In the long and brutal wake of this week’s storm, you may have missed a rather triumphant, little story. Yes, what’s important right now are those upturned lives and battered communities you’ve either seen on TV or walked through on your own two feet. Yet, when you turn away from all of that for a second — as we all need to just to get by — you can still order new boots online, fiddle with social networks, or, visit us here at Refinery29.
It’s a small thing, but given that so many of your favorite online distractions are based in what we’ve now come to call Manhattan's Dead Zone, it’s actually kind of a big deal. All over New Jersey, New York, and other states, emergency workers have been practicing triage on neighborhoods and people, just trying to keep things going. While their efforts pale in comparison to those real-life heroes, digital companies like Gilt, Gawker, The Huffington Post, and, yes, Refinery29, have also been doing their own version of rescue and recovery after Sandy, and, for many of them, it’s been a remarkable, redefining experience. In a strange way, these young, hungry companies with highly flexible, Internet-born workforces have been the leaders in NYC business the last few days — the first to turn their lights back on. Actually, in our case, they never went off.
For us, the week began with a company-wide notice that our 80-odd New-York-based employees wouldn’t be coming into work on Monday — almost everyone here takes the subways, so it was little surprise that we’d be finishing our winter-coat roundups and beauty tutorials from home. But, when the power died after the 14th Street transformer explosion and Greenpoint flooded, this company, and many others, became another NYC refugee. Not only was there no way for us to get to work, with no electricity at our Cooper Square offices, there was no where for us to go.
But, perhaps (most) surprisingly, we didn’t miss a beat. Spread over dozens of apartments, hotel rooms, coffee shops, and borrowed work spaces, we continued to work, research, write, and post. Designers, used to larger iMacs, squinted at tiny laptop screens and crafted their images without the essential visual assets we keep on our office server. Editorial teams regrouped wherever they could find power — including space kindly lent by the Harrison & Shriftman PR firm (thanks, neighbors!). Sales staff worked out of uptown hotels, and for the first time in five years, the headquarters of Refinery29 returned to the kitchen table of two of our founders, Piera Gelardi and Philippe Von Borries. Granted, it was a different kitchen and a bigger table — but are you starting to see how just being able to do your daily work was an effort in itself?
Despite all that, the last few days have been some of our highest traffic numbers ever — no, really, EVER. In fact, Tuesday, the 30th, was our biggest visitor day in the company’s history. Partly because people like you have been stuck at home with nothing to do...but with something to read and participate in. But, a bigger part of that is because we decided not to tape over the windows and close up shop until ConEd got the power back. In fact, it was never really a question that we would.
To make it clear: We’re not discussing this to brag or to aim the spotlight on ourselves. We’re just one example of what’s been going on all over New York this week. Yes, many people have been working from home, but tech-based start-ups in particular have been excelling at it.
Photos: Courtesy Faces Of NY Tech.
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