The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's remarks as delivered this afternoon at City Hall.
"I'm joined by the Speaker of the City Council Chris Quinn, our Commissioner for the Department of Health, our Deputy Mayor for Operations, our Commissioner of the Fire Department, and our Commissioner of Office of Emergency Management, and I wanted to bring everyone up to date on the City's ongoing preparations concerning Hurricane Sandy.
"I have spoken with Governor Cuomo and we are coordinating with the State, including the State Department of Health, to take all measures we think necessary to protect New Yorkers. As you know, Sandy will approach the mid-Atlantic coast later this weekend, and is now expected to make landfall sometime Monday – but obviously with the weather that could change.
"Whenever or wherever this storm comes ashore, however, our city is very likely to feel its effects, in the form of high tides, high winds, and heavy rainfall lasting for several days. There's the possibility of parts of our city flooding, or high winds that could force certain bridges to be closed.
"The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is coordinating its storm planning with the City and our Office of Emergency Management, has also said that it will take necessary precautions as the storm nears the coast.
"The MTA's hurricane plan calls for the beginning of suspension of service before the arrival of sustained winds of 39 miles per hour or higher. The MTA is still reviewing whether to suspend some or all service in advance of the storm, but we are working closely with them and they have assured us ample notice will be provided of any suspension.
"A major concern given this type of storm is the possibility of prolonged power outages, as you know. And we're also working closely with ConEd, as we always do. But this is a large, unpredictable storm so be prepared for possible outages.
"We don't know for certain yet if any or all of that will happen, but it is our obligation to be prepared and to make preparations now.
"On an individual level, we should all remain alert to weather forecasts for the next several days. You can also go the City's web site, NYC.gov, or call 311 for regular forecast updates and other vital information about this storm. Or you can listen to your local radio station or watch your local television station, or one of the weather services on the internet.
"During Hurricane Irene, NYC.gov, you should know, had 4.3 million hits – shattering its previous high of 2.2 million. We have added additional capacity to NYC.gov to keep up with the increase in traffic volume, and we have streamlined the website so it provides the most up-to-date information to New Yorkers.
"We provide a variety of ways for New Yorkers to get accurate, vital information during emergencies. You can go to NYC.gov, which has a severe weather page. You can sign up for Notify NYC email or text message alerts by going to NYC.gov or calling 311. You can follow @NYCMayorsOffice or @NotifyNYC on Twitter. For information related to the storm for people with disabilities or special needs, please check with the Office of Emergency Management or the Mayor's Office of People with Disabilities or call 311. All of these channels will regularly provide vital information about this storm.
"New Yorkers also can prepare themselves by stocking up on basic supplies and making what we call a ‘Go Bag,' a bag that you could take with you if you had to leave home on a moment's notice. Some of the things you should have in a Go Bag are drinking water, first-aid kit, flashlight, any important medications you take, essential documents such as passports or other forms of ID, and an extra set of car and house keys. You certainly have time tomorrow, the weather will be okay to go and to get the things that you need.
"Yesterday, we activated the Command Center at our Office of Emergency Management, as I announced earlier, and put into effect significant elements of our Coastal Storm Plan, which is posted at NYC.gov. It systematically addresses what to do to prepare for a major storm, what to do when you're hit by one, and what to do to recover from a storm once it has passed. These are steps that City agencies plan for and drill for.
"The NYPD and the FDNY, our Departments of Sanitation, Transportation, Parks, Buildings, and Environmental Protection, and all our health and human service agencies have important roles to play, and they are prepared.
"I also want to say that whenever we're faced with a tough situation, history shows New Yorkers always show courage, compassion, and presence of mind. We did that 14 months ago, during Hurricane Irene, and I'm completely confident we will do that again now.
"The Coastal Storm Plan designates as ‘Zone A' the low-lying coastal areas of our city most at risk for flooding and other damage. These low-lying areas include: Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, and Red Hook and other areas along the East River in Brooklyn; all of the Rockaways, and also Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel in Queens; almost all the coastline of Staten Island; City Island, a small patch of Throgs Neck, and another patch of the South Bronx in the Bronx; and Battery Park City and stretches of the West Side waterfront and of the Lower East Side and East Village in Manhattan.
