Sunday, December 21, 2014

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Voters Face Long Lines At The Polls In Sandy's Aftermath

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New Yorkers are casting their votes today in polling places across the city, where many are experiencing long lines in the aftermath of last week's devastating storm.

To assist those displaced by Sandy, Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an executive order allowing any New Yorker registered to vote to cast their ballots for president and local offices at any polling site in the state.

The Board of Elections has also set up "super sites" in hard-hit areas of Brooklyn and Queens, with as many as nine polling places combined into one.

Cuomo says people who have been displaced by the storm should not lose the ability to vote.

Polls are open until 9 p.m.

Voters will be able to fill out an affidavit and cast their ballots, but they will only be able to vote in the presidential and statewide contests.

The MTA is running shuttle buses in the Rockaways, Coney Island and Staten Island to get voters to the polls.

NY1 has received some reports from residents saying that poll workers are struggling to handle the crowds, and that some voters have been turned away.

The Board of Elections says they have 36,000 poll workers throughout the city. They also say because the governor's announcement was so late in the process, there was no way for them to communicate with all poll workers, since they were all already trained.

The BOE says they have 80 monitors visiting sites throughout the city to educate poll workers about the new process.

City Preps For Nor'easter

While tomorrow's impending nor'easter appears to be weaker than originally forecast, city officials say they are not taking any chances especially in areas already battered by Sandy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the biggest concern is for low-lying areas in Zone A, where trees have been weakened and sand that would have acted as a barrier has been washed away.

Police in those areas will be making announcements to ensure elderly or homebound residents and those with infants have a safe place to go, but evacuations will not be mandatory.

Bloomberg says all parks, playgrounds and beach will be closed starting at noon Wednesday and police will patrol coastal areas prone to further flooding and recommend residents evacuate.

"Even though it’s not anywhere near as strong as sandy nor strong enough in normal times for us to evacuate any body because of the changing physical circumstances we are going to go to some small areas and ask those people to go to higher ground," Bloomberg said.

The mayor has also ordered all exterior construction work suspended starting at noon Wednesday.

Property owners and contractors are being urged to secure loose objects and tie down materials that could blow away.

Forecasters say a high wind and coastal flood watch will likely begin Wednesday morning.

Wind gusts up to 50 mph are possible as well as moderate coastal flooding during high tide.

An inch of rainfall, perhaps mixing with sleet early in the morning is also possible.

With the nor'easter approaching, FEMA says it plans to temporarily suspend the city's information relief centers.

A spokesperson says workers will be doing hour by hour evaluations to see when they can open up again.

The centers will shut down Tuesday at 6 p.m.

To register with FEMA call 800-621-3362 or visit their website at

Due to the threatening weather, the Wildlife Conservatory Society is closing the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo from noon Wednesday through Thursday.

Transit Latest

The morning and evening rush is getting a little easier as more subway service gets back up and running.

The A is again operating between 207th Street in Manhattan and Lefferts Boulevard in Queens.

The G and Z subway lines remain suspended.

For the latest transit info, visit

The Port Authority is restoring limited PATH train service, and will start charging fares on Wednesday.

Trains are running in both directions between Journal Square and 33rd Street, except for the Christopher and 9th Street stations.

Service remains suspended to Hoboken, Exchange Place and the World Trade Center as well as between Newark-Penn Station and Journal Square.

Nearly all of the city's bridges are back open to traffic and driving restrictions in and out of Manhattan have been lifted.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal is offering normal service.

On Sunday, Gov. Cuomo's office announced suspensions of tolls for the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, which lead drivers to and from the Rockaways. The suspensions will be applied retroactive to when the bridges opened after the storm.

According to MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, E-ZPass tolls paid since the Rockaways bridges reopened will be retroactively credited back to customers’ accounts.

According to Gov. Cuomo's office, the suspension of tolls will last through the end of November as recovery efforts continue.

The Hugh L. Carey/Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel remains closed due to flooding.

One lane of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel has reopened to buses only.

One south-bound lane of the Holland Tunnel is open to buses traveling from New Jersey to Manhattan from 5:30 to 10 a.m. and west-bound buses returning to New Jersey from 1 to 9 p.m.

Staten Island Ferry service resumed on Friday.

NY Waterway's East River ferry service and the World Financial Ferry are running on a limited service schedule.

Cargo containers also entered the Port of New York/Newark on Monday for the first time since Sandy.

Amtrak continued to make repairs Monday to parts of its system damaged by Sandy.

It started limited service Monday on its Acela Express and Northeast Regional lines as well as the Northeast Corridor between Boston, New York City and Washington.

All long-distance trains will operate normally to and from New York City, except for the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago and the Maple Leaf line to Toronto.

Amtrak says to avoid delays, passengers should make reservations and pay in advance by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL or at

Power Outages, Gas Shortage

With hundreds of thousands still without power, Governor Cuomo on Monday had more harsh words for the utility companies.

Cuomo is putting the companies on notice, saying the right to operate utilities comes from the state -- not from a higher power.

"God never said New York should have these utilities forever, and Con Ed is the utility and there's nothing you can do about it. It's not in the Bible," Cuomo said.

The governor said while he understands it was a big storm, there's no excuse for the lack of communication with customers. He also said he doesn't believe Con Ed and LIPA had a comprehensive plan for dealing with a major storm.

At one point Tuesday night, there were more than 650,000 customers without power across the city, including 59 New York City Housing Authority developments.

View the latest Con Ed outage map

By 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, more than 61,000 Con Ed customers in New York City were still without power, including roughly 22,000 in Queens, 13,000 on Staten Island, 21,000 in Brooklyn, 4,600 in the Bronx and 1,200 in Manhattan.

