"We are here for you," Obama said in Brigantine, N.J. "We are not going to tolerate red tape. We are not going to tolerate bureaucracy."
In New York, masses of people walked shoulder-to-shoulder across the Brooklyn Bridge to get into Manhattan for work, reminiscent of the escape scenes from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and the blackout of 2003.
They entered an island sharply divided between those who had power and those who did not.
In Manhattan at night, it was possible to walk downtown along an avenue and move in an instant from a mostly normal New York scene — delis open, people milling outside bars — into a pitch-black cityscape, with police flares marking intersections.
People who did have power took to social media to offer help to neighbors.
"I have power and hot water. If anyone needs a shower or to charge some gadgets or just wants to bask in the beauty of artificial light, hit me up," Rob Hart of Staten Island posted on Facebook.
A respected New York steakhouse in the blackout zone, Old Homestead, realized its meat was going to go bad and decided to grill what was left and sell steaks on the sidewalk for $10. A center-cut sirloin usually goes for $47.
"Give back to the people of New York," said Greg Sherry, the steakhouse's co-owner. He said it had served nearly 700 people on Wednesday.
Simon Massey and his 9-year-old son, Henry, took one last walk near their powerless apartment in downtown Manhattan before decamping to a friend's place in Brooklyn where the electricity worked.
"We're jumping ship," he said. "We gorged on eggs and sausage this morning before everything goes bad. We don't want to spend another three or four days here."
They live on the 10th floor of a 32-floor building, where they were flushing the toilet with water from their filled tub and cooking on their gas stove. They found their way down the stairs with glowsticks and flashlights, and rationed iPad and phone use.
"I'm feeling scared," said Henry, who was home from third grade for a third straight day. "It just feels really, really weird. New York's not supposed to be this quiet."
Associated Press writers Meghan Barr, Verena Dobnik, Eileen AJ Connelly and Karen Matthews contributed to this report.
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