FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 2, 2012
MAYOR BLOOMBERG UPDATES NEW YORKERS ON CITY RESPONSE TO HURRICANE SANDY
Disaster Assistance Services Centers are Open in Hard Hit Areas
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's remarks as delivered this afternoon at City Hall:
"I'm sorry we're a little late in getting going, but there's lots of moving parts and we wanted to make sure that we got as much information for everybody as possible. Once again, Pam Mitchell, thank you for joining us again today.
"Here's the update on the city's recovery from Sandy as of this moment. This morning I went to some of the areas in South Brooklyn hit hardest by the storm—including Coney Island, Seagate, and Gerritsen Beach.
"I did talk with some homeowners, went inside some of their houses, some that had been severely damaged by Sandy. The homeowners there are still without power, some of them are still pumping water out of their basements, and they're confronting what they've lost and what they do next.
"The bottom line is that the most important thing is to deal with those where we had fatalities, help those families through an unimaginably tragic occurrence in their lives, something that they will not recover from. And then understand that the people who've lost their houses or don't know where they're going to get food or water have some confidence that we are going to be there for them, that we are doing what we can as fast as we can consistent with making sure that we have no further loss of life.
"So for example, in turning on power, if there's a chance that turning on power is going to start a fire, we are going to err on the side of caution. If there is an issue of the safety of one of our first responders, we are going to err on the side of caution.
"We have had building inspectors out there visiting homes. They are posting color-coded placards as I described yesterday. 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's 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 of 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.
"In the case of big buildings that have engineers, they understand that, and in fact Con Ed has been going around the areas where we have big buildings and having each of those buildings disconnect from the grid if there has been significant damage done to the electrical system in those buildings so that when Con Ed's ready to turn the power on—and we have some good news there I'll share with you in a few minutes—that 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 power in the neighborhood a fire may start inside.
"I did see the fantastic work that our City and Federal workers and volunteers are doing to help each other in the areas devastated. I shook their hands, I thanked them, and urged all of them to stay safe and to try to get some rest. Many of them have been working close to 24 hours every day. I don't think anybody can fault the devotion that the workers have had—whether they're volunteers or work for the City or one of the State or Federal agencies. We are in this together, they understand that, and you can see that in their faces.
"I was talking to our Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty a few minutes ago, and he has a number of people that he visited in one of the garages who've lost their homes, and yet they're still working. And he said why, and they said because I want to help my neighbor. And I think that is the spirit that I've always thought New Yorkers have, and particularly New York City workers. We're here to help each other, but we're also City workers here to help the citizens of this great city, and we're going to continue to do that.
"The death toll from Sandy continues to rise. We now know that at least 41 New Yorkers have perished. And as I cautioned yesterday, as rescue and recovery efforts continue, there could be more fatalities that are discovered.
"We are getting to the point where we think we've been through everyplace, but you can never be 100 percent sure.
"Yesterday, as I'm sure you heard, first responders recovered the bodies of little Brandon and Connor Moore of Staten Island. Brandon was two years old, and Connor was four.
"They were swept away from their mother's arms by the force of Sandy's storm surge—and it just breaks your heart to even think about it. As a father, I cannot imagine the pain and anguish the boys' parents are suffering.
"Their father, Damien, is a City sanitation worker. At the time of the tragedy, he was on the job helping our city respond to the storm. I did talk to him this morning and expressed as a parent my deepest sympathies. There's nothing you can ever say to a parent who's lost a child other than you're praying for them, you're praying for their kids, and we will do anything we can to help them. But I think in the end the loss of a child is something no parent should ever go through, and when they do it's, particularly if you are a parent, you just really feel it.
"The truth of the matter is, while life in much of our city is getting back to normal, for New Yorkers that have lost loved ones, the storm left a wound that I think will never heal.
"For those that lost homes or businesses, recovery will be long—and difficult. And there are still many around our city facing extremely difficult current situations in the storm's aftermath.
"For many without power—and those who are far from stores and restaurants that are open—fresh food and water is an immediate concern.
"As I announced yesterday, 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.
"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 distributed something like 290,000 meals and nearly half a million bottles of water yesterday.
"Those sites will be open again today from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.
"They'll be open tomorrow, Saturday, from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM, and we'll keep them open as long as they are needed. We do have to come up with a long-term plan for people who will be out of their homes for months and not able to cook and find food, and we are working on that. But our first concern is to meet the immediate needs of people and hope that when electricity comes back to some, the population that will really need our help will be down to a more manageable size. But whatever size it is, I'm convinced that we have the resources and the drive and the management to do so.