"Now, our first obligation is to protect the most vulnerable New Yorkers in these areas: hospital patients, those in nursing homes and homes for the aged, and also New Yorkers who because of age or infirmity are homebound.
"There are six hospitals and 41 chronic care facilities in the area that we are discussing. At this point we are not – let me repeat that, not – recommending evacuations of these facilities. Instead, in order that they can function most effectively during this period, we are recommending that they cancel all elective admissions, and discharge all patients that can be safety discharged. They should keep all the patients for whom such discharges or transfers are risky, however.
"City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley and his staff are contacting all of these facilities and evaluating their ability to operate safely during this storm.
"As to the homebound who are living in these communities: if you have homebound relatives or acquaintances in these low-lying areas, consider taking steps now to move them to a safer location, in your own home, or in the home of a relative or friend.
"Also, senior centers are closing early Monday and will be closed completely on Tuesday. Centers are arranging for members to take meals home with them. And extra meals will be delivered to homebound seniors on Monday.
"Before taking questions, let me stress some other precautions that we think all New Yorkers should take. First, this is a good time to find out if you live in Zone A – one of the city's low-lying areas most at risk during coastal storms and I just listed. If you live in these at-risk areas, go on the City's website to find out, NYC.gov, and type in your address, or by calling 311 and give your address to the call-taker and they will tell you if you do.
"Let me remind you that during Hurricane Irene, these areas were put under a mandatory evacuation order. And as of now, we are not going to require evacuations of these areas. But if that changes, we will make an announcement giving further details. And you should know that whether you live in those areas, this is done for your safety.
"Second, because of the high winds that will accompany this storm, we urge all New Yorkers, for your own safety, to stay out of City parks starting on Sunday when the likelihood of high winds will increase the danger of downed limbs.
"Third, because of the dangers of high winds, the Department of Buildings has ordered a halt to all exterior construction work by 5:00 PM tomorrow, until further notice.
"Fourth, let me point out that flooding can be worse when catch basins are clogged by garbage and leaves. The staff of the Department of Environmental Protection has been cleaning catch basins since early this week. But New Yorkers can help and do their part by sweeping and cleaning their driveways and keeping areas in front of their homes or businesses free of leaves, paper and debris.
"Fifth, I want to say that the New York Blood Center, which works with hospitals serving some 20 million people in this region, is urging all donors who've made appointments to give blood to please keep those appointments if they're scheduled before the storm hits.
"If you haven't made an appointment, please consider doing so in advance of the storm. That will help ensure an adequate supply of blood products during the week ahead. You can go to www.nybloodcenter.org for further information.
"The Blood Center, you should know, is sending extra supplies to hospitals in advance of the storm, and contingency plans are being implemented to keep the blood supply flowing during the storm.
"Finally, concerning schools: we haven't yet made a decision about whether schools will be open Monday. We are likely to make an announcement about that on Sunday.
"In the meantime, the Department of Education tests for admission to specialized high schools are scheduled for this weekend. The ones on Saturday will go forward as planned. The ones set for Sunday will be postponed and will occur on November 18. Let me repeat that, for the specialized high schools, Saturday's tests go on, Sunday's postponed to November 18.
"And before taking questions, let me say that we will continue to provide updates as needed to ensure that we are giving the public the information they need. If I had to make a guess, it would be very late tomorrow afternoon before we have another update. There's just not any more information that we have. We are taking all the steps that we need to take. That will continue. But the storm is moving at a rate that we're still not going to have a good sense of when and where it's going to hit land.
"If it were to hit land in Baltimore or in Nantucket, New York would just have some heavy winds and a little bit of flooding and a lot of rain. If it were to hit closer to home, the flooding, the rain and the winds all will get much more problematic. But we're not going to know anything until late Saturday afternoon, early Saturday evening, and that will be the next time that we would give you an update. You're welcome to go to any of the websites or television or radio and listen to everybody speculate, but there are probably 20 different forecast tracks for this storm, and any one of them could be right and there's nobody that's going to know anything for a period of time.
"And on that note, I'll be happy to take some questions."
Marc La Vorgna/John McCarthy
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