)

By candlelight, “we colored, we read, we played games — old school,” Christine Tricoli said as the family emerged to go on a walk on Tuesday that started with a trek down 11 flights of stairs.

“There was even talking,” she said.

The city modified its taxi rules and encouraged drivers to pick up more than one passenger at a time, putting New Yorkers in the otherwise unthinkable position of having to share a yellow cab with a stranger.

Livery cabs and black sedans, normally allowed to pick up passengers only by arrangement, were allowed to stop for people hailing rides on the street.

The landscape of the city changed in a matter of hours.

A fire destroyed as many as 100 houses in a flooded beachfront neighborhood in Queens. Firefighters said the water was chest-high on the street and they had to use a boat to make rescues.

In Brooklyn, Faye Schwartz surveyed the damage in her Brooklyn neighborhood, where cars were strewn like leaves, planters were deposited in intersections and green Dumpsters were tossed on their sides.

“Oh, Jesus. Oh, no,” she said.

The chief line of demarcation Tuesday ran through Manhattan’s Chelsea section. Above 25th Street, delis did business and traffic lights worked. Below 25th Street, nothing.

For some New Yorkers, the aftermath of the storm stirred memories of the blackout of August 2003, when a cascading power failure in the Northeast left the city without power for parts of two days. This time, as then, there was no sign of looting or widespread crime. Nine people in all were arrested on charges they stole from a gas station, an electronics store and a clothing store in Queens.

But the 2003 blackout was a communal experience, with strangers lounging on stoops and bars blaring music into darkened neighborhoods. This time, people had to stay indoors and wait.

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