"Anyone who visits one of our 13 sites will be able to take three meals and bottles of water. People should bring their own bags to carry the food and water if at all possible.
"To publicize their hours and locations, we've handed out thousands of flyers in English, and Spanish, and Chinese in the affected areas; elected officials representing these communities, and their staffs, are going door-to-door to help us get the word out. We've also posted the site locations at the City's web site, nyc.gov.
"AT&T has placed what they call pods, which are trucks with generators, in different areas in Zone A that provide charging stations for people with cell phones, and also cell coverage for AT&T customers. Many of those are in the vicinity of the food and distribution centers. That means while you're getting food and fresh water, you can also make calls to loved ones and others who may be worried about you.
"We've had great cooperation from FEMA—the Federal Emergency Management group—the National Guard, the Salvation Army, and from State officials in this effort. And I wanted to thank all the individuals, companies, and nonprofits who've donated so generously to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City.
"That includes the New York Road Runners Club, which has donated $1 million to the relief effort. That amount may go as high as $2 million as the Road Runners Club has asked each runner in this weekend's marathon to also contribute $26.20, which is a dollar for each0 mile of the race. And hopefully some will do a lot more than that.
"As Mary Wittenberg, the head of the Road Runners Club, has said, they're running this race to help New York City—and the donations from all the runners and the club are going to be a big lift for our relief efforts.
"If you remember, you go back to 9/11, I think Rudy made the right decision in those days to run the marathon—it pulled people together. And we have to find some way to express ourselves and show our solidarity with each other.
"We have raised almost $10 million from individuals and corporations. They include: The Helmsley Charitable Trust and their CEO, John Ettinger; John Hess and the Hess Corporation; my company, Bloomberg LP; the Rudin family: Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation; ING; Time Warner; Time Warner Cable.; Viacom; Rob and Jerry Speyer and Tishman-Speyer; Bank of America; and Ben Stiller and the Stiller Foundation.
"There have been thousands of other individual contributors, too. Thank you; eventually we'll find a way to thank all of you. Anyone who wants to make a contribution of cash should contact the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City by calling 311 or going to nyc.gov.
"The private sector has also given us some supplies sort of in-kind. These companies include: Anheuser-Busch; the Coca-Cola Company—where Muhtar Kemp, the head of the company, called my early this week; the New York Mets and the Wilpon family; Delta Airlines; PepsiCo Foundation; WalMart; and Gristedes. And developers in the city like Two Trees Management have made generators available and other larges assets that are a major help in our recovery effort.
"We don't need generally, however, contributions in-kind because the logistics of distributing it are complex, and that's not the long-term need. It's cash that we're going to need to help people through the really tough times and rebuild.
"Goldman Sachs, through its urban investment group, will match the $5 million New York City is providing in funding for small businesses affected by the hurricane. These funds will be loaned to businesses in Zone A and other areas where there have been power outages and severe flooding. And the funds are expected to flow to boroughs on an expedited basis five to seven days after application.
"Loans will range from $5,000 to $25,000 and will help small business with working capital repairs and business interruption, among other things.
"Having said that, most importantly Mayors Fund cash to rebuild, and as I said, all you've got to do is NYC.gov or 311.
"Tonight's major televised benefit concert will undoubtedly raise millions more for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
"Another very important thing New Yorkers can do to help us: Give blood. The New York Blood Center, which works with hospitals serving 20 million people in this region—sent out extra supplies to hospitals in advance of the storm. So if you can donate blood to the Center—please do. I plan to do it again later today. I think the last time I gave blood was about two months ago, but apparently enough time has passed so I can do it again, and I will go. It is painless, it is quick, and it's a chance to maybe save a life. Please go to www.nybloodcenter.org for more information.
"Today, we have opened the first of several disaster assistance service centers, which will provide information about applying for emergency social and economic benefits. I visited it and talked with the staff earlier this morning.
"At the moment, they're working in the parking lot of the MCU Park, the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, at 1904 Surf Avenue in Coney Island. By next week, they will have moved to a more permanent setting. And when we do, we'll publicize that location, and the locations of the other centers we will open.
"But the most important thing is to start helping as many people as quickly as possible.
"This center, like the other centers we plan to open, is being operated by the City's Human Resources Administration in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It's open until 5:00 PM today, and will be open seven days a week.
"For many New Yorkers, the major challenges posed by Sandy continue to be mass transit and electrical power.
