WRITTEN BY: Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY
NEW YORK -- Hard hit by Superstorm Sandy, the city postponed the annual Halloween Parade. But in "Light Manhattan" on Wednesday night, there was no sign of any break in the holiday revelry.
New Yorkers costumed as vampires, ghouls, goblins and, of course, the ubiquitous sexy nurses, witches and princesses, crowded blocks north of 40th Street, en route to parties.
All over this part of the East Side, residents, workers and tourists poured into restaurants, hotels bars and hotels.
Around 8:30 p.m., the wait at Avra, a popular E. 48th St. eatery where one Zagat restaurant guide reviewer said "the Mediterranean meets Manhattan," was at least a half hour.
Eight blocks south along Third Avenue, the wait was the same at Dock's Oyster Bar, a restaurant popular for its fine seafood.
Then, one block away, a first sign of "Dark Manhattan." Some refugees from the neighborhoods from E. 39th southward crowded the ATM lobby of a Chase bank branch.
Balancing laptops on counters, they charged their computers and cell phones in the bank's electrical outlets. A few lounged on the lobby floor, playing backgammon and other board games as they waited in the welcome warmth from the 47-degree night chill outside.
One block east on Lexington Ave., the sign from the aptly named South Asian restaurant Nirvana cast a welcoming glow. This, the block between E. 39th Street and E. 40th Street, was the borderline between Light Manhattan and Dark Manhattan.
Inside, there was chicken masala and saag paneer, tandoori shrimp and roti, food that a Zagat reviewer praised as "perfectly seasoned classics at moderate rates."
Outside, to the left, was the brightness and warmth of Light Manhattan.
To the right was Shalom Bombay and Tokyo, both closed and without power, and the start of darkness.
No working traffic signals. No open shops, delis or bodegas.
Southward, the only glow came from the just-past-full moon shining through a few clouds and the Empire State Building, its top bathed in orange lights for Halloween.
A bright light came in sight at E. 34th Street. A spotlight running on generator power illuminated the normally busy intersection, evidence of police Commissioner Raymond Kelly's post-storm vow to keep the peace amid the darkness.
At E. 26th Street, a metal police barricade blocked Lexington Ave. and National Guardsmen in camouflage gear detoured southbound traffic westward.
Beyond the barrier, the 69th Regiment Armory loomed in the darkness. Outside humvees, jeeps and other equipment massed for post-storm recovery work crowded Lexington Avenue, just like the action on this block after the 9/11 terrorists attacks.
Busy Guardsmen came and went beneath carved signs listing other, equally momentous fights: Gettysburg and Meuse-Argonne, Antietam and Baccarat.
On many nights, E. 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue is crowded by Baruch College students leaving classes nearby, and cabs angling to pick up passengers outside the Gramercy Park Hotel a few blocks south. But all was quiet, and dark, on this Halloween night.
But then, on a nearby side street where trees somehow survived the storm, a sense of normal routine resumed. Plastic bags filled with bottles and cans lined the sidewalk, placed by residents or building superintendents who didn't hear that the city had cancelled recycling pick-ups.
In the middle of the block, a homeless figure familiar in the neighborhood rustled through the bags in search of deposit bottles exchangeable for spare change, a sure sign of returning Manhattan life.