"Good afternoon. We're pleased to have Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, Secretary for Health and Human Service Kathleen Sebelius is really somebody that we've come to know more modern day, and both of these Secretaries and their agencies have really made a big difference, and I'm going to ask them to talk. And then we have Congresswoman Maloney with us, welcome.
"Let me briefly update you on the progress we've made over the past 24 hours and what we're doing to address the very serious and urgent challenges that New Yorkers continue to face.
"The most pressing of these is the cold weather that we're experiencing. This morning, I was again in the Rockaways, specifically in Far Rockaway, and also in Broad Channel, and I spoke with many people who were worried and frustrated - and cold. There is no power there - and temperatures are dropping. Even those who have generators are having a hard time getting fuel.
"Today, in partnership with the federal government, we took a number of steps to help people stay warm. We've opened heating centers in areas that still don't have power and distributing blankets to residents who remain in their homes. There is also, you should know, free fuel for generators available in some locations, and I'll touch on that in a minute.
"At Hamel Houses - a public housing development in the Rockaways - I saw a community center that suffered serious damage. And when I spoke to some of the residents, they said they have no friends or family to stay with. I assured them we have shelters with food, water, and heat where they could stay. Many did not want to go, and I understand that. But it's cold and it really is critical that people stay warm, especially the elderly.
"If you are elderly, or have an infant under a year old, or have heart disease or medical conditions, you really have to get to warm place. It may not be your home, it may not be in the most convenient place or the most convenient design - we're trying to respond to an unprecedented emergency - but we are committed to making sure that everybody can have a roof over their head and food in their stomachs and deal with the cold safely. So please, I know sometimes people are reticent to take advantage of services - the cold really is something that is dangerous.
"If you find yourself shivering uncontrollably, or if you see someone who is disoriented, these are symptoms of hypothermia and anyone with them needs really to get to a warm place very quickly.
"We have been knocking on doors in public housing developments for several days to see if people need help. We are trying to proactively reach out. We have plenty of passive ways of getting information out, but sometimes you have to really get on the phone, knock on the door, slip something under the door, and we have been doing that for a number of days now. As a matter of fact, that's the way we started to try to get everybody to evacuate Zone A areas.
"Today we began urging residents who may be older or infirmed to move to a shelter. We have about 1,000 NYC Service volunteers out today doing that - and I expect there will be even more out tomorrow.
"There are buses at the City's five disaster assistance centers that will help people get to shelters this evening and also at Seward Park High School in Manhattan. Two of the pickup locations are on Staten Island, two are on the Rockaways, and one is at a center that I saw yesterday at Coney Island.
"They're located in the parking lot at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin at Mount Loretto at 6581 Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island; Miller Field parking lot at 600 New Dorp Lane on Staten Island; The parking lot of the Waldbaum's at 112-15 Beach Channel Drive in Far Rockaway; The Fort Tilden Park parking lot on Beach Channel Boulevard near Breezy Point on the Rockaways; and the one I saw yesterday in the parking lot at MCU Park, the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, at 1904 Surf Avenue in Coney Island.
"We're putting out flyers reminding people of these locations and the availability of buses. The police department, you should know, is also using patrol car loudspeakers to urge people to go to the heating shelters and telling them how to get there.
"We have 25,000 blankets on the way to shelters in the Rockaways, Coney Island, and on Staten Island right now. And I want to thank all of the volunteers who are pitching in to help with that. It really means a lot - and it shows, I think, what a big heart New Yorkers have.
"This cold weather presents another set of dangers as well - especially people using gas ranges and candles to heat and light their homes.
"Con Ed has made significant progress in restoring power in the city, however residents in the Rockaways get their power from the Long Island Power Authority - and in our view, LIPA, as it's called, has not acted aggressively enough.
"We realize that LIPA has outages throughout Long Island, but the Rockaways were hardest hit by this storm - and when it comes to prioritizing resources, we think they should be the first in line. So far, that has not appeared to be the case - and that is just not acceptable.
"There was extensive sand and salt water infiltration into the network there, and we've urged LIPA to put more resources on the job. They have, as of a few minutes ago, not given us a clear timetable to when to expect power to be restored, but they have indicated that it could take up to two weeks - and that is certainly not acceptable. It is going to get colder over the next couple weeks.
"This morning, I told the residents of the Rockaways that I would push LIPA to do more, faster. And this afternoon our staff did meet with LIPA to offer any support we can, and to urge them to put more resources into restoring service to the Rockaways at the earliest possible date.
"When I walked Rockaway Beach Boulevard this morning, the streets were passable but there was clearly enormous number of badly damaged homes and stores - a lot of debris and sand and mud, and totaled cars. When I walked Broad Channel, there were a lot of boats from two blocks away actually in the middle of the road. You saw cars piled on top of each other. The waves just picked them up and put them down on top of another car.
