Food frenzy grips Big Apple as sun sets over blacked out Manhattan

FROM steaks to sushi to gallons of melting ice cream, restaurants, delis and bodegas around the city tossed out hundreds of pounds of perishable food just hours after the blackout zapped the Fried Apple.

At the legendary Zabar's on the Upper West Side it was a free-for-all food frenzy as a crowd of 100 mobbed the sidewalk while employees auctioned off perishable foodstuffs for a fraction of the price.

People standing five deep outside the Broadway gourmet store bid on sushi, French bread, precooked chicken, ribs and duck, fresh-squeezed pineapple and orange juice, sandwiches, milk and croissants all going for a mere dollar or two.

It looked like an auctioneer's nightmare. And Scott Goldshine, 42, Zabar's general manager, was the auctioneer.

"We will be here all night until we sell out the stuff that'll go bad. But we're not going sell the caviar, that ain't going to happen," he said, much to the chagrin of the crowd.

Some bidders walked away with milk crates crammed with delicacies as others stuffed dollar bills and change into the hands of about a half a dozen employees taking orders.

In The Bronx, pizza parlours gave away free slices to hungry commuters forced to hike home.

Gristedes supermarket on 107th Street and Broadway remained partially open, taking orders at the door for candles, batteries and other emergency items.

On the corner of Greene and Spring streets in the West Village, a brother and sister got into the entrepreneurial spirit selling homemade lemonade for 75 cents a cup, as their mother looked on.

Street hawkers took advantage of the run on bottled water, some charging an outrageous $5 for a small pint. Most food businesses were closed, and in some cases, cops were ordering them to shut.

Some New Yorkers had to scrounge for food and water for dinner.

"Are we all going to starve to death because of this blackout?" Karen Wilson, from Massapequa, Long Island, quipped as she waited on line at a Mister Softee ice cream truck.

When she got her vanilla cone, she said: "This is the first thing I've eaten since lunch."

The Mister Softee truck had a line curling around the corner.

Not everyone selling ice cream was as lucky.

Jason Kim, manager of the Fancy Gourmet deli on East 55th Street, said all his ice cream melted. He estimated he's lost $2,000 on all his food products.

"The ice cream, the deli meat, the vegetables were all destroyed," Kim said.

He said, however, that he sold about 75 bottles of water in an hour.

Thomas Wilson of Queens was drinking warm beer he bought at a deli.

"That's the only thing I could get, man. There's no food," Wilson said.

Homer Chand, the manager of the Theatre Café on West 49th Street, said his customers also made a run on water.

"Lots and lots of water, about 24 cases, about 240 bottles over the last two hours," Mr Chand said. "We sold all our batteries."

Police mobilised throughout New York to deal with yesterday's power outage, adding extra patrols in case of looting and answering hundreds of calls of people trapped in subways and elevators.

As soon as the power went out, officers who'd been sent home when their shifts ended at 4pm were called back in to work an extra shift.

Moving people through the streets was the biggest headache for police, proving more daunting than the chaos on the streets after the September 11 terror attacks, they said.

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