Alice in Waterland
Alice in Waterland
[Editor's Note: The following post is by TDV contributor, Alice Liberte]
New York City is many things, but it is not the place you live if you want to build savings, live freely, or have a sense of physical security. The city is synonymous with cosmopolitan, modern, metropolitan, efficient, cutting edge, on the pulse, high-tech, see and be seen—bright lights, plethora of opportunities, trendy cafes, fabulous shopping, fast-paced lifestyle, a must-visit destination, drawing tourists from all over the world and those who want to start a new life, with the hope and dream of success. Anyone who’s lived here long enough know that that’s mostly hype.
The place is wonderful for those who don’t intend to worry about how much they spend, i.e. supremely wealthy residents, infrequent tourists and sitcom characters. Everybody else who actually lives here understands how NYC combines the worst elements of the early industrial capitalist era (before the markets had a chance to improve urban working and living conditions) and the depths of Soviet style central planning, rationing and despair. It’s exactly that Soviet style planning and reliance on the imperious local government that left New York so rife with suffering in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
I thought about this as a once beautiful waterfront in South Brooklyn called Sheepshead Bay with a lovely pedestrian blue bridge, famous family restaurants of all tastes (Italian, Russian, Chinese, Polish), cafes, marinas and boat clubs was flooded from the backed up sewage water from the nearby Knapp Street sewage plant that couldn’t release the waste due to the storm surge. The devastation was felt for a half mile in every direction inland. I actually witnessed the dirty water rapidly moving up the block on Avenue Z as cars were completely submerged in filth, basements were flooded to the ceiling and neighbors lives’ were destroyed. The full moon, high tide and gale force winds didn’t help the situation. Instead they made for a “perfect storm.” And Hurricane Sandy was the perfect storm.
The power flickered during the night as we all moved our basement furniture, files, and valuables to higher ground. Simultaneously, others were throwing their sewage laden belongings on the sidewalks. The pile-up of garbage was a scene from the Twilight Zone – and all occurring in the dark of night. Amidst the groans, cries and sobs of disbelief and loss, fire truck and ambulance sirens screamed all night long as everyone scooped up the rising water from their houses, if they were lucky to own a sump or transfer pump, then the dirty water damage was mitigated. Due to the sewage plant backup, there was no clean, sanitary running water for drinking, showering, toilets, etc.—in other words, no water, unless you were prepared with gallons of bottled water.
Then on Tuesday our power went out in this part of Brooklyn, but not before the power went out in Manhattan and Staten Island. In tandem, the cell phone networks and Internet went down for days.—Verizon, AT&T and Clear Wireless—yes I’ll call out the names of the ones I know about, but no company was immune. If you were lucky enough to have a landline –not likely in these days when everyone owns at least 2 cell phones— then maybe you could contact your family and friends, but they probably don’t have a landline, only cell phones, so you had no idea if they were safe and sound.
So far, this was bad – no water, no power, no communications, I didn’t even get a chance to mention that the Mayor of NYC, Mike Bloomberg, suspended all buses and subways, railroads from Monday evening until further notice, so no public transportation either. But if you have a car, you can get around, right? Wrong.
The bridges and tunnels were closed temporarily, but then reopened with restrictions. The scene was literally taken from the books on how to run a military state. I thought ruefully that every city in America would likely look like this at some point in the future and as a matter of political course, not natural disaster. Imagine police with checkpoints on all the major highways, bridges and tunnels—now add traveling requirements. If you wanted to enter Manhattan, you had to have at least 3 passengers per vehicle, and pets didn’t count. If you tried to enter Manhattan with less than the 3-person minimum, you were stopped and turned back. You could leave Manhattan without restriction, but you couldn’t get in without the minimum 3 heads. And did I mention that Manhattan south of 34th Street had no power, no water, no heat and the temperatures were cold, lows in the 40s and highs of no more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And you couldn’t use the toilet or take a shower!
