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Mayor Bloomberg Updates New Yorkers on City Response to Hurricane Sandy, October 31, 2012

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From 6:00 AM to Midnight on Thursday and Friday, Entry into Manhattan across the East River Bridges, the RFK Triborough Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel and Henry Hudson Bridge is Restricted to Vehicles Occupied by Three or More People

NEW YORK--(ENEWSPF)--October 31, 2012. The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered this afternoon at City Hall:

“Well let me start by saying good afternoon. I apologize for keeping everybody waiting, but there are so many moving parts that we are getting together. I’m joined by signer Pam Mitchell. Thank you, Pam.

“The purpose this afternoon is to update everyone on the progress that we’re making in getting our city up and running again after Hurricane Sandy. Before I do, I did want to say for all we do to recover, I think it’s fair to say we can’t replace the lives lost as a result of the storm.

“The numbers are something like 50-odd people on the Atlantic Coast, 30 people roughly here in New York City. And we may find a few more bodies, and everybody here’s heart goes out to the families of those New Yorkers who were lost in the storm, and to those who have lost their homes.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone – and we certainly will give our full support over the next weeks and months to those who were hurt by the storm.

“The FDNY’s search and recovery operations, incidentally, are continuing in some of the areas hit hardest by the storm – particularly in the Rockaways where they are going house to house to see if there aren’t more people in need, and hopefully they will not discover any more tragedies.

“I think that the best thing we can do for those that we lost is to make sure that we do everything we can to next time we have a big storm do an even better job of protecting people, giving them more warning. Maybe people will find different ways to communicate with them. Any loss of life is tragic – sadly nature is dangerous and these things occur, but we’re going to do everything we can do prevent tragedies in the future, and I think the best we can do for those who did die is to make sure the city recovers and comes out of this and builds a better life for those that the deceased left behind. That’s the best thing we can do, and in many senses it’s the only thing we can do.

“Many people’s lives were turned upside down by this storm, and you have my word that everyone in City government at every level is working 24 hours a day to get the city back on track – including working with the MTA and Con Ed to meet the two biggest challenges that we face: mass transit and electric power.

“Most of the MTA bus lines, I’m happy to say, were operating this morning, and thanks to the generosity of the MTA, they are free for the day. So thank you MTA. Next time somebody wants to criticize them, maybe you might have a smile on your face and say I liked it when you gave us a free ride.

“Bus service will continue to increase. Limited subway service may actually return tomorrow. There certainly will not be service below 34th Street in Manhattan where there is no power. The MTA workers are working extremely hard to get water out of the tunnels and stations. But that is a very complicated process. They’ve got to get them out, they’ve got to wash everything down and get the seawater out, and then there’s invariably going to be some damage that they have to work on. So I think it’s unlikely that you will see service under the East River before sometime the weekend, and if that was- if they could do that I think that would be amazing. It may stretch a little longer, but what they’re going to do, the MTA has confident people. They’ve brought in contractors, and they’re going to do everything they can to do it, but also to do it safely.

“All the East River bridges are open, but the Queens Midtown Tunnel, the Hugh Carey Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the Holland Tunnels remain closed, and will certainly into the weekend I would assume. The Lincoln Tunnel is open, but the other tunnels, they want to make sure that structurally they’re not damaged and there’s a lot to wash out once they even pump out the water.

“I think anybody that tried to drive around New York City today realized there are a lot of cars on the road. Traffic is very heavy.

“People should use extreme caution when driving on streets, particularly where there are no traffic lights operating. You should know, we will have Police Department recruits at these intersections starting tonight to direct traffic.

“To reduce the number of cars coming into Manhattan, however, we have to take some steps. The streets just cannot handle the number of cars that have tried to come in, so I’ve ordered that the four East River bridges be restricted to High Occupancy Vehicles only tonight- coming into Manhattan – meaning 3 or more people per vehicle – all day on Thursday and all day on Friday 6 am to midnight.

“So from 6 am to midnight, if you’re coming into Manhattan on the one of those bridges, you have to have three people in the car.

