Problems ran rampant in New York City after Hurricane Sandy blew through early this week. With authorities dealing with the aftermath, four East Harlem residents decided to take matters into their own hands.
It was an unusual sight for motorists traveling up First Avenue on Wednesday evening at 94th Street. Good Samaritans lent a hand, and an arm, waving traffic through the cross street after the powerful winds of Sandy froze the stoplight on red.
A 62-year-old social worker was in her 92nd Street apartment when she decided to take matters into her own hands. “Frankly, I got fed up with the honking. I came down to see what was going on, and I realized that the lights were broken.”
She came down about 4 p.m. and began directing traffic. Police cars meandered by, stopping only to reprimand her for endangering herself. “They said that if something were to happen to me, they wouldn’t be held responsible,” she said, refusing to give her name, fearing repercussions from authorities.
But she was not afraid to keep waving cars through, while NYPD and FDNY patrol cars came and went. An hour later, Matthew Healy, a resident who lives a few blocks away, saw her dealing with rush hour and trick or treating children and decided to step in.
“I saw her trying to manage things on her own and figured I should step in. So I called up my roommates who decided to help out as well,” said Healy. Shortly after, roommates Andrew Hart and Pierce Watson joined him, and the four of them took charge of the situation.
“Healy told me that an old lady was trying to manage the traffic on her own and that no one was paying any attention to her. He was already there helping out. So me and my other roommate (Watson) went out as well,” said Hart.
As the myriad vehicles rushed to the aid affected residents, they stopped only to exchange confused or amused looks. Meanwhile, the four used two pieces of cardboard and scribbled “broken light” in bold letters to hold up for commuters to see. “Not once did the officers stop to ask us what was going on or if we needed any help,” Healy said.
“It’s Halloween. Children are on the streets. How can city officials not feel concerned about this when the area was flooded the day before and is brimming with traffic now?” said the lady.
“We did it because someone had to. It was that simple for me,” said Watson
After a construction worker saw what the lady was doing, he gave her his florescent vest. “He said this way vehicles will see me standing in the middle of the road,” she said.
Frustrated commuters who were stuck in the jam expressed their gratitude openly as they rolled down their windows and shouted their “thanks” and calling them “good Joes” as they drove away.
“People have been thanking us. Some even stopped to raise their thumbs and support what we were doing,” said Hart. “We’ve been here since 5 p.m., but the lady has been here for much longer.”
Pedestrians also stopped to watch them in action. One of them yelled out to the four, asking them if it was a “Halloween special.”
While most commuters followed directions, many defiantly drove past them, despite their many attempts to stop them. “Maybe the NYPD has other things to do, and that’s to be understood given the circumstances,” said Watson.