FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 27, 2011
MAYOR BLOOMBERG UPDATES NEW YORKERS ON CITY RESPONSE TO HURRICANE IRENE
Stresses Need for NYCHA Residents in Mandatory Evacuation Zone to Leave Immediately, Urges All New Yorkers to Stay Indoors During Hurricane
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's remarks as delivered this afternoon at the Office of Emergency Management in Downtown Brooklyn:
"Good afternoon. We are here in the City's Emergency Command Center and will be staffed around the clock throughout the storm as we direct the City's response to this emergency.
"This afternoon's update will first focus on the ongoing evacuation of residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) facilities and then we'll talk about some other issues. But I did want to first say all of the forecasts are basically the same. The storm is headed in this direction - slightly east, slightly west, slightly stronger, slightly weaker - but this is a storm where if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, it can be fatal. There will be very high winds, no matter whether they're categorized as a tropical storm or a Category 1, 2, 3, 37 hurricane - whatever it is. There's a lot of blowing debris. Tree limbs come down and water gets into places that can cause electrical shorts. It is dangerous out there, and the thing that makes the most sense for everybody is to first comply with the mandatory evacuation - it's done because you may be in danger, but as importantly, if God forbid you needed some emergency services, our first responders would have to put their lives in jeopardy to get to you and to provide the service. And we're worried that in some cases we just may not be able to get there. And you never know when you are going to need a doctor or something like that.
"So, the storm continues on track. We don't have any other updates. Winds will pick up as you go through the afternoon. The reason that you have rain and then no rain, rain and then no rain is the way a hurricane works. There are these bands of rain that surround it, and when you're between them you think there's no storm, and when you're under one of them you get a lot of rain. But we're nowhere near yet the really heavy winds. Those will come in something about nine tonight. The place or the time when you're likely to have flood damage of just literally water all of a sudden pouring over the side of the bulkhead is something like eight tomorrow morning. The winds are scheduled to subside late tomorrow afternoon, and then we're going to have a whole separate set of issues of how we clean up and mass transit tries to get back, which probably is not going to happen until well into the day on Monday. So Monday morning is going to be a mess in terms of a commute.
"But our concern is saving lives. Our concern is making sure that the only thing that comes out of this is inconvenience and maybe a little bit of property damage. We don't need people to die. Unfortunately I was told about somebody who fell of a ladder earlier when they were trying to board up their house. They haven't died yet, but seriously injured and may in fact be fatal. Now things happen all the time, but we can take some steps to try to minimize the damage and prevent as many as we can.
"We also are going to talk a little bit about power and the possibility of electricity being shut off in some areas. Kevin Burke from Con Ed is going to help us with that. But remember, we're asking buildings to shut off their elevators, certainly doing that in NYCHA. We just don't need people stuck in elevators. And if the power goes out while you're in the elevator, we're going to have to find out about it, which sometimes is hard to do, and then get the Fire Department there. The Fire Department should be standing by for real emergencies.
"And so, if you haven't evacuated yet, you still have time to do it. There is no mass transit available, but we have buses at NYCHA facilities. You can hail a cop car. Some of the taxis are working, maybe some friendly motorist will give you a ride, or you can just walk. But just because you say I'm living on the 10th floor and water's not going to get here, that's true, but that doesn't mean we could get to you or you could get out if you had to. It doesn't mean there isn't going to be flying glass. The higher you go up, the strong the winds are. So we should heed the warnings and follow what the law says. Please, evacuate the A areas, the low-lying areas, and all of the Rockaways.
"As a programming note, when we finish talking about what's happening here, we will have a press conference in Spanish and take some questions for our Spanish speaking audience. Margarita Lopez, a NYCHA board member who used to represent the Lower East Side on the City Council and has been out in the field encouraging residents to evacuate, will conduct that.
"Let's first talk about NYCHA. If you are a resident of a NYCHA facility in the Rockaways, Coney Island, the Lower East Side, or any other of the low-lying Zone A areas, you must evacuate now. It is a mandatory evacuation. Your buildings are shutting down. Your elevators are shutting down. Your boilers are shutting down. And it will be much too dangerous to stay.
"Now, for the last five hours we have been running bus service from NYCHA developments to nearby evacuation centers. We hope NYCHA residents and other New Yorkers who need to evacuate have places to stay with family or friends who live in safer areas. But in case you do not have family or friends close by, we have evacuation centers fully staffed and ready to go. There are 78 hurricane shelters and 8 special medical centers across the city. There is plenty of room. No one will be turned away. If NYCHA residents don't want to use one of our free buses to evacuate, which we have outside the NYCHA facilities that need to be evacuated, you could use a private car or a cab.