“We’re also establishing bus lanes on key corridors. Exceptions to HOV rules including commercial, emergency, and para-transit vehicles, as well as buses will be made. Taxis will be exempt from the restriction from 4 pm on both days because when they start a new shift they’re not going to be able to have passengers.

“I did talk earlier with the Governor and he’s, I think very wisely, made exactly the same decision for the Triborough and Henry Hudson Bridges, and the Lincoln Tunnel. So whether you’re coming in from New Jersey on anything other than the GW, and a lot of that traffic just keeps going towards Connecticut, but if you’re coming in through the Lincoln Tunnel, into Manhattan through the Henry Hudson Bridge and the Triborough Bridge, or any of the four East River bridges – the Queensboro, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Brooklyn – you have to have three people in the car.

“I know it is inconvenient for a lot of people, but the bottom line is the streets can only handle so much. Hopefully we can find ways for you to pick up people who will be standing by the bridges. They’ve got a problem of getting in – you’re their solution and they are your solution as well.

“Having said all of this, if you can find some other way to get into Manhattan without taking your cars, like taking a bus, it would be a great option for you and it would help everybody else, and traffic even with these restrictions we think will be slow. So it’s in your interest.

“There are around 643,000 customers in the City remaining without power – some 230,000 of them in Manhattan. As Con Ed said today, the system is slowly being restored, but it’s a process that’s going to take days. I did come down Fifth Avenue this morning, and below 34th Street there was no electricity except all of a sudden I hit something in the high-20s and for four or five blocks there was electricity, and you can expect that kind of a restoration – area by area. Battery Park City never lost their power.

“Crews from Con Ed have been working around the clock to bring power back to everyone. They have enlisted help of something like 1,400 external contractors from around the country.

“The NYPD, incidentally, to provide some light for everybody at night in this area has 80 towers up last night with power lighting the streets, and their goal is tonight to have 100 more than that, so something like 180. It’s still a very big area – 34th river to river all the way downtown – so there’s not going to be everyplace, but we have a lot of police there and we’ll provide as much light as we possibly can.

“Many people may have experienced loss of phone service as well. It is frustrating. I have tried a number of times to make a call and gotten through only to find it go to a one-way call very quickly. We have been in touch with AT&T and Verizon who have requested our assistance in pumping out water in some of their critical locations so they can get back to service, and we’re working with them to do everything we can.

“Many people have asked when the mandatory evacuations of buildings in Zone A will be lifted. The answer is not until our Buildings Department inspects the structures that might have been damaged by the wind and the water. The Staten Island buildings in Zone A, we’re almost done with that. We’ll certainly finish that in the next day or so. These inspections are to certify that the buildings are safe to occupy.

“I know it’s annoying to everyone, but we don’t need any more loss of life. We want to make sure that the buildings are safe.

“Every building in Staten Island’s Zone A will have been tagged – we actually put a tag on the building so you can look and see – red, yellow, or green, meaning green it’s safe to enter the building, red means it’s not safe and you may not enter the building, and yellow meaning you should exercise great caution. For example, go to some floors but not others, and the conditions will be explained on the sticker that we put on the building.

“The ability to notify each owner in a very short time really isn’t there, particularly when the phone service doesn’t work all that well, so you can take a look at your building. I know it’s once again inconvenient, but it’s a practical way to solve the problem.

“Buildings Department is undertaking the same process in the Rockaways and Lower Manhattan. We’ll announce when portions of those inspections have been completed. And large building owners who have building staff that are familiar with working with our Department of Buildings can self-certify with the Department of Buildings when the Department of Building engineers are willing to accept the self-certification. They’ll receive a green light to be able to go into it. But for the average person, smaller single, two, three family building, you’re going to have to just look at the sticker.

“Let me give you a little update on our hospitals and health care facilities: the 17 chronic care facilities in Zone A had to be evacuated, 13 have been evacuated, four evacuations are still under way. You will see these CERT teams and Fire Department ambulances moving together. That’s what we’re trying to do. We want to make sure that these people are moved safely and some of them require extra care while we do that.

