In Haiti there is a proverb: Ayisyen swiv kouran, meaning “Haitians follow the flow.”
As Hurricane Sandy gained strength and power Monday afternoon and city residents bunkered down with flashlights and bottled water, residents of Brooklyn’s West Indian enclaves seemed to take the saying to heart and were demonstrating a decidedly relaxed attitude towards the storm.
Emile, a resident of Flatbush and a patient care technician at a senior care center nearby, seemed unimpressed by the hurricane, buying groceries as usual even as 60 mph winds whipped down the street. “I’ve seen a lot of hurricanes,” she explained.
On Monday, West Indian fish markets, bakeries, video stores and wig shops were open for business. And to get her food, Emile rode in one of Brooklyn’s ubiquitous “dollar vans,” the borough’s black market transit system.
The vans, estimated to transport around 120,000 passengers on a normal day, appeared to have a smaller number of riders than usual on Monday but were staying open for business even as the city’s mass transit systems — including subways, buses, ferries and regional trains — had shut down.
“We’re not going to stop,” said Alister Cyrus, 58, as he drove his green Ford van down Flatbush Avenue and towards Grand Army Plaza. “All I see right now are some trees falling and this and that. If I feel I’m not making money, then I’ll leave.”
Cyrus has been driving passengers around Brooklyn for nearly 20 years, ever since he moved from his birthplace, Grenada. In his view — informed by experience of “hundreds” of hurricanes — the storm just provides a good scrubbing for the city.
“It cleans the streets,” he said. “God knows what he’s doing.”
Meanwhile, the Jamaican Pride Bakery on Clarkson Avenue was doing brisk business in beef patties and potato pudding. Owner Raymond Henry, 54, planned on staying open through the evening before driving home to Canarsie.
“This is something I’ve been through before,” he said. ‘We’ll play it by the wind.”