Opinion

David Rohde

A year after Sandy, New York’s inequality grows

David Rohde
Oct 30, 2013 17:02 UTC

When Hurricane Sandy engulfed New York a year ago, David Del Valle helped me instead of his mother. Del Valle’s choice was not voluntary.

For the last 10 years, the 48-year-old New Yorker has worked as a doorman at the hotel where my wife, daughter and I stayed after being ordered to evacuate our apartment in lower Manhattan. Eager to hold on to his job, Del Valle stayed at work but worried about his mother — who lives on the city’s Lower East Side, which lost electricity and flooded.

His mother was fine and soon after the storm, I wrote about how Sandy exposed the city’s vast economic inequality. While the better off moved to hotels or simply fled, Del Valle was one of the city’s army of doormen, cooks, maintenance workers and maids who stayed on the job during the storm and had to leave their loved ones to fend for themselves.

“Divides between the rich and the poor are nothing new in New York,” I wrote last year, “but the storm brought them vividly to the surface. There were residents like me who could invest all of their time and energy into protecting their families. And there were New Yorkers who could not.”

In a small sign of how deeply the issue of inequality resonated among Americans, that column went viral and was the most popular piece I wrote last year. In a far larger and more important sign, New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio — who has made easing the city’s inequality the core message of his campaign — is expected to be elected in a landslide next week, potentially by the largest margin in decades.

Response to Sandy holds election’s key

David Rohde
Nov 2, 2012 13:21 UTC

Jacqueline Pattison is giving Mayor Mike Bloomberg one more day. So far, she has been impressed by New York City’s response to Hurricane Sandy. Along with millions of other New Yorkers, she is patiently enduring the lack of electricity, tortuous commute and a deep sense of uncertainty.

But if electricity does not return to her apartment a few blocks north of the World Trade Center soon, she will have lost faith in her government.

“I think by Friday we should have power at the latest,” the 51-year-old co-owner of a small moving business said. “We live on the 28th floor.”

A hurricane’s inequality

David Rohde
Oct 31, 2012 00:28 UTC

A hotel bellman said he was worried about his mother uptown. A maid said she had been calling her family in Queens. A garage attendant said he hadn’t been able to contact his only relative – a sister in New Jersey – since the storm hit. Asked where he weathered the hurricane, his answer was simple.

“I slept in my car,” he said.

Sandy humbled every one of the 19 million people in the New York City metropolitan area. But it humbled some more than others in an increasingly economically divided city.

Hours before the storm arrived on Monday night, restaurants, corner grocery stores and hotels were open in the Union Square area of Manhattan. (My wife and I moved to a hotel there after being ordered to evacuate our apartment in lower Manhattan.) Instead of heading home to their families as the winds picked up, the city’s army of cashiers, waiters and other service workers remained in place.

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