“Most of the patients were moved to other chronic care facilities, but some were moved to the city’s 7 shelters for people with special medical needs. All of these patients are safe and are being cared for. There were no storm-related deaths from any of the evacuated facilities.

“I did want to thank the Federal Department of Health and Human Services for sending Federal Disaster Medical Assistance teams to help run these special needs shelters. These shelters are intended for short-term use – so we will be relocating these patients to long-term facilities sometime by this weekend, perhaps Saturday.

“As we previously reported, NYU-Downtown, the Manhattan Veterans’ Affairs Hospital, and NYU Langone had to be evacuated. One of the city’s public hospitals, Coney Island Hospital, had to be evacuated. That is almost completed.

“We learned this morning that Bellevue Hospital will now have to evacuate because of damage that it has sustained. They didn’t think the damage was that bad and we did have a generator going, and the National Guard helped carry fuel up to the roof because that’s where the fuel tank was and they were running out, but the bottom line is when they got into the basement they realized there was more damage.

“This is going to affect something like 500 patients. They had already discharged patients that didn’t require critical care.

“We are in the process of finding beds to move these patients now, and I want to thank the Greater New York Hospital Association for their help in the process of relocating patients.

“There are about 6,300 people in our city’s 76 evacuation shelters. In the days ahead, we will begin consolidating that number of shelters. We have some shelters that are heavily populated, and some that have a dozen people in them, and it becomes problematic to staff all of those so we will try to move people as little as possible, but we certainly are going to consolidate.

“And I did want to particularly thank the City University of New York, which has been a great partner to us in this effort.

“The volunteers and City employees manning these shelters have done a phenomenal job, and they deserve all our thanks.

“I also want to thank the many New Yorkers who’ve come forward to donate, volunteer, or provide other help. Anyone who would like to make a financial contribution can do so through the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City just by visiting NYC.gov.

“I got off the phone with somebody earlier – his company gave $2.5 million and hopefully we’ll have an appropriate time to announce who it is. But just wanted to point out there are people who are coming forward, understand that there are people in need and they’re willing to do something.

“And I wanted to thank the elected officials who’ve also been so helpful during this time.

“As to the damaged crane at the construction site on West 57th Street: Engineers have been in the building since yesterday and have determined that the ties that bind the crane town to the building are secure. There was enormous torque when this fell over, and the fact that those connectors withstood the pressure just testifies to how well they were put it and how stable that tower is.

“The next step is going to be to determine some steps as to how to begin shrinking the zone around the frozen area as we eventually get around to, probably tomorrow or the next day, tying the boom to the building so that you can then work on the top of it, and they’ll have to construct another crane next to it in order to take down this one. And that can take weeks, but once the boom is secured we should be able to minimize any disruption on the street below. But certainly that street’s not going to be fully reopened until sometime this weekend at the earliest.

“Business in the city is on its way back. This morning I rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. The Exchange is open and trading is happening.

“We’re also talking with business leaders in all five boroughs: Chambers of commerce, representatives of the city’s 67 business improvement districts, major commercial and residential property owners, and the Partnership for New York City.

“We’re also working to help them keep businesses moving forward. As you know, the storm represents an enormous challenge for small businesses, especially in areas affected by flooding and power outages.

“So today we’ve put together a package of relief for small businesses to help them get through the setbacks caused by the storm. It includes emergency loans of up to $10,000 for small and mid-sized businesses that have had their businesses interrupted by the storm.

“For larger businesses that were damaged, there will be temporary City and State sales tax deferment on materials needed for rebuilding. For businesses displaced from their locations, we’re offering temporary office space free of charge at the Brooklyn Army Terminal for the next 30 days.

“EDC has about 40,000 square feet of space at the Terminal that’s now available for this use. Loans up to $2 million are also available for business property losses not fully covered by insurance – and for businesses that have had cash flow problems caused by the storm and need funds to get back on their feet.