With the cold weather setting in, the city is encouraging New Yorkers without power to take advantage of its warming and evacuation centers around the five boroughs.

Most are open during the day, but there are some open overnight. There is also bus service to some of them.

For a full list of warming and evacuation centers and to see if you can get a ride, call 311 or go to

Meanwhile, city residents have been struggling to gas up their cars as lines at some service stations stretch down the street for several blocks.

The mayor said Monday the fuel supply remains below normal, but there are supplies from interstate pipelines coming in.

He said barges carrying 21 million gallons of gasoline also unloaded at local terminals over the weekend, and more are expected to arrive.

It will take a while to distribute to gas stations, so the mayor asked drivers to be patient and use mass transit.

Police officers have also been deployed to every open gas station in the city to keep the long lines orderly and safe.

Cuomo and Bloomberg have urged New Yorkers to not hoard their supplies, especially gas.

The U.S. Energy Department established a team Sunday to identify local gas stations that may need emergency generators or are running low on fuel.

Drivers are warned that due to long lines and high demand, emergency personnel and first responder vehicles would be given first priority.

A new online tool at directs users to stations where gas is available.

The site is urging users to update fuel availability information so that drivers looking for gasoline can find it.

GasBuddy is also working with gas stations to keep its information updated.

Schools Update

Approximately 90 percent of all city schools opened Monday, while others remain closed due to storm-related issues.

DOE officials say 20,000 students will need to be relocated Wednesday. Thousands more will miss at least one more day of school because their building is still hosting evacuees or remains without power.

Information on school relocations and cancelations are available by calling 311.

The city is warning parents that three dozen schools are still without heat.

Meantime, the Diocese of Brooklyn says over 1,400 children have been displaced by Hurricane Sandy from the following schools: Ave Maria Catholic Academy, Howard Beach; St. Camillus School, Rockaway Beach; St. Francis de Sales School, Belle Harbor; St. Helen’s School, Howard Beach; and St. Rose of Lima School, Rockaway Beach.

Diocese officials say they are assessing the affected school buildings to determine when they can reopen and are also working to find alternative sites.

Families of students who attend these schools are urged to call 1-800-963-6715 for more information.

Response and Relief

As outreach efforts continue to pour into the city, the mayor's office on Tuesday announced it has partnered with the NYC Food Truck Association to help distribute free hot food to some of the hardest hit areas.

Food trucks will be open daily from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the following locations:

1904 Surf Avenue
Corner of Brighton Beach Avenue and Coney Island Avenue
West 25th and Surf Avenue
52 Seba Avenue
Red Hook Coffey Park at 85 Richards

St. Helen’s at 157-10 83rd Street
100-05 159th Avenue
Beach Channel Blvd near Breezy Point Firehouse
112-15 Beach Channel Drive
1462 Beach Channel Drive (Redfern and Beach 12th Street)
40th St and Beach Channel Avenue
44th and Rockaway Beach Blvd (near Beach 41st)
220 Beach 85th Street (84th and Rockaway Beach Blvd)
129-16 Rockaway Beach Blvd
1414 Central Avenue

Staten Island:
6581 Hylan Blvd
Corner of Mill Road and New Dorp Lane
Father Capodano Boulevard and Hunter Avenue
300 Western Avenue

With so many New Yorkers still out of their homes Mayor Michael Bloomberg has created a director of housing recovery operations.

Brad Gair will oversee the city's efforts to get transitional housing for all displaced residents.

He will also help create a long-term housing plan.

Gair was previously appointed federal recovery officer in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks and until 2009 served as Deputy Commissioner for the city's Office of Emergency Management.

"We know it will take awhile, it will be difficult, there will be bumps along the road. We believe we have the resources to get this done," Gair said. "The experiences I've had on other disasters, doing similar projects, I've seen it done well and not so well. So I have the lessons learned and the expertise to try to put this back into place as quickly as possible."

The mayor also appointed four Community Recovery Directors to work with residents and community groups in the four hardest-hit areas of the city.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are also working on long-term housing options for residents who lost their homes to damages from Sandy. Already, 114,000 city residents have registered with FEMA for housing assistance.

As of Saturday, police confirmed at least 40 deaths caused by Sandy.

With trash piling up around the city, Bloomberg has announced changes to garbage collection.

To make sure trash collection in heavily impacted areas takes place around the clock - collection in other areas could be scaled back.

In some areas, pickups could go from three days to two, or two days to one.

The Department of Environmental Protection says the city's water supply is largely safe to drink, and that extra chlorine has been added to the water.

One exception is in Breezy Point, Queens, where city officials say tap water is not drinkable, even if boiled. Residents there for now should drink bottled water. City officials say the advisory is specific to Breezy Point as water is being returned for firefighting purposes only. Officials reiterate the city’s tap water remains safe for all other areas of the city.

The city Department of Health says that New Yorkers should avoid swimming, boating or coming into direct contact with the Hudson River, East River, New York Harbor, Jamaica Bay and the Kill Van Kull until further notice.

Cuomo has suspended state regulations to make it easier for manufacturers to donate water to those affected by Sandy. The executive order permits waivers excluding manufacturers from container deposit requirements.

For instance, Anheuser-Busch had packaged thousands of cases of canned, portable drinking water for victims. But since the company does not usually produce water distributed in New York, it did not have the certification to distribute it and needed the Department of Health's approval.

The suspension will remain in effect until Friday in order to aid emergency relief efforts.

Cuomo also issued on Monday a directive to insurance companies requiring them to accept photos as evidence of damage, so those making claims can toss their damaged property.

Insurance companies typically require an on-site inspection before claims are processed. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP