EAST VILLAGE — In powerless lower Manhattan, gas-driven generators have become smartphone saviors.
At street corners south of 39th Street, herds of residents gathered Wednesday around good Samaritan businesses who opened outlets to the public for recharges.
Some waited three or four hours to juice up their cell phones for the first time since Hurricane Sandy hit, but, for a chance to connect with loved ones, it was time well spent.
"My first call will be to my husband," Deborah Dixon, 41, said outside Percy’s Tavern in the East Village, which had two generators humming. "He’s in Puerto Rico. He left two days before the storm."
Dixon left her Avenue D apartment with her kids Wednesday morning to find a place to charge her Assurance phone. She was riding in an MTA bus along Avenue A when she spotted Percy’s power oasis.
"We said, 'Look, they’re charging phones.' So we jumped off the bus," Dixon said.
Percy's owner, Larry Watson, set up the generators on Tuesday, and has been running them from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Between 1,200 and 1,500 people have plugged their phones into the three power strips he’s providing, he estimates.
The generators preserve Percy's food so the kitchen can stay open, but Watson says the power source is also fueling new relationships.
"At a time when people need each other, they're getting to know each other," Watson said, noting that not one argument has broken out over the power strips. "This is a miserable time for people, but they’re laughing and joking."
"My family in Ireland is only seeing terrible stuff on the news [about Hurricane Sandy]. They don’t see this. This is what this neighborhood is all about," added Watson, who has lived in the East Village for 27 years.
Gas-run generators have popped up around southern Manhattan since Sandy socked the city. On Tuesday crowds gathered around a buzzing generator on Murray Street and West Broadway to plug in their phones.
In the Lower East Side, Cowboy Pizza let people charge their phones while its workers slung slices Tuesday evening. During the day on Tuesday, Jamie Rogers, the owner of Cowboy Pizza, had brought the generator to his other business, Pushcart Coffee, on Second Avenue and East 21st Street. The power source quickly generated a waitlist of 60 people.
Rogers did the same routine on Wednesday.
“We just happened to have one, and it proved to be useful,” Dave Mayer, a Cowboy Pizza employee, said of the generator.
Some said the generosity was heartening to see when other locals businesses were reportedly price-gouging.
"I'm not surprised because of who he is," Isabel Celeste Dawson said of Watson’s kindness.
Dawson, whose daughter is actress Rosario Dawson, said Watson plans to donate proceeds from coffee sales Thursday to the Lower East Side Girls Club.
"He’s a giver. He's a community person. We need more people like him."