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Hugh Carey-Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Partially Reopens; Cuomo Forms Power Probe Commission

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TWC News: Hugh Carey-Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Partially Reopens; Cuomo Forms Power Probe Commission
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Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced one of the last remaining traffic hurdles of Sandy is being cleared while also outlining plans to investigate the preparedness and response of utility companies serving New Yorkers.

The governor said effective immediately one lane of the eastern tube of the Hugh L. Carey-Brooklyn Battery tunnel will be open for cars traveling in peak directions during rush hours.

Manhattan-bound cars and buses will be allowed from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and for Brooklyn-bound cars and buses from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

One lane will remain dedicated for express buses.

No trucks will be allowed.

The western tube remains closed for repairs.

Cuomo joined Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on a walk-through before the reopening Thursday.

At the height of the storm, Cuomo said the tunnel was flooded with an estimated 43 million gallons of seawater, causing heavy damage to its electrical, lighting, communications, surveillance and ventilation systems.

Cuomo said no timetable was set for when the western tube will reopen.

Meanwhile, the governor is advancing his probe into the state's utility providers as thousands remain in the dark.

The governor is forming a commission under the Moreland Act to investigate their response, preparation, and management during major storms that have hit the state over the past two years, including Sandy and Hurricane Irene.

The 10-member commission will look at how power companies handled the emergencies and make recommendations for what needs to be done better in the future.

It comes as 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 has restored power 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.

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

The New York City Housing Authority announced Tuesday that it has restored electricity to 99 percent of all public housing buildings affected by Sandy, and 75.6 percent of its buildings now have restored heat and hot water.

Six NYCHA buildings in Brooklyn – three in O’Dwyer Gardens, one in Red Hook East and two in Red Hook West – still did not have power by Tuesday afternoon.

Twelve public housing developments in Brooklyn and Queens still lacked heat and hot water by Tuesday afternoon. They were Carey Gardens, Coney Island, Coney Island I (Site 8), Coney Island I (Sites 4 and 5), O’Dwyer Gardens, Surfside Gardens, Red Hook East and Red Hook West in Brooklyn and Queens' Carleton Manor, Hammel, Ocean Bay Apartments (Bayside) and Redfern developments.


Response and Relief

Licensed contractors and inspectors began fanning out across some of the hardest-hit areas of the city Tuesday as part of an effort to speed up repairs for homeowners affected by Sandy.

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

The Rapid Repairs program is designed to speed up the repair and permit process.

Contractors will choose the electricians, plumbers, and other subcontractors to do the work.

Under the typical process by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, homeowners have to arrange their own repairs. However, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the Rapid Repairs process will get New Yorkers back into their homes faster.

To take part in the program, homeowners must have a FEMA ID number which can be obtained at disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362.

Homeowners can also get a FEMA ID number at one of the city's restoration centers.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg described them as "one-stop shops" where people affected by the storm will be able to get a wide range of emergency and long-term assistance services all under one roof.

They are located in Coney Island at Our Lady of Solace, in Gravesend at the SSA Building, in Far Rockaway at 10-01 Beach 20th St, and on Staten Island at 1976 Hylan Boulevard. The centers are open until 8 p.m.

View the full list of city restoration centers.

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 FEMA disaster recovery center near you, visit fema.gov.

Meantime, the City Council unanimously approved a $500 million emergency plan Tuesday to pay for repairs to schools and hospitals.

It will allocate $200 million for the Department of Education and $300 million to the Health and Hospitals Corporation.

Work will include structural restorations, new boilers, new electrical systems and roof repairs.

Mayor Bloomberg said he will still seek federal reimbursement but the city cannot afford to wait for approval.

"As you know New York City has never been one to sit back and wait for the funding," said Bloomberg. "When we something that absolutely has to be done, we do it and then we figure out afterwards how to pay for it. It's just the difference between us I think and everybody else. We do things, we get them done, we understand we're in this together, and we're not gonna wait for anybody. Hopefully they will come through but regardless we still have to make sure every child gets a good education and that everybody when they need emergency care can get it."

Bloomberg says the city has already spent $134 million on storm-related emergency relief.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday 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.

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.

A city health official says the storm-damaged Bellevue and Coney Island Hospitals won't be fully running until early next year.

Both hospitals were evacuated after being inundated by Sandy.

Coney Island is currently running outpatient services.

The president of the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation says Bellevue expects to do the same starting Monday.

He says the next step will be reopening the hospitals' emergency rooms, but that will require state permission, especially since Bellevue's ER would have to run on generator power for awhile.

He says the operating rooms, critical care units, and other facilities could be open by the first of the year at Coney Island and the first week of February at Bellevue.

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

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


More City Schools Open

Meanwhile, more storm-damaged city schools re-opened their doors Tuesday.

Fifteen schools serving 6,000 students are back online, though some are still running on generators.

Students at 37 other schools are still attending classes somewhere else.

Shuttle buses are being provided for all kindergarten through eighth grade students.

City officials say they are hopeful that 31 of those locations will be up and running by the end of the month.

Repairs at the other six locations may not be complete until next year.

For more information, visit schools.nyc.gov.


Transit Latest

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said Tuesday that the 1 Train is now running to Rector Street.

The only stop it's still not making is South Ferry, as that station was completely flooded by the storm. Lhota says there's no timetable on when it will reopen.

He also said it could be a while before R train service between Manhattan and Brooklyn is restored. The tunnel which carries the line across the East River is finally dry, but signals and other systems have to be repaired.

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

The railroad is operating 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 canceled 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.

Meanwhile, Lhota said the Rockaways will have A train service to the rest of the city as soon as LIPA can get the power on in that section.

Without subway service from the Rockaways, 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.

This comes as alternate-side parking will resume in most parts of the city on Wednesday, but the city Departments of Transportation and Sanitation say it is suspended indefinitely in coastal areas in southern Brooklyn and Queens.

The areas without alternate-side parking are Brooklyn Community Board 13, which represents Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Sea Gate; Brooklyn Community Board 15, which includes Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach and Gerritsen Beach and Homecrest; and Queens Community Board 14, which covers all the Rockaways.

Staten Island does not normally have alternate-side parking.


Gas Rationing End Date Unclear

Bloomberg said the city's odd-even gas rationing seems to have eased the post-Sandy pain at the pump, but it's not clear when it will end.

The rationing system took effect Friday after the storm disrupted the area's fuel distribution network.

Wait times for gas have diminished from hours to minutes in many places.

The mayor says he plans to leave the system in place for now.

New Jersey ended its rationing Tuesday.

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