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New York City Mayor Bloomberg Gives Overview of Progress on Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts

A couple empty gas from a damaged car for their generator in the Rockaways neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York November 5, 2012. Photo and caption courtesy of Yahoo! News.

Touring of some of the hardest hit areas of the storm – including South Brooklyn neighborhood like Coney Island, Seagate, and Gerritsen Beach, as well as places in Queens like the Rockaways, and much of Staten Island – as expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this weekend that there are still hundreds of thousands of New York City residents without power and “some of them are still pumping water out of their basements, and they’re confronting what they’ve lost and what they do next.”

Yesterday, the mayor said, “One of the greatest fears we have is with the cold weather coming, we have to make sure that people can stay warm. Among hardest hit are the Rockaways and Staten Island, where a lot of places still don’t have electricity, but are still going to experience cold.

“In the Rockaways, I talked with many concerned residents. I assured them that we’ll do everything possible to get power back on. Our team has been working with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), which provides electrical service on the Rockaways.”

As of yesterday, there were still about 19,000 homes in the Rockaways without power. The mayor said that LIPA agreed to add more crews to the job in the Rockaways, adding that they have already also delivered 10 generators to Hammel Houses, a local housing development.

Residents living in public housing have been among the most effect by the storm. The mayor explained that, “Some 45,000 public housing residents live in the coastal areas designated as ‘Zone A,’ and many of them live in the Rockaways,” further saying that over the weekend, the city has “been going block-by-block to identify the issues that are blocking power from being turned back on.”

The mayor also cautioned though that, “Even when power can be turned back on, some of the buildings are going to be out of commission for a long time because of damage to boilers and electrical systems,” adding that, “It’s not just public housing; it’s private apartments and individual houses that have been impacted as well.”

Regarding the electrical situation, the mayor talked about the city’s ongoing efforts, saying:

We have building inspectors out there visiting homes. They are posting color-coded placards. Let me just reiterate what a red placard means; it is not a demolition order; if you read carefully what’s written on it, it says it’s not a demolition order. It is an order not to enter for your safety.

A yellow placard requires you to have a safety inspection before entering. And I also want to emphasize that just because water may be out of the basement, doesn’t mean that it’s safe to turn on electricity, or a boiler, or a generator to power your home. It really is a significant fire risk to do so.

And one of the things that struck me was people kept thinking that if a generator miraculously showed up in the neighborhood all would be okay. That’s just not the case. When all the wiring is covered with water, salt water in particular, you have to do a lot of work before you can reenergize those lines. And so we’ve already seen some cases where when electricity was turned on there were fires and we lost some other houses. We want to make sure that does not happen again.

In the case of big buildings that have electrical engineers, they understand that, and in fact Con Ed has been going around the areas where we have big buildings, and is having each of those buildings disconnect from the grid if there has been significant damage done to their electrical systems so that when Con Ed’s ready to turn on the power, it won’t start a fire.

But when it comes to individual homes, that is much more problematic, and so in these neighborhoods we’re going to have to go door-to-door. And if we can’t get in, then it’s a real risk because if you turn on the power in the neighborhood a fire may start inside (a house).

The city is advising consumers to report downed power lines, outages, and check service restoration status by computer or mobile devices at Con Ed.com, or they can call 1-800-752-6633.

Mayor Bloomberg is also advising people who have lost their homes or temporarily can’t return home to go to one of NYC’s Emergency Shelters for Hurricane Sandy.

For people that have decided to stay in their homes despite power outages, the city is providing Emergency Food, Blanket and Water Distribution Locations.

“We are distributing pre-prepared meals and bottled water to people in the hardest hit areas of the city – including Coney Island, the south shore of Staten Island, Chinatown in Lower Manhattan, and the Rockaways,” said the mayor.

“We have 13 distribution sites opened, staffed by National Guard members, New York City Service volunteers, and by the staff of the Salvation Army. They have distributed something like 290,000 meals and nearly half a million bottles of water. We’ll keep them open as long as they are needed,” added the mayor.

The mayor further stressed that, “Helping people keep warm without power on these chilly nights has also become a focus of the food distribution centers, where we’re operating in communities without electrical power. All sites are also distributing blankets, and many are distributing flashlight batteries and baby supplies, such as disposable diapers and baby formula. We ask you to bring bags if you go to get some of these items – bags to carry stuff away.”

Mayor Bloomberg also went on to say there are “some 400 members of the National Guard and 150 NYC Service volunteers involved in this effort by going door-to-door taking meals to homebound residents. Some people are up in those high buildings, no elevator, they’re elderly, and they would have a real problem in coming down to the ground.

“Our problems are making sure they know there’s food available. We do that by knocking on the door and sticking fliers underneath, but also then we’ve got to get the food to them, and we do that the old fashioned way: we pick it up and walk up the stairs and hand it to them. Supplies were delivered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in coordination with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Management. Many companies and individuals have also made generous offers to support this effort.”

The mayor said that there has been an enormous outpouring of people donating clothing and food, “but what would be most helpful are donations to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, and then we’ll be able to use the money to help people get back on their feet.”

The city has also provided information saying, “Those who wish to donate goods and services to assist New Yorkers who suffered damages from Hurricane Sandy should visit Aidmatrix and those who wish to volunteer, visit NYC Service.”

Also to aide in the disaster relief effort, the city has also opened several disaster Distribution Assistance Service Centers, which will provide information about applying for emergency social and economic benefits. At these locations, the city has set up full-service sites that can help individuals affected by the storm to access city benefits such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and temporary cash assistance.  In addition, FEMA will also be available to help homeowners apply for loans.

Also, anyone affected by Sandy – homeowners, renters, and businesses – can apply fo r Federal disaster assistance by registering at disasterassistance.gov or by calling FEMA at 1-800-3362. Before you call make sure to have the following information ready:

  • Address of the affected property.
  • Insurance information.
  • Social Security number.

In addition for business recovery support, New York City, including the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) and the NYC Economic Development Corp (NYCEDC) is coordinating a set of services to assist small businesses in recovering from Hurricane Sandy. For information, call 311 and ask for NYC Business Solutions.

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