The Plight of the West Village Blackout Victim: West Villagers Sound Off

Categories: Hurricane Sandy

Yesterday, we published an article about a support group that has been set up by a West Village resident who claims he suffered "acute stress disorder" after he was left helpless and without power for five whole days following Hurricane Sandy.

This West Village victim -- who apparently called into NY1 at the height of his trauma -- compares his struggle to cope with the horrors of having no electricity for nearly a week with what people went through after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He also thinks I'm an "asshole."

Barry Drogin
Barry Drogin -- whom I contacted yesterday to find out what, exactly, his support group entailed -- never called me back. But he took to the comment section of the post we published yesterday to vent about his struggle with darkness. Some of his neighbors sounded off, too.

Drogin's comment:

I was not traumatized by five whole days of no electricity, you assholes.  If you know anything about real trauma, you know it is caused by a moment of supreme emotional distress caused by a single moment of witnessing or experiencing something traumatic.  For me it occurred at around 10:30pm on Friday night, November 2, 6 hours before my neighborhood had power restored.


Your idiotic assumption, and the assumption of all the other assholes that have posted so far on your blog page, is that everyone in the Far West Village are rich Eurotrash or coop-owning hedge fund managers.  Surprise, surprise, there are original tenants here who are not young, good-looking and rich, and who haven't been pushed out yet.


After 9/11 I was mercilessly pilloried on-line by the "truth" movement.  I stood up to them and I'll stand up to you.  Go ahead, tell me that the insomnia I have been experiencing for 10 days, the lack of appetite, the inability to remember what I was thinking 5 seconds ago, isn't real.  Call me a drama queen for seeking help for myself and others who have already contacted me.  Tell me to see a psychiatrist as I wait for the $900 initial consultation that was "fit in" a week after I requested it.


Oh, and by the way, we don't all own smartphones with data plans and instant messaging.


If you had one-tenth of the guts I had, you would publish your real names, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses like I did.  My life is an open book.  Forfend you should actually visit my website and learn about who I am before posting your garbage.  It is so easy to be hard.


As to James King, who is too incompetent to even set up his answering machine, I had to take two days off from work to deal with my exhaustion from sleeplessness.  On Monday I returned to work - sorry that your imagined story was too tempting to write without confirmation, and thanks for not providing an evening phone number to reach you, but I'm sure you were just trolling for more tidbits to sprinkle into your little laughfest.  I've been reading The Village Voice cover to cover since 1978.  Apparently the new staff of the "village" voice assumes that everyone in the original village is gone and been replaced by yuppies.


So here's the challenge, you social media whores and gutless wonders.  Don't respond without ending the way I am now.


Barry Drogin


Another West Village victim -- this one anonymous -- also chimed in:

In printing this mierda, the Village Voice has made itself suitable only for making cat litter. And to the people who commented here who are without empathy for the residents of the West Village, congratulations. You have revealed yourselves as sociopaths. Now everybody knows who you are.

As did a former West Villager, who thankfully was spared the hardship of five entire days without electricity:

have not lived in NYC since 1989, was born and raised there, just tells me the west village has not changed, only concerned about themselves and their little village world. Too bad!

But Cynthia Diaz summed it up the best:

White people.

As we mentioned yesterday, people in Staten Island, the Rockaways, New Jersey, and Long Island are currently living in what resembles a war zone. But who cares about them -- let's get these West Village heroes the help they desperately need.

Visit Drogin's website, on which he has dedicated an entire section to the trauma of living without electricity for five whole days.

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I'm not a health professional, but this is clearly a man who is crying out for help. I don't think his trauma was actually caused by the storm, there must be underlying issues that he has to resolve. Most people who are mentally sound can handle a moderately traumatic event such as hurricane sandy.


You are all invited to attempt to call Mr. King back at 518-265-2195, day or night.  As I wrote, he is too incompetent to set up his answering machine.  And as I said on NY1, I understand that there are lots of people much worse off than me.