"First as to transit: Until full subway service is restored, getting around the city will remain a major challenge. Thankfully, more and more travel options are becoming available. You can ride MTA buses, and some subway lines are already operating, and those hopefully will come back, the rest of them, reasonably soon.
"We resumed East River ferry service yesterday, and the Staten Island Ferry will be back on its full schedule tomorrow. It's already operating. Commuting went better today than yesterday.
"If you're driving into Manhattan by way of most of our major bridges and the Lincoln Tunnel, the passenger vehicle restrictions we put into place will end at 5pm today. And we expect so much power to be restored and mass transit to be restored that it will not be necessary to reinstitute those on Monday. Although, if the city is so clogged the way it was last Wednesday, where even emergency vehicles couldn't get around, we will reinstitute these. They did make a very big difference, even though they do impact and inconvenience a lot of people.
"Safety is, once again, the most powerful thing, and the most important thing to us.
"The Holland Tunnel, I'm happy to say, is being opened on a limited basis for commercial vehicles and buses. That will also help.
"As many frustrated drivers know, there have been major disruptions in getting gasoline, and that's the next thing I wanted to address. Refineries have been closed; pumping stations have had no electricity; and some terminals in the region have been closed. So the entire supply chain has been bottlenecked.
"As of this morning, all of these issues are starting to be alleviated. Power, I'm happy to say, is now back on for the interstate pipeline that serves our city. It's called the Buckeye pipeline It comes through Linden, New Jersey. We expect gasoline from this pipeline to enter our city tonight and that will make a major difference.
"We've also been working with the Coast Guard and the Port Authority to unlock a gasoline barge that had been stuck in the port. It has now gone up the Hudson to Newburgh, where it will unload something like 64,000 barrels of gasoline that goes into the pipeline that I just mentioned, and comes out here.
"And as we have urged, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano earlier today issued a temporary blanket waiver that will immediately permit additional oil tankers coming from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports.
"There is a Federal law that prohibits foreign flagged carriers from going from one port in America to another in it—they can go overseas, but not from one port to another. The suspension of that law for the time being will make a big difference to us.
"We also have a plan in place to ensure that police, fire, and other critical service vehicles have the fuel they need. And we are working with the State Department of Health on a plan to ensure that vehicles that serve critical needs patients and elderly get the service they need. And also the buses and school buses, those are our highest priorities.
"But the bottom line is that the gasoline system is getting back on its feet. We can expect some lags in how quickly it improves, but I think by Monday when people stop driving as much and start taking mass transit, that will be another thing. And these delays due to storms have happened before. They spring up very quickly and they go away very quickly. We basically have a supply system: as it comes in we use it; if it stops coming in we're in trouble. Once it comes in, we use it up and it is a very close connection between supply and demand.
"In the meantime, if you cut out any unnecessary driving you'll save yourself some time, you'll save yourself some aggravation at a gas pump, and we'll all be better off for it.
"Con Ed continues to make progress in restoring electric service. Since yesterday at this time, lights have come back on for about 70,000 more customers across the city. Currently something like 460,000 customers are estimated to be without power. About half of them are in Manhattan. Con Ed is starting to recover areas in Manhattan today, and the hope is to have power restored to most of the borough by midnight tonight which is certainly great news.
"Some of these areas should start coming on within a couple of hours, but what Con Ed has to do is to bring them on one by one, and to make sure there are no buildings that could catch fire when they throw the switch.
"Two networks in Lower Manhattan will take a little longer to bring back on line. However, even with crews working around the clock, it's going to take a lot longer to bring power back to areas that are served by overhead power lines—and that includes the Long Island Power Authority's more than 30,000 customers on the Rockaways.
"If you are without power, and you are using candles, please exercise extreme caution. I know it's chilly, I know you want to have light at night, but don't leave candles burning throughout the night, and don't leave them unattended. We've already had a serious fire in the Rockaways that was started by candles.
"NYU Downtown and Veterans Affairs Hospital in Manhattan do not expect to open until the middle of the week. The special medical needs shelters will stay open through next week at least.
"We've had our restaurant inspectors being redeployed to high-impact areas to meet with restaurants and explain how to reopen safely. We want to make sure that people don't get food poisoning from either water that's been contaminated, touching the food, or food that has spoiled for lack of refrigeration.
[Residents in Breezy Point should use bottled water as tap is not safe to drink at this time. Tap water throughout the rest of the city is safe to drink.]
