The offices of New York, at Varick and Canal Streets, sit right on the border of Zone A and Zone B, in a corner of downtown where the lines on the evacuation map synced uncannily with the boundary between wet and dry last Monday night. That location also put our building in the part of the city that would spend the rest of the week without electricity, an eventuality that the magazine proved unprepared for, especially when Sandy severely complicated access to our backup servers in New Jersey. The first order of business Tuesday morning was locating staffers, several of whom had woken up in what were now cell-phone and e-mail dead zones. That afternoon, a group of editors met in midtown in space loaned by Wasserstein & Co., the firm that owns New York Media, to begin plotting our coverage of the storm and to deal with an even more urgent question: Who would volunteer to go down to One Hudson Square bright and early Wednesday morning to retrieve the computers?
An improvised newsroom was soon up and running, with 32 editors, photo editors, designers, and production specialists squeezed around a conference-room table, down the length of which snaked a tangle of power strips, extension cords, and chargers resembling similar arrays sprouting across the city. At this point, proofs were due to go to press in 72 hours. Staffers spent them scrambling to secure writers and photographers as well as exchanging personal e-mail addresses to make it possible to transfer files (our servers were still down), arranging car pools, finding rooms at three different hotels for colleagues from darkened neighborhoods, and draining our hosts of coffee and soda. The easiest part of a harried three days came Friday around noon, when we met to settle on the cover. A photograph taken by Iwan Baan on Wednesday night, showing the Island of Manhattan, half aglow and half in dark, was the clear choice, for the way it fit with the bigger story we have tried to tell here about a powerful city rendered powerless. We crammed back into the conference room, raced to finish our pages, and hoped, like other New Yorkers, that everyone would find the lights on when they got home.