--On Saturday, November 3, I wrote down my story, for myself and for my friends.

--On Sunday I wrote a Talking Point for The Villager, my local paper (not The Village Voice), which mentioned as a footnote that I was forming the group.

--On Monday, JBFCS told me they had nothing and to contact 1-800-LIFENET.

--On Wednesday, 1-800-LIFENET told me to contact JBFCS.

--It wasn't until Thursday, November 8, after a psychiatrist told me he could "fit me in" on November 16, that I sat at work all day barely able to function (even though I was there, I took a vacation day), and added the Support Group info to my webpage.  I realized Google wasn't going to spider my website for quite some time.  If, on Google, you searched for the terms "Sandy" and "support group," whether you lived in the Rockaways, Staten Island, New Jersey, or any other place, you got nothing (there was a Facebook group organizing volunteers, I wrote to them).  If you listen, I called in to NY1 and they said they hadn't covered the story and thanked me for bringing it up.  So maybe you don't care that, over a week after the disaster, all of the mental health professionals living in the city didn't realize that this was needed.

--Despite the foot problems I had experienced the week before, on the morning of Friday, November 9, I walked to schools, churches,  synagogues and small businesses in my neighborhood and they posted the flyers.  Then I walked up to B&H, where a manager apologized to me for how I was treated.  Then I walked to Christine Quinn's office and talked to the nice (but only partly helpful) fellow I had spoken to by phone the week before when I volunteered to help.  I figured out that day that I could get Google to spider a YouTube video, so I created one and my group finally appeared in searches.  I figured if I got calls from others, I could help them find each other, or they could come to my group.  No more passing the buck.

--The following day was Shabbas and I walked to synagogue on The High Line, to attend the services and the kiddush I had sponsored months before in honor of my mother's yahrzeit, and at the end of my first kaddish my ankle shot out in pain when I turned.  The president of the synagogue helped me up the stairs to the bima.

--On Sunday I travelled by bus with my kids to see a movie, and I posted in front of the movie theater, even though it was well past the border of my neighborhood.  I figured some people from my neighborhood might be going to the movies there, as well.


Apparently, this is when the brilliant James King decided it was time to write a story NOT about the lack of mental health services in the entire metropolitan region (except for Red Cross counselors in disaster areas), but about how, at least, I was trying to help people in my own neighborhood.  Unlike the Gothamist, he wrote a "bash the West Village" piece.  Today, he reinforces it, as do others.  I suppose they'd rather I be a one-man city agency or not-for-profit, posting flyers over hundreds of miles.


The entire theme of this disaster has been "on their own."  You hear it repeatedly, over and over, from every neighborhood.  Some newspapers turn it into a feel-good story.  Some New Yorkers tell it as a "where are the services for us?" story.  And an idiot at The Village Voice turns it into a "bash the West Village" story.  Perhaps he missed the Westbeth photo op.


Well, thanks to the Gothamist (who may have gotten the story from the Voice blog, but at least knew how to write about it properly), Gouverneur Healthcare Services contacted me and told me that they "will be" forming a group.  I have passed that info on to others who have contacted me.  My symptoms are abating but not gone.  For others, it could two or three more weeks.


But no, the fellow in Staten Island who sees a body floating in the water isn't traumatized, at least his house was on higher ground and he wasn't affected.  I suppose there are no reports of people stuck in elevators, especially in projects.  Only the most sensational story is "newsworthy."  Unless you can turn a guy you've never talked to into an imaginary yuk-fest.


Apparently Barry has never been on a camping trip and doesn't know that a 5 dollar transistor radio is a good thing to have when the power goes out.


James King still doesn't get it.  


Barry was offering a free support group, not soliciting your help.  Many thousands (millions) of people suffer from anxiety issues.  Anxiety is a physical condition as well as a psychological one, one that deals with the physical effects (sleeplessness, heart rate, nausea, etc....) of rational and irrational fears.  


