Amid Cheers, Manhattan Comes Back To Life

Power has come back on to most areas of Manhattan blacked out by superstorm Sandy. Many people celebrated the return of lights, heat and water as an opportunity to return to normal life. NPR's Quil Lawrence visited a housing project on the lower east side, where residents were grateful to be out of the darkness.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

It's been five days since Sandy ravaged parts of the Northeast. Hundreds of thousands of people in New Jersey, Connecticut and the outer boroughs of New York City are still without electricity. In most of Manhattan, power has now been restored, but even with the lights back on, cleanup remains a daunting task ahead. Here's NPR's Quil Lawrence reporting from New York.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: The first priority was safety, then food and water, then electricity, and now it's garbage. With the power back on and the subway starting to run, people across Manhattan are finally getting a chance to clean up - everywhere. At Osteria Morini between Little Italy and Soho, Chef Asi Mamman was hauling out the trash - expensive trash.

ASI MAMMAN: No, there's no damage from the storm, but there was no power, so we lost everything that we had in the refrigeration. A lot of money here. Going to start from scratch.

LAWRENCE: But Manhattan isn't all little bistros and boutiques. North of Delancy Street on the Lower East Side, residents of the Baruch towers housing projects were hauling shopping carts back from the newly re-opened Key Food supermarket in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge.

JAMES: I need the harbor key. You got the harbor key.

LAWRENCE: Housing authority staff are out in force. They've been told they'll lose their jobs if they talk to the media. So one of them gave only his first name. James is looking for the key to turn on all the incinerators, which haven't run in five days. In the basement of each tower is a very stinky room.

JAMES: This is the machine right here. The garbage comes down and then it comes down the sleeve like a sausage, then we cut them back. (Unintelligible).

LAWRENCE: Another custodian is standing at the bottom of a constipated garbage chute, poking at it with a rake as the machine tried to push down the rubbish.

JAMES: We didn't do it in three days. Three, four days we didn't do the garbage. So you can imagine the garbage is up to the, like, the fifth, sixth floor, which is, you know, pretty much unsanitary, and rats and all that kind of stuff. You can see rats all over here. If them leaves wasn't there, you'd see a bunch of holes in every building.

LAWRENCE: In the parking lot, a few people are trying to revive cars that got swamped in the storm. The mood is mostly positive despite the mess. Chino Rodriguez says he was hauling jugs of water from the fire hydrant up to the ninth floor all week until the power came on last night. What did you do when the power came back on?

CHINO RODRIGUEZ: Happy - screaming up and down with joy. We don't have to go through that no more. We got the elevator now, but still we ain't got no hot water, so we got to see how long is that going to take now.

LAWRENCE: But there are still plenty of New Yorkers left in the dark. Anthony Aviles is visiting from the Bronx where he doesn't have power, water or heat.

ANTHONY AVILES: They're saying probably the 11th of November. I guess Manhattan comes first.

LAWRENCE: Authorities say they hope the outer boroughs will soon follow. Quil Lawrence, NPR News, New York.

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