So maybe you don’t need to go into Manhattan for anything and you could stay in your borough, whether it’s Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island. The grocery store shelves are now bare from the essentials, bread, milk, cheese, and anything in the fridge and freezer that wasn’t already purchased spoiled from the blackout. You figured you’d drive out further to another supermarket, but guess what, your gas tank is now low and the nearest gas station is either without power so you can’t pump fuel. No problem, drive further to a station that has power, right? On your way, the local street traffic is at a standstill, like a parking lot. Honking, beeping, screaming—what is this mayhem? About 30 minutes later, you realize that cars are lined up at the next gas station waiting to fill up the gas tanks with a maximum of 10 gallons. There are about 100 cars wrapped around for blocks waiting for hours for this now precious commodity. Panic and anger are high, and guns and knives are threatened for anyone who tries to cut the line, even pedestrians with gas containers. “Don’t even think about it, buddy!” This horror scene was all over NYC – gas shortage similar to the 1970s. To protect the citizens and the gas stations, the National Guard were called in and local police are standing by at every gas station. Do we feel safe now or is this just another page out of the how to run a military state?
Now let’s recap the series of events: no water, no power, no communications, no public transportation, no gasoline for vehicles (lack thereof). Now add one more problem to this dire situation: no working ATMs in the blackout areas. The same applies to credit card machines at businesses that managed to open their doors. CASH only if you need anything, food, water, medical supplies.
Highly sophisticated, educated people were cursing and assaulting others for limited gas and supplies. Homeowners that had their entire expensive beachfront homes destroyed in Rockaway Beach and Seagate for example were now homeless and bouncing from shelter to shelter. Looting was now prevalent in communities without power, water or much protection. One friend of mine in Rockaway was standing down with a gun as some looters opened his garage door to cause trouble – they fled when the gun was aimed at them. People were walking around like zombies, aimlessly trying to figure out how to start over again with nothing.
I took a walk outside on this sunny, brisk and chilly Sunday morning, and it was a complete ghost town. Garbage filled the sidewalks. People lined up outside the local hardware store hoping to pick up any supplies remaining, while the stench of mold and sewage pervades. This the first morning in a while that the sirens have been quiet. And I didn’t even mention the constant fires that were igniting all over the neighborhood and city even days after Hurricane Sandy had crashed.
9/11 was a catastrophe over 10 years ago, and Hurricane Sandy will go down in history too. I’ve heard underground that the storm was a conspiracy, that HAARP was responsible. New York is a symbol of central bank wealth hallucination, a perfect target for the elites when they need catastrophe to cow or galvanize the sheep. But we can broach that topic another time…
And we wonder how this could happen to NYC. I’ve lived in NYC for almost 30 years. I’ve lived in many cities across the United States, North, South, East and West. We are too dependent upon and intertwined with an infrastructure that is on the brink of collapse. New York is hyper vulnerable because of its hyper central planning. If the system gets clogged anywhere, the entire city can easily break down. There aren’t the natural and protective redundancies that would occur in a more organic, less planned city. Supplies are actually available in other regions outside of NYC, but why aren’t they allowed to be brought in quickly enough? This is just a preview of what NYC and the rest of the United States will be facing in the very near future: tight controls and restrictions with limited and rationed resources as our economy spirals into the abyss, also known as a military, fascist state.
Surviving and thriving in these deteriorating conditions is possible. That’s why TDV publishes its latest newsletter, TDV Homegrown. Homegrown looks for the best ways to keep an income and to keep well fed as the economy collapses. It also looks for the best ways to stay free as the surveillance police state grows. Sure the simple answer is “get out of America while you can,” but Homegrown is for those who can’t (or won’t) leave and who want to keep their quality of life high nonetheless.
You can subscribe to Homegrown here. But one free piece of advice first: If you’re going to stay in the US, stay far away from NYC and vulnerable places like it. You don’t have to live on a farm in the middle of nowhere (though if you can, it’s not a bad idea!), but living someplace with lower population density and where you can safely store cash (Homegrown recently told of the very best and most secure way to store cash at home) and a few months’ supply of food, is a fantastic idea.
If you can leave the US entirely, however, that still remains a good idea. It’s not an option for everyone…but it is a very nice option to have. It’s diversification of geopolitical risk. And a big part of that is also having a citizenship and passport from outside the US as well. US citizenship is increasingly becoming a liability around the world, after all. TDV can assist you in obtaining a much less toxic and much more useful citizenship and passport.
Hope to see you outside of the rabbit hole and on stable, high ground…
Alice Liberte is the nomme de plume of a TDV crew member who lives in New York.