Those feelings could be the way they're physically hard-wired, or can be echoes of childhood trauma, etc...  Many of those folks turn to drug and alcohol abuse because they feel embarrassed, ashamed, isolated, and misunderstood.   


Events like the hurricane can be very stressful for people with anxiety issues. 


If Barry is encouraging people to meet, talk, and get help to be healthier, good for him.   


People who seek help for possible mental illness (long or short term) totally deserve to be mocked in the public eye. I must have missed the part where he said he had it far worse than all other Sandy victims. As long as we're playing who's more tramatized, New York has nothing on Haiti, so what's all the fuss about? Glad to see The Village Voice joining the rest of mass media in journalistic integrity.


My trauma was not actually caused by the storm, nor was it caused by underlying issues.  It was caused by the transition, late on Friday night, from a region that had been restored to full power with street lights, traffic lights, and lit apartment buildings, to a region where there still was none.  The trauma was exacerbated by media reports biased to the East Village and addressed not to an audience whose only source of information was radio, but to a city-wide audience.  NY1, Time Warner Cable's local news channel, has offices located in Chelsea, and a reporter driving into work provided home-made video of the lit neighborhoods and the still-dark neighborhoods (I watched the video later).  1010 WINS AM radio, to contrast, kept running a story about how Coyote Ugly in the East Village had power, ending with a vague sentence about how "900,000" people still did not have power (I heard that broadcast myself).  Since the Lower Manhattan number up until then had been 220,000, it would have been impossible for a listener to know that some neighborhoods - Chelsea above 14th Street, the East Village - had power, but that many Lower Manhattan neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, Soho, Tribeca, and the West Village, did not, as well as, of course, other neighborhoods in the other boroughs, many of whom did not have power for over a week later.  This kind of vignette "human-interest" reporting provides a form of entertainment and voyeurism to the wider listening audience, but ultimately provides no information to those who need it - those who need to know, "Can I come back home, or should I try to find a place to stay uptown since my place will be even colder?"  The airwaves belong to the public.  Granted, it wasn't time to activate the Emergency Broadcast Service, but I hope you see my point.


For that matter, it is curious that for over an hour-and-a-half after the blackout commenced, broadcast media was unaware of it, focused as they were on the uptown crane and the storm surges at the coasts.  (Again, this is from viewing NY1 coverage, including their ticker tape scrolls, later.)


Despite everything I have written and posted, James King keeps stating that I am writing about "the trauma of living without electricity for five whole days," when my website posting is more about boredom and frustration, not trauma.  Although James King is white, he ends with a "white people" rim shot.  Perhaps he thinks that posting from Crown Heights with a last name "King" has fooled his audience into thinking that he is black.  He is not.  Since he has posted (without permission) a photo of me on his blog, I have posted a photo of him on my website.  See for yourself.


This is not to say, Jim, that previous "issues" and trauma did not make me more vulnerable.  The fact that, on 9/11 the second plane actually went over my shoulder and slipped into the tower in front of my eyes, sending me into shock, with later symptoms of ASD and PTSD, apparently did make me more vulnerable, although after Sandy the hyper-vigilance and other symptoms I experienced after 9/11 did not recur, I had different symptoms.  But note that James King cannot refer to these as acute traumatic disorder without putting them in quotes - he simply doesn't believe they exist, and he portrays himself as black so he can mock such things as a "white man"'s disease.


The fact is, bloggers like James King - who create false on-line personas to attract and entertain a readership - live from post to post.  They leave behind a wake of devastation on search engines, though.  James (or his legal department), gave me equal time, but stuck to their narrative and their rim shot.