"Our GPS data does show us that the number of taxis on the streets right now is just below the average for a Saturday afternoon. We have moved to a zone fare system to encourage ride sharing and increase the capacity of each cab. We've also directed cabs to go to the evacuation areas. Liveries and commuter vans have also been authorized to pick up street hails anywhere in the city. But the essential point is even if you have to walk, evacuate now. And as I said, this is for all of the Zone A areas, the low-lying areas, but also the Rockaways, even for the areas that are higher up because there if you were to God forbid have a medical emergency, for example, it's not clear that we could get to you. As the winds build up, the bridges may very well close down. It may not be possible to get off Staten Island or to get off the Rockaways, and so it's a good time right now to say, 'Okay, better to be safe than sorry.'
"We've been saying this all day, the time is running out. It's going to get dark in a little while and the rains will start getting heavier, and then the winds will make it very difficult and dangerous to be outside.
"The airports are basically all closed. The Staten Island Ferry is still running, it's running on a one-hour schedule simply because there is no demand. Nobody's showing up at the ferry. We will continue to do that into later in the day, but as soon as the winds start to build and it gets to be something like 40 knots, at that point we think it's not safe to run them and so we will shut those down.
"The storm is coming, and the few things that are still working, the few stores that are still open, you would expect to all close in the very near future.
"Since this morning, we have seen a marked increase in the number of people evacuating. Most are getting the message. But for some reason, some people have yet to leave. So let me just one more time - I hate to sound like a broken record, but it is exactly what we are trying to do - if you haven't left yet, you should leave now. Not later this evening. Not later this afternoon. But immediately.
"Let me repeat that very briefly in Spanish. Lo repito por que es vital: si usted esta en una de las zonas de evacuacion y no se han ido, tiene que salir inmediatamente. No ponga su vida en peligro es urgente salir en este momento.
"The latest forecast has the epicenter of the hurricane hitting east of the five boroughs. Tropical storm winds of 40 miles an hour and higher will start about 9 o'clock tonight, continue to increase to hurricane strength through the morning.
"Most of the storm is going to take place during the night when you're asleep, or when you get up early Sunday morning. And the most important thing to do is to stay inside. No beaches - it's just much too dangerous. No parks - branches come down, we just don't need people getting killed. There's so much flying debris, no matter how careful we are, be sure that you stay inside. In the morning, look out the window. It may be fun to say, 'I walked around in a hurricane,' but it wouldn't be fun if you have to say it from your hospital bed.
"If you live in a high-rise, especially on the 10th floor or above, stay away from the windows in case they break and shatter. If you have a yard, or a porch, or a balcony, or any outdoor space, make sure everything, including outdoor furniture, is tied down or secured properly. And you should know, as a preventive measure, because people have asked me as they've driven down the streets and they see what the Sanitation Department has done, the Sanitation Department has spent the day emptying all the litter baskets, turning them upside down so that nothing goes into them, and placing them next to buildings to reduce the risk of them blowing around. We have reports of some people thinking they're helping by putting the baskets back on the corner. Please, do not. If you see a litter basket next to a building, leave it there. Our Sanitation Department knows what they're doing.
"If you encounter an emergency, call 911. If it's not an emergency, please call 311 instead so you can keep 911 open for the most urgent calls. And nyc.gov, I'm told, is working fine now so you can use that as well.
"National Grid is fully prepared. There is a chance that Con Ed will be forced to shut down parts of its grid if there is severe flooding. So besides having a Go Bag, you should also be prepared for the possibility of losing power in your home. That means consider filling your sinks and bathtubs with potable water, particularly if you live in an upper floor of an apartment building. A lot of the water gets pumped up, and if the electricity is not there, the pumps don't work. So fill a bathtub or fill some sinks with water. Make sure you know where your flashlights are. It's a good time to take them out, put them on the kitchen counter or some place where it's easy to get. Make sure that they work. If not, stores may not be open for you to buy new batteries, but look around you probably have some. Charge your cell phones right now. And you can always text 311 at 311692, which is 311NYC. For updates about the storm, you could also go to nyc.gov as I said, or follow @nycmayorsoffice or @notifynyc on Twitter.
"With that said, let me just do a couple things. I want to assure you that our city is safe, we will get through this. We are New Yorkers. We've always risen to the challenge. And by sticking together, we're going to be able to do that again. We have been blessed by having plenty of people offer to help. We have Ted Monette, Senior Advisor at FEMA, here. I talked to Janet Napolitano yesterday I think it was. And I was on a conference call that the President has. Federal government has offered us anything we need. I think we're in good shape, but it's nice to know that they're there. And the State, the same thing. I've talked to the Governor yesterday at length. Today we had Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy here for a good part of the day. And from the Governor's senior staff Larry Schwartz and Liz Glazer. Liz has been with us every day for the last few days, and Larry has been here all day long. And Nirav Shah, who is the State Health Commissioner, has been with us, and anything we need from the State they've offered. So nice to know that if we need something it is there."
Stu Loeser/Marc La Vorgna (212) 788-2958
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