The View From Washington Heights


Oscar, 9, plays some soccer with his friend near Riverside Drive West. Credit: LANCE DIXON

Little damage, but a big dilemma: what to do with restless, cooped-up kids.

Upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood escaped the worst effects of Hurricane Sandy. Major damage in the neighborhood was largely confined to downed store awnings and uprooted trees. But it did put a heavy burden on families: how to keep the kids entertained through days of confinement and cancelled classes.

Andrea Mata pondered that question this morning as she walked through her undamaged neighborhood with her two children, Oscar, 9, and Alina, 5, and two other children, on the third day of New York City school closures.

“The first day was kind of great,” said Mata. “We got to bake cookies, and there was a pumpkin we hadn’t carved, so we did that.”

Mata, said she also managed to tend to a few “bottom of the list things” on her to-do list.

But then, the family started to get a little restless. The kids needed entertainment, and her husband was “driving [me] crazy—he had the TV on all day.”

“Today, we were kind of hoping—we knew the buses were running—we were going to go to the Museum of Natural History, but that didn’t wok out.” Mata said. Like so many other attractions in the city, the museum remained closed because of Monday’s storm.

Instead, Mata took the children to a park for disorganized games of soccer and football. Mata played de facto referee, but her real job was fetching the ball out of Riverside Drive after every errant kick.

Mata said that normally, there would be a bigger group of kids joining her.

“Usually my house is Grand Central for kids in the building,” she said. But not many came by this morning or yesterday, perhaps because the storm aftermath still left some families a little shaky. “People were being very protective,” she said.

Mata compared her situation to friends who live in the Rockaways, where flooding was devastating. Although her friends are not in danger, she said their post-Sandy lives require significantly more adjustment than just having to keep the kids amused. They also have to cope with the Rockaway Beach boardwalk being almost completely wiped out by Sandy, with pieces strewn across the damaged area.

“The boardwalk, that’s their community. They’re kind of in shock, in mourning,” Mata said. “I’ve been fortunate, we’re in a much better position than most people.”

City schools are closed through the end of the week, but buses have resumed service and some subways will back in service Thursday. It may be a signal to the proper return to normalcy that the family needs.

“We’re not used to an extended period of time like this—it’s an adjustment.” Mata said.


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