Seeking safety on Wall Street Brendan McDermid

Manhattan's financial district is one of several New York City neighborhoods to be evacuated in anticipation of the onrushing Hurricane Irene, but on Friday night, with the still-distant storm just a rumor in the wind, you might not have known it.

The streets were mostly deserted, likely more a reflection of the mass exodus that occurs after business hours than of impending peril. People strolled past in singles and pairs, or lingered in the small park near Hanover Square.

Jackie Marino, a 25-year-old investment banker, hurried down Pearl Street with two yellow plastic grocery bags and what she described as lots of wine. She lives in a building on Hanover Square, and although she wasn't particularly worred -- she lives on the 14th floor, she explained -- she was nevertheless planning to depart for her parents' apartment uptown as late as possible on Saturday. Most people she had spoken to in the neighborhood, she said, were unfazed.

Everyone says, 'what's the worst that could happen? The lobby floods and I stay in my room,' Marino said.

Behind her, a shuttered Fresco on the Go had prepared for the storm by securing a black trash bag to the door with yellow tape. An adjacent Original Soup Man was still open. From behind the counter Rucio Sucro, 19, confirmed that the restaurant would be closed on Saturday, as ordered earlier by the boss. There would be no protective trash bags.

I'm not scared at all, Sucro said, noting that she grew up in the Dominican Republic and was accustomed to tropical weather.

On nearby Wall Street, Gina Keller, 33, was pushing her son home in a stroller. While her apartment lay just outside of the evacuation zone she was still taking the precaution of heading to New Jersey to stay with family, having already moved things away from the windows in her apartment and packed the computer. Her apartment building had provided a list of helpful information, including the assurance that the windows were built to withstand 100 mile per hour winds.

Everyone's a little frenzied right now, she said. The doorman's playing twenty questions with everyone.

Three construction workers were busy loading equipment into a truck parked near the overpass for the West Side Highway, on South Street. Jerry Dun, the 55-year-old superintendent for the site, said that they would chain or tie down the heavy equipment and remove any loose material. They were told to be on call on Saturday in case of an emergency status -- what that implied, precisely, was unclear. Behind them, the Hudson River swayed placidly beneath a greyish-pink sky.

On Water Street, a road whose name may gain resonance in the next couple of days, Carol Hickey was wheeling a trolley that had two cases of water and two small coolers lashed to it, trying to hail a cab. She had left work at a trading firm after taping down the windows, putting tarps over desks and turning off the power, and had proceeded to buy some groceries, explaining that the grocery stores near her home in Astoria, Queens were probably sold out of supplies.

I took care of the office, and now I'm heading home, Hickey said, breaking away towards a slowing car.

Almost imperceptibly, the wind picked up.