"Every year I walk in the St. Patrick's Day parade down Rockaway Beach Boulevard, and it really is hard to believe that it is the same place. That's a road on St. Patrick's Day that's clean and a lot of smiling, happy people who love living in New York, and today it is covered with debris, and the people there need our help.
"In Broad Channel, which also suffered heavy damage, the Sanitation Department was out this morning clearing the streets with front-end loaders. There were lots of trees down, plenty of debris, and I spoke with people there and they mentioned again and again how great the Sanitation Department has been - and I passed that along to a few of the Sanitation workers, along with my thanks for their hard work over the past week.
"All the people in the city have been working hard, and they don't do it for the money, they do it because they want to make a difference. That's what City employees work for the city for, and giving them some recognition and respect goes an awful long way - for us to say thank you and also just keep them focused when they're tired and to go that extra mile. So I would urge everybody, when you see somebody that's really making a difference in this city - policeman, fireman, sanitation worker, school teacher struggling to get to school and help our kids - just saying thank you for what you do is sort of a nice thing to do.
"There have been two additional fatalities related to Hurricane Sandy overnight, and one just a few minutes ago. The total now stands at something like 41 or 42 - I think it's 42 now. An earlier count by the NYPD was 43, but the Medical Examiner has determined that some of the deaths on that list were not attributable to the storm.
"As recovery operations by our first responders continue, hopefully we will not find any more. I didn't think we would, and yet just a little while ago we did find one more body. It's 42 people whose families are going to have to cope with a terrible loss, and I think all of us should make sure they and their families are in our prayers.
"There is something that we can do, however, to make sure there are no more tragedies. When you are without power, please, please don't use candles to light your home near windows, near curtains, don't go to bed leaving the candles going. Burning through the night, you can maybe not wake up.
"In recent days, the Fire Department has responded to six fires started by candles, including one on Staten Island last night which caused an 80-year-old man to be hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
"We've also seen and read reports about people turning on gas ranges and ovens to heat their homes. Please don't. It can cause fires, and also the gases that come out of these things are lethal.
"A lot of New Yorkers are using generators. You just can't use these indoors or even in a garage; that can result in carbon monoxide poisoning. Don't connect them directly to your home wiring, or to an electric outlet in your home or garage. You have to have an electrician that can take a look and see if it's safe. If you go and try to connect a generator or Con Ed turns on the power to a system that's been damaged by salt water, there's a very good chance a fire can start and you might not be able to get out.
"Don't overload your generators, and don't store the gasoline that powers them indoors.
"Daylight savings ends tonight I guess it is; remember to check the batteries on your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. It could save the life of you and the life of your family members.
"Helping people keep warm without power on these chilly nights has also become a focus of the food distribution centers that we're operating in communities without electrical power. These sites give food and bottled water distribution to residents of hard-hit communities who are still without electrical power.
"And today, in addition to pre-prepared meals, many have also been distributing blankets, flashlight batteries, and baby supplies, such as disposable diapers and baby formula. That will continue tomorrow.
"There are also volunteers going door-to-door throughout these areas. They're making sure anyone who's homebound is okay, and to give them food, water, and other supplies. As of today there are 16 sites; 15 provide each person with up to three meals and water, and the one on Grand Street on the Lower East Side offers only water. Please bring your own bags to carry these items.
"Many of the centers, which are staffed by National Guard members, New York City Service volunteers and staff of the Salvation Army, remained open well past the 5:00 PM time that they had planned to close. You should know that nobody who came for food and water was turned away.
"The sites have also been open today since 1:00 PM, and are scheduled to close at 5:00 PM. Some of the sites in Lower Manhattan will not be open on Sunday because with power restored there their work is done, and we're going to redirect volunteers and resources from that site to other parts of the city that are still without power. And those other places, as I said before, will be open 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.
"I did want to thank everyone who has volunteered in this effort, and also all those who have supported it with cash donations. The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City has raised $12 million donated by more than 3,500 people to support these relief efforts. The money continues to come in. Please go to the city's web site at nyc.gov or call 311 for details about how you can give.
"I also want to thank Verizon for their efforts to restore cell service in the Rockaways and other parts of the city, as well as all the private sector companies and non-profit organizations who have stepped forward. And AT&T should also be commended - I talked about what they were doing yesterday.
"As I said, Con Ed has made major progress in restoring power. Yesterday afternoon, there were some 460,000 customers without power in our city. Now that's down to about 194,000 - so 460,000 down to 194,000. More than 25,000 of them are LIPA customers in the Rockaways.
"While power to most of Manhattan has been restored, there are still tens of thousands of customers without steam power, and therefore without heat. With the onset of cold weather, we encourage everyone needing heat to visit one of our heating centers or check into shelter.
