and the Blackout
By Larry Tung
During the blackout, Moaad Alsaedi worked around
the clock at the 24-hour Happiness Deli on Delancey Street
in the Lower East Side.
"We were one of the few places that were still open. It was
really crowded the whole time," he said.
Has anybody else notice
that most of the stores that stayed open throughout the blackout
on August 14th and 15th were in fact owned
or run by immigrants?
One reason for this might be very simple
-- they are used to it.
Alsaedi, 19 years old, moved to New York
eight years ago from Yemen. "In
Yemen," he said, " a blackout is something normal. It
happens every day. We got used to it."
Many immigrants are
no strangers to life with limited electricity. But they are in
New York now, with different expectations and new
investments, and they were hit as hard as anybody else.
Ramos, a native of Mexico who bought a deli on Fourth Avenue in
Brooklyn with her husband a little over a year ago, was
forced to throw out almost everything in the refrigerator the next
day, at a loss of at least $1,000.
In Flushing, which is one of
the areas that first got power back on, Jane Zheng, a cashier at
Szechuan Gourmet Restaurant, said
many horrible things went through her mind when the blackout happened.
"9/11 was the first thing that came to my mind because it
happened so suddenly," Zheng said. She said power and water
rationing in her native Szechuan Province in southwestern China
but people are always given advance notice.
But not everyone was
as panicked as Zheng. Sung Mi Kang, a devoted Christian from Seoul,
Korea, and an assistant manager at Jang Tuh
Restaurant, a 24-hour Korean barbecue restaurant, said she was
calmly waiting for the power to return.
"I believe in Jesus," Kang said, adding that she never
experienced any major blackout in Korea. "I thought it was
an accident and did not think about the terrorists at all."
blackout, the biggest in U.S. history, reportedly caused a total
loss of more than $1 billion. Many small business owners
put the blame on Con Edison, the power company that serves 3.1
million in the Metropolitan area, for their loss and are seeking
compensation. Two suits have been filed against Con Edison by a
group of residents in Queens and a group of New York restaurants
for property loss within a week after the blackout.
"We are still waiting for compensation from Con Edison, my
insurance company and whoever is responsible for it," Alsaedi
said, adding that they had to discard all dairy products, cold
cuts and ice cream. "We
hope to get a response soon."
However, Chris Olert, a Con Edison
spokesman, said that the company did not cause the blackout, and
under state regulations, it cannot
be held responsible for legal claims stemming from food spoilage
and other inconveniences.
On the other hand, the Federal Emergency
Management Agency announced on August 23 that the agency will provide
up to $5 million in federal
emergency funds for New York to help cover part of the loss in
the statewide blackout. The city's Department of Small Business
Services is also working on measures to provide similar assistance.
many immigrant business owners are handling it the way many immigrants
do in similar situations: to just let it go and put
it behind them.
Despite losing almost everything in the freezer,
Kang said she thanked god when the power went back on and that
she is not aware
of any government assistance and would not seek compensation.
the cashier in Flushing, was sympathetic and said everybody suffered
from the blackout.
"Nobody wanted the blackout," Zheng said. "Besides,
our loss is relatively minor."
But they do have a complaint
that the blackout lasted for so long, from 16 hours in Flushing
to 29 hours on the Lower East Side and
" I was just shocked that it took that long to get everything
back on," said David Seid, an assistant manager at Chinatown
Ice Cream Factory. "Usually in this neighborhood the power
comes back a lot quicker because they try to keep the Wall Street
area going. The ice cream store was closed for a day and half."
"I always thought Americans are very efficient and capable," Zheng
said. "They were too slow this time."
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