Wandering The Border: N.Y. Reactivates, In Part

NPR's Margot Adler has been covering the storms aftermath. On Saturday, she walked into Central Park, opened for the first time since before the storm. She then went to examine the "border areas," those blocks where there was power and normalcy on one side, and on the other, no lights and just the noise of a few generators pumping power.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We return now to the devastating impact of this past week's superstorm. NPR has several reporters based in New York, but none has lived there as long as Margot Adler. She's a lifelong New Yorker and Margot has been covering the storm and its aftermath on the island of Manhattan. She now brings us this Reporter's Notebook.

MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: Saturday morning, as I walked out of my building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan into a crisp fall day with a perfect sky, I spotted a neighbor dressed in running gear. We crossed the street together.

What are we doing right now?

(LAUGHTER)

JILL SCHREIER: We are walking into Central Park.

ADLER: And it's open!

The Park has been totally locked down since before the storm hit. Usually all this week, the iconic Central Park Reservoir is packed with fit and gorgeous runners, men and women from around the world speaking scores of languages.

My neighbor, Jill Schreier, has run in 15 marathons and she was planning to run, before today's marathon was canceled. But she's a native New Yorker. How could we do that, she says.

SCHREIER: On Staten Island, they have a fence up. On one side are Porta-Sans for us that they - and these people haven't had toilets in how many days? There is coffee. There's donuts. There's bagels for us that could be going to people who haven't eaten.

ADLER: After her morning run, she plans to spend the weekend volunteering. Its peak fall here, the grass is still brilliant green. There's not been a frost. The trees are a mix of green, yellow, red, brown. Thousands of runners are on the park drive, the sounds of their feet mixing with buzz saws taking down broken trees and forklifts picking up branches.

Near the finish line for today's canceled marathon, porta-potties are still in cardboard packaging. A team of runners in blue sweatshirts, saying France, near what would have been the finish line, don't seem too happy. Too bad, says Jill Schreier, in that blunt New York way.

SCHREIER: If they could afford to come this year, they can afford to come next year.

ADLER: At the Imagine plaque in Strawberry fields, a real return to normal; a guitarist singing Beatle songs and crowds taking pictures.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Is going to be a...

ADLER: There were two totally different Manhattans in the wake of Sandy's fury. And I spent a lot of my time in what I've come to call the border area: those blocks where there was power, activity and normalcy on one side; and on the other, no lights and just the noise of a few generators pumping power into darkened delis and pizza joints. Grand Central Terminal was on the power side, bustling Friday; the Apple store on the upper level was packed, the restaurants a hive of activity. The open banks on the border became makeshift workspaces for the powerless on the dark side.

Edward Sherman sat with some 15 other people in a Chase Bank.

EDWARD SHERMAN: It's become my office. I have been sitting in the lobby of JP Morgan Chase working, yeah. Yes. Yes.

ADLER: Our NPR New York office on 42nd Street was on the power side of the street, the beloved public library on Fifth Avenue, with it's lions out front, was shuttered and dark and will not open until tomorrow. Macy's was filled with customers. Huge symbols of capitalism - Charles Schwab, Credit Swiss - were locked down. The upscale Lord and Taylor, a block from the library was in darkness until it opened at noon on Saturday.

Minutes before that, I saw people with Lord and Taylor shopping bags coming from the subway to return things. And just about to walk in was Salma El Said from Egypt.

SALMA EL SAID: We are happy because it's business. You know, I mean, you want the best for the best for the people, too. You know? It was sad to see it closed like that, closed.

ADLER: People in Staten island and New Jersey are still struggling, and so are some here in Manhattan, but now that the power is back, we're beginning, just beginning to be one island once again.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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