"The City has also provided emergency generators to hospitals, nursing homes, public housing developments, and other facilities throughout the city.
"There is mass transit running in all five boroughs I'm happy to say - including the Staten Island Rail Road, which began partial service today at noon. It will be running at normal service in time for the Monday morning's commute. And as you know, the Staten Island Ferry started operating normal schedule starting yesterday.
"Almost all MTA subway service has been restored - around 80 percent of the system. The MTA has said that that should be up to 90 percent by tomorrow. Most subway lines are fully operational - including lines running under the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as between Queens and Manhattan.
"There are a couple of subway lines that remain affected- that's partially because of two East River subway tunnels that still have some flooding; specifically, the Montague Tunnel, which serves the N/R Line; and the 14th Street tunnel, which serves the N/R and L.
"In coordination with the Army Corps of Engineers and City and State transportation workers, we're actively pumping water out of those tunnels, as well as the other tunnels still affected by flooding: the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel; Queens Midtown Tunnel; Jersey City PATH Train Tunnel; and Battery Exchange Tunnel.
"Work is going on around the clock; we will keep you updated. But I did want to point out that because the MTA did take proactive preparations before the storm and moved their equipment out of harm's way, as soon as we got the tunnels pumped out, checked the rails and the signaling, they could go right back to work. If they had not done that, you could be out of service for a very long period of time. And it just goes to show how I think well run the MTA is and forward thinking, and that's exactly what they should have done and we are the beneficiaries for that.
"And we should certainly point out that the cooperation between the City and the State, between everybody that the Governor is lucky enough to work for and everybody that I'm lucky enough to work for, I think the city and the region is being well-served.
"I know that there are people listening today who may have sat in the cars for hours trying to buy gasoline. I know it's frustrating. And police officers had to be posted at service stations to keep order.
"I ask everybody to be patient. And I can also say this should be much less of a problem in the coming days - both because the subways are now back in service and fewer people will drive, and because of several other developments.
"As it has been reported earlier today, National Guard units are providing motorists and people needing fuel for generators with free gasoline at four armories in our city, and also at the armory in Freeport on Long Island. There is a 10-gallon limit per vehicle.
"The locations in New York City are: The Queens Armory at 93-05 160th Street in Jamaica; The Bronx Armory at 10 West 195th Street; The Brooklyn Armory at 1579 Bedford Avenue; And the Staten Island-Elizabeth Armory, at 321 Manor Road.
"Last night, the Buckeye pipeline, the interstate gasoline transmission line serving New York City, pushed 100,000 barrels of fuel into our city - the first major influx since before Sandy struck. The supply is continuing to flow, I'm happy to say, and will begin finding its way to retailers.
"One of the big problems we've had is that while gasoline is a fuel, you can't get it out of the ground and into your car unless there's another kind of fuel that's called electricity to drive the pumps. And as electricity comes back, the pumps start working and you'll have more options to find gasoline.
"As I have cautioned, it may take a few days before you see the real effects of this additional supply at your neighborhood service station. But there should be considerably less congestion on our roads from here on out.
"And once again like everything else, there's lots of different people that were involved in getting the refineries going again, the pipeline going again, the harbor, Coast Guard played a big part, Secretary Napolitano was helpful in getting the Jones Act suspended so we have some more ships on their way with gasoline. And I'm optimistic that in a couple of days the shortage will disappear and relatively quickly - but it just does take time to get the fuel from where it starts to where we need it.
"On Monday, public schools for nearly one million students will be open. To put this in perspective, to educate our 1.1 million students there are 1,750 schools in the city in roughly 1,400 different buildings. The vast majority of them will be open Monday, day after tomorrow.
"It is just terribly important that our kids get back to school. They have missed a week of school, and this is their future. Very hard to catch up to.
"We do know that there will be 65 schools that we won't be able to open. They include eight schools where emergency shelters are located, as well as 57 schools in 40 buildings that sustained real damage during the storm.
"On Wednesday, when classes resume after Tuesday's Election Day - remember schools are closed on Election Day Tuesday - so we're talking about opening on Monday for most schools - I'll tell you how to find out which ones in a second - no school on Tuesday, and then Wednesday, we think that a lot of the schools that we cannot open on Monday we will be able to open on Wednesday.
"There are about 178 schools still without power. We hope that many of them will have power and be open for classes by Monday, so I can't give you a number, but we think it will be significantly less than that.
"Parents and students can get status updates about them and about all the schools by going to the Department of Education's web page at nyc.gov, by calling 311, by texting the words 'NYCSchools' to 877-877.
"Robo-calls, which is us actually reaching out, have already started to parents; principals and parent coordinators are reaching out directly to their parent communities.
"We are running full-page ads in several of Monday's daily papers with school closure information. And I also urge parents to follow the news on radio, television and other sources.