“That applies to small businesses, agricultural co-ops, and most nonprofits, regardless of size. These are great resources – and I strongly urge any business that wants to take advantage of these services to do so. You should contact NYC Business Solutions by calling 311 or going to nyc.gov. And we will also help direct you to some of the things that Governor Cuomo is planning in terms of assistance from the State. So whether you call the State or you call the City, we want to make sure that you get access to all the programs that will help you recover from this.

“I also want to remind you that anyone affected by Sandy – homeowners, renters, and businesses – can apply for federal disaster assistance. You register at DisasterAssistance.gov or call the Federal Emergency Management agency at 1-800-621-3362. That’s 1-800-621-3362.

“FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency as it’s called – has just been spectacularly helpful. I haven’t heard anybody say anything but great things. The Director has done a great job, and the President has been intimately involved making sure that people know what services are available and know how to get them.

“There are a few other updates I wanted to give you: Schools will remain closed for students tomorrow and Friday. However, on Friday we ask all teachers, administrators and school staff to report to work. Friday, Chancellor Walcott and the Department of Education will have lots of things to do to get ready for next week. The Chancellor will provide more information about reporting assignments later today and Thursday.

“I know this is a great inconvenience for parents who may be missing work because they don’t have anybody to take care of their kids, but the bottom line is there’s an awful lot of schools that have received damage or don’t have power, and it’s just so many that in the end we need the next four or five days to clean up, and hopefully by Monday everything will be back perfect.

“HRA centers remain open for people who need to access public benefits, including food replacement vouchers.

“The Department of Sanitation continues to collect the garbage, but they’re not collecting recycling. They also have the responsibility of remove removing tons of debris left by the storm and they’re out there on long shifts doing that.

“66 of 253 senior centers in the city have been open today; we expect 125 of 253 will be open Thursday, and we hope to continue to make progress in that.

“As we return to normal, please remember that the conditions left by the storm can be dangerous. Please stay away downed power lines if you encounter them. I cannot urge you to do that enough. We’ve had some fatalities already – power lines are lethal when they are on the ground.

“Do not cut down or remove trees yourself; leave it to the professionals. We’ve lost a number of lives to falling trees, and trees weigh an awful lot. And if you think you can just cut it up if it falls on you or snaps back, it can do enormous damage and kill you. Stay out of all City parks until they are safe, and be careful around trees in the street.

“We’ve received more than 10,500 reports of trees downed, split, or uprooted – about half of them in Queens. And that’s outside of the parks. In the parks, there’s a lot more.

“Parks and beaches remain closed for safety reasons. It’s just critical that people stay off the beaches and out of the parks. We’ve got enough to do to clean up and to make them safe, and we just don’t need to put any of our first responders’ lives in jeopardy trying to save somebody who is acting irresponsibly.

“We are inspecting all parks and playgrounds. The majority of them will be opened, we think, by the weekend, but we’ve got to make sure the trees that are down are cleaned up or made safe, and we’ve got to make sure that all the playground equipment is safe. Some of it was carried away. We’ve got to replace that. We’ll do the best job we can, but safety is our number one priority.

“You can find out about your neighborhood park at NYC.gov. But Saturday and Sunday, the forecast is for crisp, clear weather, and it’ll be a good time to take the kids to the park. Everybody’s been cooped up all week and not been able to use the parks, but hopefully that will let us breathe a sigh of relief.

“Some more precautions: you should throw away any food, including packaged food, that was touched by flood water. Floodwater is very dangerous, don’t drink it. It picks up all sorts of things as it flows around. Floodwaters can contain sewage, so it is important to disinfect contaminated items that get into the floodwaters and keep them from coming in contact with the food that you eat or certainly wash your hands if you touch something before you pick up food that you’re going to eat.

“After a flood, it is important to clean and dry affected items as quickly as possible to prevent mold growth.

