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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
New York firms hit hard

By Matt Wells
BBC correspondent in New York

With some areas of New York still without power, mass euphoria is giving way to a more sombre mood.

Jose Garcia was standing in his bodega on Grand Street, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

New Yorkers buy items from a cafe doing business on the street
Store owners have been trying to keep running
"I have hundreds of dollars of meat, cheese and ice cream. It's all ruined. The longer this lasts the worse it is for me," he said.

Outside his store on Thursday night there was a carnival atmosphere with hundreds on the street drinking and partying away. It was a mixture of relief that the crisis was apparently nothing to do with terrorism and a practical need to be outdoors away from the sweltering heat inside.

There were no televisions, no movie theatres and no air conditioning.

In contrast to the terrible depression the last time this phenomenon happened here on 11 September, everyone assumed the crisis would soon be over. An impromptu holiday weekend beckoned.

We're like a first world nation with a third world power grid
David Marks, store manager
But the day after the night before and amid the backslapping, worrying questions remain.

Manhattan Congressman Gerry Nadler praised the public's reaction, adding, "We still don't know what caused this. Maybe it was deliberate. Maybe it was not."

"We just don't know the extent to which business has been harmed. This emergency still isn't over."

'Screw-up'

His point was well reflected all the way down Williamsburg's main shopping street.

Eli Rodriguez, 28, is co-owner of the Bagel Store. She was just selling out when I arrived, disappointing a large queue of hungry people.

"I've sold whatever's not perishable," she said. "This will set us back a few thousand dollars at least. But I'm not blaming anyone."

This cautious optimism was not shared by a falafel store manager David Marks.

"We don't need terrorists. We screw ourselves up," he said. "We're like a first world nation with a third world power grid. They are surprised that every summer it's going to be hot."

It was not only small store owners directly affected who wondered how the most powerful city in the world could be brought to its knees so quickly.

Thirty-year-old marketing manager John Morais was waiting in line for one of the few working pay phones in the area. He was stranded in Brooklyn all Thursday night, too afraid to walk over the bridge to his Manhattan home when darkness fell.

"This couldn't have come at a worse time for the city," he said. "The economy has gone to hell and its going to cost us all a lot of money."

Williamsburg is a neighbourhood for the young and fashionable. But 80-year-old Antoinette Yacenda has been here all her life including the previous blackouts of 1965 and 1977. Trying to stay cool on her doorstep, she cannot understand how the city could be so vulnerable.

"There are just too many people here from all over," she said. "If they can't handle the things people need - it's all too much."

President George Bush is already calling for a review of the electricity grid's antiquated infrastructure. Many here in New York are wondering if the city's infrastructure is up to the intense demand of 21st Century living.




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