It was Nat Hentoff of The Village Voice who taught me that the answer to bad speech is more speech.  James King gets more eyeballs by having an unmoderated message board.  And the repeated canard that I "never called him back" (an echo of "would not comment") and his other lies should brand him forever as an unreliable source.  When a real reporter gets a story so completely wrong, he or she prints a retraction.  James King makes himself the story by sticking to his guns.  If this second posting were really a retraction, he would post a link to it on his first posting.  But that's not how they roll.  I guess I can do more with WordPad and simple HTML than the Voice can with all of their programmers and sophisticated software.  Why can you only "Like" something, but you cannot "Dislike" it?  Because then everyone would know how outraged many readers were by some of the postings by James and his followers.  Sad.


Ramble, ramble, ramble.  Cue Buffalo Springfield (it is James holding the gun).


Perhaps my ex-wife "stole" my radio when she moved out of the apartment.  I've had it for years, it doesn't go bad, I know where I used to keep it, I still can't find it, I bought a new one.


If you'd followed the link and read my story, you'd know that I was looking for it.


Actually, I'd like one of those handcrank-powered radios if we're going to continue having five-day blackouts.  Perhaps they make a handcrank-powered flashlight, as well.


As a former emergency management professional, I know to always have a landline.  Did you read the Wall Street Journal article about AT&T trying to get regulations changed to eliminate all landlines in 3 years?


@barry149 As is typical of some forms of trauma, the traumatizing incident can be suppressed.  It wasn't until two months later that I realized, in a powerful nightmare, that the event described above was actually AFTER the traumatizing incident.

The actual traumatizing incident was the evening before, when the bulb on my flashlight died.  I made my way into the blackness of the corridor of my apartment building, managed somehow to lock my door, and slowly wended my way to the fifth floor stairwell.  It was going down the stairwell, in complete pitch-black darkness, afraid at every step that I would fall, hurt myself, and be left helpless, that was the source of my trauma.  ATSD and PTSD are caused by life-threatening moments, and this moment, which I suppressed from memory for two months, was the life-threatening moment.  The return to darkness described above was merely a trigger of the feelings I already had about the previous repressed moment, which is why I consciously thought it was the traumatic moment itself.

Troops is combat come back suffering from PTSD, as do policemen and firemen.  Anyone who has experienced a life-threatening situation is susceptible.  There are multiple routes out of PTSD, including telling the story (so that the act of narration lessens the reliving of the trauma) and forms of exposure therapy (in my case, it would be exposure to increasing amounts of darkness until the anxiety effects were not so extreme).

It is still appalling that James King created a fake Facebook page in my name and posted my photo there so he could tell his lawyers that my copyrighted photo was available for publication.  "Prove I did it," he will claim.  This is beyond journalistic integrity - King is a slimeball.  And his readers who were eager to kick me in the nuts to show their disgust with the strawman that King created are vile lemmings.

What was my crime?  After seeking help from the professional community and ending up in a ring of clueless referrals, I helped myself and others in my region who needed the help, as well.  The only publicity I sought was to tell others that the help was available, not to glorify myself or my experiences.  Apparently my other crime was to have lived in the West Village for 30 years.  Yes, there are rich people in the West Village who got in their cars and drove off to their summer homes during the blackout.  Undoubtedly, there are West Village residents who shop at Whole Foods.  I am not one of them.

Bring back Nat Hentoff.


Time to put CharlesWaverley's entire life under a microscope so we can figure out how he turned into the kind of mean bastard who would write such a thing.


Why will it be no surprise that CharlesWaverley is a pathetic loser who gets his rocks off by anonymously flaming anyone and everyone within eyeshot of his computer (or BlackBerry?) screen?


What is the pathological need CharlesWaverley has to take the one civil thread on this entire pathetic webpage and get "back on topic" - bashing Barry Drogin?


This is called "building community" - James King getting your eyeballs to this page by stealing copyrighted images off of the Internet, the Village Voice getting your eyeballs on to their ads so they can pay James King his pathetic little salary, then the idiots he has attracted joining together to protect themselves against the newly-minted "public figure" they created within their pathetic little on-line world.


You can never win, because once they smell blood, they'll go after you full bore to protect their right to anonymous free hate speech.


As Bill Maher would say, life within the bubble.

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