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City Earmarks $500 Million To Fix Storm-Damaged Schools, Hospitals

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The city on Monday announced a $500 million emergency plan to pay for repairs to schools and hospitals as recovery efforts from Sandy continue to press on throughout some of the hardest hit areas.

The plan would earmark $200 million to the city Department of Education and $300 million to the city Health and Hospital Corporation.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says 23 school buildings and three public hospitals remain closed due to damage from the storm.

The City Council is expected to vote on the plan Tuesday.

The mayor said he will seek federal reimbursement for the plan but that the city cannot afford to wait for approval.

"The total cost to replacing and repairing all the damage Sandy did to the city's infrastructure may run into the billions of dollars. We won't know the full cost for some time," the mayor said.

The city says it expects Coney Island and Coler-Goldwater Hospitals to be back up running fully at the beginning of January.

City officials also expect Bellevue Hospital to have full service again at the beginning of February.

The city is also taking steps to ease the burden on homeowners and businesses that need to make refers.

The mayor signed an emergency order to waive application and permit fees for repairs associated with Hurricane Sandy.

Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is running for mayor next year, said the city's relief efforts are too slow and "not indicative of a world-class response to a crisis."

Thompson also said it should not take two weeks to find out that three major public hospitals are in desperate need of repair.

Two of Thompson's would-be opponents in the mayoral race, City Comptroller John Liu and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, stood with Bloomberg for the announcement.

"I believe the city must do and much spend what is necessary for people to get back on their feet and to a sense of normalcy," Liu said.

The need for new spending, though, comes at tough time for the city. The mayor recently proposed slashing the city budget by $1.6 billion and he is planning to bring in new money by raising parking fees and nearly doubling the price of school lunches.

The budget plans are raising serious concerns in the City Council.

"We have some questions. Are the cuts in the Department of Education going to prevent children who need free or low-cost lunches from getting them?" said Quinn.

The budget disputes seemed to be on the backburner in areas hit hardest by Sandy, where reopening schools and hospitals are the top priority.

This came as Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state Department of Financial Services disaster hotline will now be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help residents who recovering from Sandy damage.

New Yorkers can call 1-800-339-1759 for insurance-related questions and to file complaints, according to the governor's office.

Rail and Road Latest

The city's transit and power grids are one step closer to being fully back up and running.

The Hugh L. Carey-Brooklyn Battery Tunnel reopened Monday morning to limited rush-hour bus service.

Express buses run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from Brooklyn and Staten Island used one lane of one tube to enter Manhattan from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and leave Manhattan on 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The tunnel was closed at other times to allow repair crews to repair damage from Sandy.

State officials say about 43 million gallons of salt water flooded the tunnel, affecting electrical, lighting, communications, surveillance and ventilation systems.

Meantime, the Long Island Rail Road is nearly back to normal two weeks after the storm.

The railroad operated on a weekday schedule Monday on 10 of 11 branches as two East River Amtrak tunnels are reopened.

Temporary tunnel repairs will cut the number of trains that can get through, so some rush hour trains will be cancelled or diverted through the end of the year.

The MTA says the railroad is at 70 percent of its regular rush-hour capacity.

Train service on the Long Beach branch remains suspended.

For more information, visit mta.info or call 511.

With subway service from the Rockaways months away from resuming, temporary ferry service is up and running to Manhattan.

Seastreak ferries are running regularly from Beach 108th Street and Beach Channel Drive to Pier 11 near Wall Street where commuters can get a free transfer to the East 34th Street Pier.

The ferry costs $2 each way and boats will be running regularly throughout the morning and evening rush.

PATH train riders are also getting additional service.

Service between Manhattan and Newark-Penn Station in New Jersey resumed Monday morning, with trains stopping at Journal Square, Grove Street and Newport stations and at the 14th, 23rd and 33rd Street stations in Manhattan.

PATH service remains suspended at the badly damaged Hoboken, Exchange Place and World Trade Center stations.

Power Outage Update

Consolidated Edison announced Monday it had restored power to more than 1 million customers affected by Sandy and last week's nor'easter.

The utility says it restored power overnight to all remaining customers in the city whose equipment could be restored.

