Fish guts flowing down a Union Square street. Untreated sewage in the Hudson River. Spoiled Haagen-Dazs dumped on a deli floor. Toilets that won't flush.
Superstorm Sandy has left a mess behind in a city never exactly known for its cleanliness.
In Manhattan, as power remained out for many customers below 39th street, Rod Zindani, owner of the Best of New York deli on Water St., stood by large plastic trash bags filled with melted single-serve tubs of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. “That’s $1,000 to $1,500 worth,” he told CNBC.
It's all got to go.
"Everybody's throwing out food. All the cooked short ribs, cooked pork, salsas had to go,” said Alfredo Vicuna, the head of kitchen at Tortaria, near Union Square in lower Manhattan. “It will stay good for about 24 hours, but after it got above 40 degrees, we can't use it. I don't even want to think about how much we had to throw out. It's not nice to see. The boss is literally crying right now about how much we lost."
Nearby, Carlos Solorzano watched a restaurant worker in a white chef’s coat hose away fish guts left behind in the street by sanitation workers. Along the curb, a tiny river of pink liquid, sprinkled with fish bones, blue and red octopus parts and bits of mackerel, flowed away.
"When we came back after the storm, some of the food was already rotten, all of the ice cream was melted, all of the fish had already spoiled. We had to throw out about 200 pounds of meat. That's a lot of business, that's their whole menu," said Solorzano, superintendent of the building housing the restaurant.
Refrigerators will keep food cold enough only for about four hours with the door closed. While bottled drinks and nonperishable foods such as peanut butter won’t go bad, any meat, cheese, eggs or cooked food has to go. Freezers only stay cold enough for about 48 hours.
At least one group of New Yorkers might be happy to see all that food tossed into the street: the rats. However, despite fears that rats would invade the city to feast on the garbage or that thousands would be flushed from the depths by floodwaters, a spokeswoman for the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said there's no evidence of an increase in rat activity.
As wary New Yorkers eye the soggy mess left behind by Sandy, some have expressed concern about an outbreak of disease. But experts say fears of cholera or dysentery from the floodwaters likely are overblown.
“The truth is, it’s fairly rare” in developed countries such as the United States, said Dr. Martin Makary, a gastrointestinal specialist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. That’s because people aren’t putting infected sewage into the system in the first place. Even after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf states in 2005, water-borne disease was not a widespread problem, Makary said.