"It is difficult to find out if it's your school for your kid. We're doing everything we can to reach out to you, but it would be helpful if you sort of reached in to us, particularly if you are in an area and your child goes to a school where you know it's near the coastline and there's a possibility that there was damage done during the hurricane.
"We expect 96 percent of the school buses to be running on Monday morning - although please bear in mind that because of downed trees or other storm debris on the streets, there may be some delays in making student pick-ups. There also may be backup drivers filling in, and with students going to different schools sometimes where we've had to move people out of one school, the routes that we have established with great thought sometimes don't work and it'll take a little while. So if you're late, stranded, delayed, we are trying our best. Our objective is to get as much done as we can, even if it does require us to adjust as we go along.
"The City's Department of Education is also, you should know, calling up a reserve of substitute teachers to make sure that all classrooms are covered. Sometimes we're going to have to move students from one school to another school that isn't their first school. It can go across from one county to another, it can go down the street, it can go into another building - it's not an optimal situation, but when you have this number of schools that you can't use, we don't have that kind of vacant schools.
"The good news is lots of people want to go to our schools and we're always struggling, no matter how fast we build classrooms, we don't have enough. So if some of those are out of order or unavailable, it just puts more stress in the system.
"We will have a seat for every child. Classrooms may be big and they may not be in exactly the right places, but you should know that the whole school system - the principals and teachers, both in the schools where we're going to send students from, and the schools that are going to receive those students - have all been working together.
"And it is gratifying to see the cooperation that we're getting. And I will say that Michael Mulgrew and the teachers union have been very helpful and cooperative as well.
"There are almost 55,000 buildings in Zone A that our Buildings Department still has to inspect. So far we've been to more than 8,500 of them. That's the good news, and the better news is that 80 percent of those buildings are safe to inhabit. But we want to check every building if there was damage that you walk in.
"If you have a red sticker on your building that says uninhabitable, that does not mean that the building is going to get ripped down or you will rip it down. It just means that you can't live in that or be in that until some real structural failings are remediated. We just don't want any more accidents.
"Yellow means you can go in with great caution; green means you're okay. And when you walk down the streets in neighborhoods where we've been, it's very clear every building has these very colorful signs that you see and so you really know where you stand.
"As I've said all along, our tap water is completely safe to drink. A little bit of extra chlorine in it just to make sure.
"That's not the case for Breezy Point. That's the only place because of damage to the water pipes there. We're making bottled water available. You could, I suppose, boil water in Breezy Point, but they don't have the electricity of fuel to do it, so just stick to, if you live in Breezy Point, stick to bottled water for a time and we'll work as hard as we can on the pipes.
"Before taking questions, let me just say that earlier today I visited the construction site on West 57th Street where there is this damaged crane. They went out on the crane early this morning with a careful plan that we'd spent two days to make sure we can do this safely.
"With their hands, they rotated the crane to bring the boom now against the building, and they have since tethered it to the building so there's no danger of it falling. If everything goes according to plan, and we still have a little more work to do, we hope to reopen West 57th Street to traffic tonight.
"I talked with the Buildings Department staff working there, including assistant commissioner Michael Alacha. And let me say something about Michael. He lives in the Rockaways; his house was flooded and his family has had to move in with relatives. But that has not kept him away from his duty to keep the rest of us safe.
"He's been working day and night - including climbing 54 flights of stairs to get to the top of the building on West 57th Street during the worst of the storm in 80 mile-an-hour winds on Monday night.
"He had firefighters tie ropes to his waist and that of another engineer, Timothy Lynch, so they could get close to the damaged boom to inspect it. He deserves our thanks and praise - and so do all the other City workers who've worked around the clock for the past week at the Departments of Parks, Sanitation, Buildings, and Environmental Protection and other human services agencies.
"That also goes for everyone volunteering to get us through Hurricane Sandy and begin our recovery as well.
"We've got cold weather ahead of us; the forecast is that temperatures won't get out of the 40s for several days, and another storm - thankfully not a tropical storm - will be headed our way next week.
"We're on top of that situation. We're New Yorkers; we're going to get through it. We want to get as many people into shelter as we can and give them some semblance of a life while we work on some of the buildings which will take a very long time.
"I don't think anybody should think that we're out of the woods or that we will get everybody's house back up, or even the big NYCHA buildings or some office buildings or private apartment buildings up. You're talking about in many cases months. Some will get done in weeks, some will get done in days. But there are some with big damage and there's just a limited amount of resources, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, boiler makers - each one of these buildings is separate and we're going to have to get people who are really knowledgeable to go through it.
"Let me turn things over to Secretary Sebelius. As I said before, she has become a close friend of the administration and of New York City. She has worked very hard for us on a lot of things, and I just personally wanted to thank her and her staff."