Launch Slideshow

Public Spaces Empty as Sandy Strikes

Public Spaces Empty as Sandy Strikes

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    The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel (which was recently renamed as the Hugh L. Cary Tunnel) will close at 2:00 p.m. today.

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    Grand Central Terminal, where some 750,000 commuters pass through daily, closed on Oct. 28, as Hurricane Sandy made its approach to the East Coast.

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    Designed by the architectural firms Reed & Stem and Warren & Wetmore, Grand Central Terminal appears here after the last train departs before Hurricane Sandy arrives.

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    One of the New York subway system's busiest platforms, empty of rail riders.

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    This image of an empty Times Square subway station could be any station, since New York City—like Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.—has closed its public transit for the storm.

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    Courtesy Kate Dolack

    Soldiers maintain their vigil outside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, Va., despite the storm.

The massive storm descending on the East Coast today is inconveniencing residents and workers in some of the nation's largest cities. Leaders in Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., took the dramatic steps of closing public transit, an unprecedented pre-emptive gesture for the Eastern seaboard. As The Atlantic Cities's Sommer Mathis writes, "We can only hope that the measures put in place Monday to keep residents of the U.S. East Coast's big cities at home will end up seeming similarly overzealous."

So far, the storm that has shut down New York City has also reframed some of its public spaces. A floor of the New York Stock Exchange empty of traders is just one example. Times Square isn't completely empty as of early Monday afternoon, but it's nearly there. The views from empty subway platforms or Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel are nearly as dramatic as the view of New York City from high atop the Times Building—or the more abstract depictions of Sandy on the national wind map or even from space.

It's eerie to see spaces that are known for their hustle and bustle emptied out. When people come together to celebrate—whether it be sports victories, elections, holidays, or other triumphs—they gather in these public plazas. To mourn, too. And transit stations in particular represent that last hurdle before a person is able to gather with family to celebrate winter holidays or relax for vacation (not to mention the way that many people commute every single day). To see these public spaces free of any people makes it concrete how thoroughly weather dictates our networks, commerce, and traditions. Right now, the entire East Coast is holding its breath.

UPDATED: An earlier version of the slideshow contained a photo of Liberty Island that may be a fake.