"For everybody else, we've test the water lots of different places, lots of times in the day. It is the safest water you can drink. We added a little bit of extra chlorine just as a precautionary measure so if it tastes a tiny bit funny—and I have not noticed that in drinking tap water—but that's what we're doing. It is safe. The only place we really think that boiling would be appropriate is in Breezy Point.
"There are currently about 5,500 people in our city's evacuation shelters. About 20 percent are classified as having special medical needs.
"We have consolidated those systems; there are now 15 shelters where there were once 76 of them. It's a little bit more inconvenient for some people to get to some of them, but staffing 15 is a lot easier than staffing 75, and we did have a number where there were only half a dozen or a dozen people in them. Now this is much more efficient and it's going to let us provide better service.
"This is going to help us get public schools ready for classes Monday morning as well because most of these shelters are in the school system. Our shelters will remain open for all people who need them. 311, nyc.gov if you need them, they'll tell you where.
"The volunteers and City employees manning these shelters have done a phenomenal job, and I just wanted to say thanks to them.
"In particular, I want to say a few words about Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond and the staff at what is called the United Operations and Resource Center. They have been overseeing the emergency sheltering system for the past week; stocking and re-stocking them; securing emergency generators when shelters lost power; and overcoming every challenge that has been thrown at them.
"They've had an awful lot of sleepless nights, as many of us have, but I know they're not slowing down—and that's, as I said, true for so many city workers in so many different agencies.
"About the public schools; they'll reopen for classes on Monday.
"However, depending on power conditions, we expect something like 40 of these school buildings not to be able to reopen. The schools in those buildings may not be able to resume classes until Wednesday; the Chancellor will try to communicate this information starting this evening and over the weekend through the NYC.gov website, 311, DOE's text messaging service, and to principals and parent coordinators who will try to contact all of the parents directly and on radio and television.
"But 40 out of the 2,000 schools are the only ones that we think will not be ready to receive students on Monday. And then we're going to have a great challenge—missing a week of schooling is not something that's good for the education of our kids, and we're going to have to work very hard, as are their parents, and the students to catch up. Getting a great education is the real key to enjoying everything that America has to offer.
"There are some other updates I wanted to share with you. Concerning the crane on West 57th Street: Tomorrow, work on securing the crane will begin. It's an approximately 36-hour operation, and the goal is to remove the vacate order and allow people in the vicinity to return to their homes and offices by Monday night.
"We've just got to make sure that we do this where it doesn't cost any more lives—or any lives—and we think we have a plan that's been well studied by everybody, and we've been on the crane and with workers and we've photographed everything, and we've studied the blueprints, and we think we have a plan that will in 36 hours let us secure the boom to the building, and then over the next three or four weeks they'll have to build another crane next to it to take down the pieces that are damaged.
"Federal agencies are providing equipment including industrial-strength water pumps to help with our recovery. We've been working closely with the Board of Elections and doing everything they've asked of us to help them prepare for Tuesday.
"We'll continue to provide all the assistance we can, but we do not run the Board of Elections. Ultimately, it's going to be up to them to ensure that everyone has a nearby poll site and knows where it is. And we'll do anything we can to help, but the bottom line is they have to find out what's happened to all of the private buildings that have polling sites in them and then coordinate with us on public sites.
"As I said yesterday, the majority of the parks and playgrounds will open this weekend. There are a number that are already open. They will open as we can make sure that they are safe. If you look at the park, if there's a sign to stay out, please stay out because it is literally life-threatening. There are trees that can come down, and we've had a number of the 40-odd people that have died have died from a tree falling on them.
"Nature is tough, and nobody thinks about a tree falling, but particularly after all of the water we had, there's a lot that are in danger of doing so. But as we think each park is safe we're going to remove the signs and let you go in, and so a good chunk of them—50, 60 percent—are probably open already right now.
"The beaches, stay off the beaches. Please, we just do not need to have our first responders jeopardize their lives. Still rough weather out there, there's an awful lot of debris on the beaches and floating around. I know surfing is fun for a lot of people, but it's not worth losing your life.
"The Department of Sanitation has sent extra crews to clean up debris, and they'll do it on the beaches. First priority is for people in their neighborhoods, the streets, so they can get around and help them get their houses in order so they can at least look and see what damage was done and what they have to do next.
"The Sanitation Department is also picking up garbage wherever possible. There's still no recycling pickup. I think we picked up something like 17,000 tons of stuff yesterday, and in going around the city, every place I hear the same thing—they say great things about all our City agencies, but what you see is the Sanitation Department, it's so visible, they say nothing but great things about it.”
Marc La Vorgna/John McCarthy
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