Con Ed says the 1 million restorations do not include approximately 16,300 customers in flood damaged areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

The utility says those customers will not see the lights come on until their own internal equipment is repaired, tested and certified by an electrician.

Con Ed's figures do not include the hard-hit Rockaways in Queens, which are served by the Long Island Power Authority.

LIPA announced Monday it has 67,000 customers throughout the region without power, including 29,000 in the Rockaways whose homes are too damaged to be re-electrified.

The governor and the mayor are among critics who have found fault with LIPA's storm response and its ability to communicate with customers.

"We were definitely prepared for this storm. We were certainly challenged as the east coast was, from Washington up to New England, to secure the amount of crews in anticipation of the event," said John Bruckner of National Grid. "And, you know, we never rest on our performance, we always want to strive to improve."

LIPA officials warned Monday there may be some new outages because the company is beginning to work on long-term repairs but they are not expected to take long to fix.

With these estimates, a "customer" could represent an individual home or an entire apartment building.

Con Ed has set up command posts at seven locations to help customers whose equipment was damaged by Sandy flooding.

Posts in Brooklyn are located at Gerritsen Avenue and Lois Street in Gerritsen Beach; Highland Avenue and Lyme Avenue in Sea Gate; Shore Boulevard and Mackenzie Street in Manhattan Beach; and Voorhies Avenue and Ocean Avenue in Brighton Beach.

Posts in Queens are located at Cross Bay Boulevard and East 9th Road in Broad Channel and Cross Bay Boulevard and 165th Avenue in Old Howard Beach.

According to a message on the outage map on Con Ed's website, customers in Gerritsen Beach, Sea Gate, Red Hook, Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Howard Beach, Broad Channel, Manhattan Beach, Arrochar, South Beach, Midland Beach, New Dorp Beach, Oakwood Beach, Butler Manor, and Tottenville may not be reflected on the outage map because of damage to privately owned equipment.

To report an outage or downed wires, call 1-800-75-CON ED or by going online to coned.com

LIPA officials helped announce Sunday a new "Rapid Repairs" program that will allow homeowners in the Rockaways to arrange home repairs with minimal red tape and receive assistance from either the city or FEMA.

That in turn should allow homeowners to get their power restored sooner.

More Schools Opening Tuesday

More schools damaged by the storm are reopening this week.

Starting Tuesday, education officials say P.S. 104, 146 and 47 in Queens will reopen.

M.S. 53 Brian Piccolo and the attached Village Academy in Far Rockaway will also open again.

Students at 37 city schools are still being relocated, though officials say 31 schools could reopen by the end of the month.

Affected students should now catch a 7 a.m. shuttle bus from their closed school's location.

That excludes Millennium High School in Manhattan, where students are receiving free MetroCards.

For a full list of school openings and relocation information, visit schools.nyc.gov.

Response and Relief

Police say the city medical examiner confirmed Sunday morning a 43rd death in the city related to Sandy.

Albert McSwain, 77, died in Jamaica Hospital on Saturday.

Authorities say McSwain was found by family members at the base of the stairs to his apartment building at 84-10 Rockaway Beach Boulevard on October 31.

His head and body had received trauma and he suffered paralysis from the neck down, according to police.

McSwain was a retired custodian who had worked at the New York City Police Academy.

By Sunday, police said there were 23 Sandy-related deaths on Staten Island, 11 in Queens, seven in Brooklyn and two in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Sunday that the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City has raised over $35 million in donations for Sandy victims.

He also said that starting Sunday, city employees can donate to hurricane relief through a new payroll deduction program. The donations are tax-deductible.

To make a contribution to the fund, visit nyc.gov/fund. A $10 donation can be made using a mobile phone by texting NYC-FUND to 50555.

View a list of ways to help local Sandy relief efforts.

Meanwhile, the Department of Buildings is working around the clock to remove sand and debris from basins and sewer lines.

Flooding continues to be a concern in some neighborhoods, like Midland Beach on Staten Island, where a resident of Haven Avenue told NY1 on Saturday that he was concerned about water coming into the houses from the street.

