FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2010
MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG UPDATES NEW YORKERS ON RECOVERY FROM WEEKEND STORM
The following are Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered at the Rutgers Houses on the Lower East Side of Manhattan
"Let me first just, because some people do have to leave and I want to make sure they get the latest information on what happened to this Nor'easter that blew through here this weekend. It really was one of the worst storms in recent memory, and some parts of the city saw wind gusts of almost 80 miles an hour. And obviously a storm that size causes some real damage to homes and businesses and brought down thousands of City trees. And when the trees come down, we all know what happens to electricity and to the telephone lines; they go out in parts of the city.
"In Manhattan, most of the lines are underground, so if you take a look at where people lost electricity - many of whom still have not gotten it back, and I'll talk about that in a second - it is further away from Manhattan, where the lines are above ground. And no matter how many trees we trim, if there's any trees in the neighborhood in storms some of them are going to come down. And so it's something that we want to make sure that we can prepare for and recover from as quickly as possible, but I think we all recognize that mother nature is very powerful and we have to in advance make sure that we can respond when mother nature doesn't treat us as well as we'd like.
"Thankfully, there have been no storm-related deaths, although sadly tragedies outside the city did occur, including a retired teacher from Brooklyn who did die on Long Island.
"Now the steady rain and high winds created complications, as we all as know, for many New Yorkers, including about 26,000 households and businesses that are still out of power, 26,000 households and businesses. It is an enormous number and we have to get people back with their electricity as fast as possible. More than half of those customers live on Staten Island, which was the borough hardest hit.
"The good news there is that power has already been restored to thousands of homes and the two Staten Island schools that were affected over the weekend: IS 7 and PS 23. That's no consolation, I know, to those who have not got their power back, but the Con Ed crews are working and the City is working with them to try to help them get service back as quickly as possible and I'm going to go out this afternoon just to say thank you really to the workers and Con Ed and the City who have been working as close to 24 hours a day as they possibly can.
"Having your electricity go out, we all know in this day and age, is a huge inconvenience that disrupts every aspect of city daily life. Con Ed really is working 24 hours a day. They are, however, having difficulty getting extra resources from local places because other utilities in the area have been hit hard, as well. More than 1,000 customers in Westchester and Long Island are still without power and Con Ed crews coming in from as far away as Georgia to help have been useful, but ongoing rain and wind has hampered repair efforts so the damage could take some time to get back.
"In the meantime, City agencies are working overtime - just as they did all weekend - to repair the damage and Joe Bruno from our Office of Emergency Management is coordinating all their effort.
"Just to quickly run down what other agencies are doing, NYPD has received the second highest volume of 911 calls ever on Saturday, with 124 call takers handling the 65,000 calls generated mainly by bad weather. Fifty 911 operators were brought in on their day off to supplement the 70 already there. Highway Patrol, ESU and NYPD staff responded through the night to flooded roads, downed trees, power lines, and other dangerous conditions.
"I did get a call on Saturday from a State Senator who said a tree had come down across the street, and I said, 'Well hang on, let me get a pencil and paper to write down the address.' And while I was doing that he said, 'Wait, wait, New York's Finest has just shown up.' I said, 'Well they will be able to handle it from here on,' and I did what was useful, I got off the phone and turned it over to the professionals.
"Parks and 311: 311 received almost 110,000 calls for the weekend, nearly three times the typical weekend number. Nearly 2,200 phone calls reporting emergency tree conditions and yesterday Parks Department had forestry crews working across the city to repair those conditions. And today, Parks has 350 staff workers working exclusively on storm response. That includes three dozen forestry crews working along with 50 field managers who will be inspecting and creating work orders for the removal crews.
"We have also activated our emergency contingency plan and as of 7 am, private tree service contractors started working to remove trees from houses and streets and sidewalks.
The Sanitation Department will help Parks by hauling away wood debris to holding areas in various parks, and also to chipping stations in Cunningham Park and on Roosevelt Island.
"Our Buildings Department over the weekend responded to 65 weather-related incidents, including trees that had fallen into buildings, fallen construction site fences, and debris falling from buildings. Fortunately no serious injuries, and this time I think some of the contractors were better ready than they were the last time. There were really no major amounts of construction material blowing off big buildings onto construction.
"HPD had maintenance and code enforcement staff out all weekend responding to collapsing retaining walls, repairing fences, and erecting sheds to protect from falling debris.
"And finally Department of Environmental Protection responded to nearly 600 complaints of sewer back-ups and clogged catch basins, along with several highway flooding events from midnight on Friday to midnight on Sunday.
"And ahead of the rain, DEP had inspected and cleaned a whole bunch of catch basins, and working with Sanitation and Department of Transportation to get as many of them cleaned so they could receive storm water. And you should know, just it's interesting, we show you how complex it is to deal with something like this, Department of Environmental and Parks also lowered lake levels in Prospect Park, Baisley Pond Park, and Central Park, so that they could absorb more water.
"And it's not just you sit there and wait for the rain. There's a lot of things you have to do, and we did make sure that the Department for the Aging, made sure that their centers will be open today and home meal deliveries will proceed."
Stu Loeser/Jason Post (212) 788-2958