“Tap water, I was asked about yesterday, our tape water is safe to drink. There are reports of some neighboring cities where that’s not the case. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but we tested the water again and again and again at all parts of the city and we even added some extra chlorine to make sure that you can drink it, so do not worry about that. And in fact, we’re trying to truck in water to those areas where water might not be available and give you a place to get some water to take upstairs. If you live above, like, the sixth floor, depends on where you live, and there’s no electricity in the building, there’s no pump to take water up and gravity will only take it up to the level of the last reservoir.

“If you’re without power, don’t use generators or grills indoors; the results could be carbon monoxide poisoning and that kills. So keep generators outdoors and away from windows and vents.

“Space heaters also create carbon monoxide. You should have a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm. A lot of people do. We keep recommending this every year. It’d be a good time to test the batteries.

“If you experience sleepiness, dizziness, headaches, confusion, weakness or your carbon monoxide alarm sounds, immediately seek fresh air and call the poison control center at, it’s easy to remember, 212-POISONS. The numeric is 212-764-7667.

“You can also call 911, since carbon monoxide poisoning really is a life threatening emergency. But I again urge New Yorkers to only call 911 in case of life-threatening emergencies.

“Today is Halloween – as I announced, the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade has been postponed until someday next week. We haven’t determined which day yet, but we will have it held next week. The bottom line is there’s parts of the city that doesn’t have light, and our police officers have plenty of things to do and we do need them to control traffic around the parade. So I’m sorry about it, but it will go on next week.

“If you’re taking your kids trick-or-treating tonight, somebody asked me is trick-or-treating on tonight, well I suppose that’s between you and your neighbors. But particularly if we don’t have street lights, be sure you hold your children’s hands. It’s just dangerous. Cars might not be able to see them.

“At my recommendation, the NBA has cancelled tomorrow night’s game between the Knicks and Nets. It was going to be the first Nets game in the new stadium. Now the first Nets game will be Saturday at 7:30 pm at the Barclays Center. The Nets play the Toronto Raptors, and this game will be rescheduled. The NBA will be working with the City to provide extra bus services for Saturday night because the subways may not be back. After that, there’s plenty of mass transit. That’s one of the beauties of the Barclays Center. Unfortunately, we didn’t count on Sandy. Hopefully Sandy doesn’t come along very often.

“I’m sorry about the game, I was personally going to take my daughters and Diana. We were looking forward to it. It’s a great stadium, it would have been a great game, but the bottom line is there is not a lot of mass transit. Our police have plenty of other things to do. I know lots of fans are going to be disappointed, and the players are disappointed. You should know, the players wanted to play this, but I did talk to the NBA and asked them to cancel the game. It’s all up to me.

“People have asked about the marathon. There’s tens of thousands of people who’ve come from around the world here to run. We’ve decided the Marathon will go on. We expect by Sunday most of the power will be back, if not all of it. It starts on Staten Island right by the bridge. We’ve been cleaning up that area, and then it’s on main roads throughout the city.

“We may ask the Road Runners to at some point later in the evening on Sunday when some stragglers, like I would be if I was running the marathon, at eight or nine o’clock at night, put a limit to how late that is, just because the resources, and if there were still power outages – I don’t expect that – but the bottom line is I think some people said you shouldn’t run the marathon. There’s an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people, we have to have an economy. There are lots of people that have come here. It’s a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you know, you’ve got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind.

“We are on our way back to normal. I did want to stress once again that our two biggest challenges remain getting our mass transit and power grids up and running. The MTA is doing everything they possibly can, so is Con Ed. The City is willing to help whenever asked, instantly. It just takes some time, and the most important thing for both of those organizations is to do it safely.

“But in all fairness, we are on the road to recovery. Each day you’re going to see more and more things. Today our streets have too much traffic. Yesterday there was none, so I suppose that’s progress, unless you’re driving.

“I did want to thank all City employees who’ve been working around the clock to keep us moving forward. You’ve seen the dedication that we had expected to see, that the public has a right to see from all of us who are privileged enough to work for the City and for the people who live here.”

Source: http://www.nyc.gov

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