DOB officials said crews have pumped out the flood water on Haven Avenue as they continue to go block by block on Staten Island, inspecting and cleaning catch basins and sewer lines.

On Saturday, volunteers turned out for a citywide "Day of Service" to help in the Sandy recovery effort, to hand out food, water and emergency supplies to storm victims and helped clear debris left by the storm.

The storm cleanup is also presenting health hazards, and state officials are suggesting that New Yorkers get a tetanus vaccination.

New Yorkers who have not had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years are especially urged to get one.

Cuomo has signed an executive order in an attempt to make it easier for those in hard-hit areas to receive the shot.

In addition to one's primary care provider, pharmacists, EMTs and dentists can also administer the vaccines.

Tetanus bacteria can enter puncture wounds and cuts caused by debris or dirty materials and can be fatal if left untreated.

Time Warner Cable is deploying mobile food trucks to some of the areas of the city hit hardest by Sandy.

The trucks will be available at locations in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island between now and Thursday, November 16.

View a list of the food truck locations and times.

President Barack Obama wants to take a first-hand look at recovery efforts in the five boroughs.

The White House says the president is planning a trip to the city on Thursday.

Obama visited New Jersey earlier in the month to tour the devastation there, but New York City officials asked the president and his security detail to steer clear as they worked to restore power to Manhattan, restore transit and clean up costal devastation.

The deadline for New Yorkers who lost their job or income due to Sandy to apply for federal disaster unemployment assistance is extended from December 3, 2012 to February 4, 2013.

In addition, according to Cuomo, claimants now have up to 90 days to submit proof of employment or self-employment and will be provided an IRS link to expedite the retrieval of lost or destroyed tax documents.

While the aftermath of Sandy takes its toll on residents across New York, it is also hitting the city and state's pocketbooks.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened on Sunday a new disaster recovery center in Staten Island's Borough Hall in St. George.

FEMA has approved more than $400 million in storm aid for housing and other aid for Sandy victims in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

To find a disaster recovery center near you, visit fema.gov.

FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers In NYC

Bronx:
Edgewater Park Volunteer Fire Station
1 Adee Drive, Open 7 days, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Brooklyn:
- Cyclone Stadium (1904 Surf Ave.) Open Saturday-Thursday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- Holy Family Roman Catholic Church (9719 Flatlands Ave.) Open 7 days, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- IKEA (1 Beard St.) Open 7 days, 9:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Our Lady of Solace, Gymnasium (2866 West 17th St.) Open 7 days, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Queens:
- Coffey Park (85 Richards St., Far Rockaway) Open 7 days, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Community Church of the Nazarene (1414 Central Ave., Far Rockaway) Open 7 days, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Fort Tilden Park (1199 Rockaway Point Blvd., Breezy Point) Open 7 days, 8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Duane Reade (B116 Beach Channel Drive, Rockaway Park) Open 7 days, 8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- New Cassel Community Center Garden (141 Garden St., Far Rockaway) Open 7 days, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Staten Island:
- Borough Hall (10 Richmond Terrace) Open 7 days, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Corner of Father Capodanno Blvd. and Hunter Ave. Open 7 days, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Miller Field (600 New Dorp Lane) Open 7 days, 8:30 a.m. - 8 p.m.
- Mount Manresa Jesuit House (239 Fingerboard Rd.) Open 7 days, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Mt. Loretto – CYO (6581 Hylan Blvd.) Open 7 days, 8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Midland Beach (981 Father Capodanno Blvd. at Hunter Ave.) Volunteers are needed to drive, sort items and unload vehicles at this location.

Gas Rationing Continues

Meanwhile, the city's gas rationing program is still in effect.

Since Monday is an even-numbered day, that means only motorists whose license plate ends in an even number were allowed to fill up.

Emergency vehicles, buses, commercial vehicles, taxis, livery cabs and those with medical doctor license plates are exempt from the new rules.

Portable gas cans can be filled on any day.

The rationing, which will remain in effect until further notice, is also in place in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the orders on Thursday, almost a week after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie put a similar system in effect there.

Experts say the gas shortage could last several weeks.

The website gasbuddy.com/sandy directs users to stations where gas is available.

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