Hurricane Sandy Devastated Lower Manhattan Like 9/11, Sheldon Silver Says

By Julie Shapiro and Jill Colvin  on November 1, 2012 1:35pm

LOWER MANHATTAN — The devastation Hurricane Sandy wrought in Lower Manhattan recalls the aftermath of 9/11, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Thursday.

From the Lower East Side to the Financial District, residents are trekking up dark staircases carrying water to flush their toilets and supplies for their homebound elderly neighbors, Silver said.

At night, the pitch-black streets lined with shuttered businesses are deserted, and many residents say they are afraid to leave their home.

"For our area, it's almost a repeat of…9/11, with much of the challenges and difficulties that we faced then," Silver said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. "Hopefully this city will rebuild bigger and better than ever."

Silver detailed his neighbors' many difficulties in the wake of the ruinous storm, which inundated Lower Manhattan with river water and knocked out power to tens of thousands of residents.

Silver, who lives on Grand Street on the Lower East Side, said he is particularly concerned about elderly high-rise residents who cannot leave their apartments to make the long hike down to the street.

"Some of them have no flashlights, they have no food, no refrigeration, no freezers," Silver said. "As a resident who lives in a high-rise building I'm not sure that everybody appreciates what the challenges are."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg questioned the comparison of the hurricane to the terror attack.

"I don't know how you compare it to 9/11," Bloomberg said at the same press conference Thursday. "In that case, it was one site. Much more damage. Three thousand lives. But it was in one site. Here, a lot of it is the distribution of the problem and the transportation issues and infrastructure kind of things."

Ro Sheffe, chairman of Community Board 1's Financial District Committee, said that like Silver, he, too, is reminded of 9/11 when he looks at his darkened neighborhood.

"The streets are filled with debris. All the retail stores are closed," said Sheffe, who lives on Liberty Street. "It's sort of an eerie reminder of how fragile this neighborhood is."

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