Watch Out for Those Fish Flying Down Frederick Douglas Boulevard


We took a stroll around the neighborhood this morning around 11. The only sounds were the whirl of police and ambulance sirens distant and close, and the steady ominous whoosh of the wind, carrying little stinging nuggets of rain. Fallen leaves swirled. The trees had begun bending. The only people on the street walked with purpose under the looming grey sky. “In a few hours,” someone remarked, “you’ll see a fish flying down Frederick Douglas Boulevard.”

On 116th Street, three ambulances, a police car and a police van idled at an intersection, lights whirling, apparently, on standby for what may come later. The garbage cans had been turned over and moved away from the corners. A tape across the shuttered subway entrance flickered in the wind. The chain stores were mostly closed–Starbucks, Subway–but the neighborhood shops were still open–the Italian restaurant, the bodegas, the mosque, the hardware store. Their workers probably did not need the subways to get to work.

The Rite Aid was open, and its shelves told the story: the bottled water section was empty, save a single lonely, half-drunk bottle. The batteries and toilet paper were gone, and for some reason, the entire chewing gum section had been purchased. Still, a dad helped his young sons pick out a birthday card for a friend, so maybe things wouldn’t be so bad.

The supermarket across the street, similarly, showed signs of consumer runs and deliveries postponed. The shelves that normally contain fresh bread were shorn. The milk section was heavily depleted. Someone had decided not to prepare the prepared foods. Two store managers spoke quietly about the right time to close.

Protected from the west by Morningside Heights, and to the east, by 12 city blocks before the river, the big questions around here seemed to be, would the trees in Morningside Park hold out, or would the wind send them crashing into the apartment buildings that line its 15-block stretch? And since many of those building’s basements are accessible by steps down from the sidewalk, would the water rise enough to flow down those steps, under the steel doors, and wreak havoc on the HVAC systems?