On Monday evening, I stood at the tall windows of my boyfriend’s uptown Hoboken apartment and looked out across the Hudson at the dazzling Manhattan skyline that still takes my breath away, even after three years. I had packed a suitcase that morning with a couple days worth of clothes and left my low-lying apartment in midtown Hoboken for higher ground. The big windows in my boyfriend’s apartment made me nervous― I had visions of them shattering with a high-wind gust, but being on the fifth floor seemed safer than my second floor apartment on a street that floods when it drizzles.
Besides, my boyfriend had more board games and beer on hand.
I was trying to get some work done, knowing that the power might go out at any moment, but I kept coming back to the big windows as the sky darkened, the winds picked up and the Hudson began to writhe and rise. First the water swallowed the ferry pier, then it was up over the riverside boardwalk, and the next time I looked out the window, Hoboken looked like Venice― the street was a river rushing between high rise apartment buildings, but instead of gondolas, there was a lone white Volvo at the end of the block that no one had bothered to move.
I knew that the next morning my inbox would be flooded― no pun intended― with press releases from advocacy groups saying that Sandy was the result of climate change. I wondered if during the bickering that would ensue about the ultimate cause of the storm, would ordinary folks who live along the Hudson at least gain new comprehension of what a relatively weak hurricane or a meter rise in sea level could do to the neighborhood?
Later that night, the sky above Manhattan exploded in pink light as a transformer gave up and the city fell into darkness. Without the blazing skyline and the lights brilliantly reflecting off the Hudson, all I could see was dark water. Then we lost power.
After four days without light, heat, hot water or cell phone reception and with the pervading stench of gas and mildew intensifying, I left Hoboken to stay with family in Connecticut. On the drive up, I heard about Mayor Bloomberg's eleventh hour endorsement of President Obama, citing the need for strong leadership on climate change as his principle reason.
In his endorsement, much sought after by both candidates’ campaigns, Mayor Bloomberg writes:
"The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief …"
"Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week’s devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.…"
"We need leadership from the White House — and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption…"
Bloomberg doesn't pretend to have suddenly become a huge Obama fan overnight; he continues to be critical of the president for lack of progress on gun control, immigration and tax reform, deficit reduction and job creation, even as he makes his endorsement. But what Mayor Bloomberg did do was very publicly affirm that for him climate change is bigger than all that.
Gun control is key, but lives are lost in floods too; immigration reform is critical, but so is making sure that people don't have to evacuate their homes; we need to reduce our deficit, but the hurricane cleanup will run into the billions.
For Mayor Bloomberg, Sandy was a game-changer. I hope he's not the only one.
Are you surprised Bloomberg endorsed Obama, despite his criticisms of the president? Let us know in the Comments.
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Joanna Foster is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. Her background is in ecology and evolutionary biology, and having always lived near water—be it Lake Michigan, the Indian Ocean or the North Sea—she is passionate about the conservation and restoration of this most precious resource. She is a regular contributer at the Energy and Environment blog at The New York Times, and her work has also appeared in OnEarth Magazine and at the American Museum of Natural History. TakePart.com