94 Percent of Schools Were Open Today, Over 86 Percent of Students Attended
Former FEMA Official Brad Gair Appointed as Director of Housing Recovery Operations
NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–November 5, 2012. The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered this afternoon at PS 195 in Brooklyn:
“Good afternoon. At the outset, let me say thank you to Bernadette Toomey, our principal, who’s coming up right now. She is the principal at PS 195, and everyone at PS 195 I wanted to thank for hosting us today, and also thank signer Pam Mitchell for joining us.
“This was a big day for the staff and the students here, and at public schools across the city; the first day of classes since October 26th. Hurricane Sandy did flood the basement of PS 195, but crews from the Department of Education did a great job pumping out the water and getting the building ready for class today.
“I went down into the basement to take a look. The boilers were built in the 40’s, which is good news because they are very big and very strong, and they did survive. One of the boilers is back up, which is enough to heat the school. The other boiler they will get up in the next few days, and they really only use that when it gets very cold, so this school is in good shape.
“We’ll hear more about the work here and at other schools across the city in a few minutes, but let me just give you an overview.
“Some 94 percent of the city’s schools were open today, and many more will be open on the next day of classes, which is on Wednesday. Remember, tomorrow, Election Day, the schools are closed. We handed out MetroCards to students staying in emergency shelters to help them get to school.
“And I can tell you that the preliminary count from schools reporting attendance so far is that 86.3 percent of students showed up today. That’s about the same as on the Monday before Election Day last year, and we didn’t have Sandy last year so it really is great. And we expect even more students to be back when classes resume Wednesday morning after tomorrow’s Election Day hiatus, because if you remember, some of these schools we could not get open and those students we’re going to move to other schools if things aren’t fixed by Wednesday. But they don’t start until Wednesday, so our attendance actually is great.
“There are 16 schools that still have emergency shelters in them. We think by Wednesday those shelters will either be moved elsewhere, or will stay where they are but in a manner that won’t interfere with school operations, in other words totally separate from the schools.
“Today was also the first workday in a week when our subways were back in operation. Things there, I’m happy to report, went relatively smoothly and will almost certainly improve in the days ahead. Mass transit is definitely the way to go given that gas supplies in our city remain below-normal.
“The supply of gasoline entering our city from interstate pipelines continues to increase. Barges carrying something like 21 million gallons of gasoline also unloaded at the region’s terminals this weekend, and there’s more coming in. It will take a little while to get the distribution to stations. Until the bottleneck clears, lines at the pump probably will remain long.
“You should know, we posted a police officer at every open gas station in the city to keep order and to encourage gas station owners to remain open. We ask motorists to be patient – and to please use mass transit as much as you can.
“The latest estimates of people without power is that 115,000 customers still remain without service. While that’s down from 145,000 yesterday, it’s still a lot of people without power. Most are in parts of the city, such as the Rockaways, Staten Island, and South Brooklyn, that were hard-hit by Sandy.
“Many of the people live in public housing, and I’d like to give you a quick update on that. There were a total of 402 buildings in the NYCHA system that lost electricity.
“NYCHA now has 288 buildings housing 58,000 people who have had their power restored. That leaves 114 buildings housing 21,000 people where electricity is still out. After Sandy hit, there were 386 buildings without heat and hot water.
“Now, NYCHA developments with 212 buildings housing 42,000 people who were affected by Sandy have heat and hot water restored. However, 174 buildings housing 35,000 people who still need heat and hot water.
“Now, here’s what’s happening: NYCHA has completed pumping out water from all affected developments, that’s the first step. And over the next two or three days our goal is to restore electricity to nearly all developments where it’s feasible, and to restore heat and hot water to about two-thirds of all developments that currently are without them.
“To help deal with the power outage, at the City’s request, the Long Island Power Authority has provided 10 emergency generators to help bring back power to Hammel Houses on the Rockaways. NYCHA has also received generators to restore power to Carlton Manor, Beach 41st, Ocean Bay, and Red Fern developments, also in the Rockaways. And the NYPD has moved mobile light towers to the Rockaways.
“There’s no question that the continuing lack of electrical service is jeopardizing the health and safety of people living in affected areas during this cold snap.
“The forecast is for continued cold weather for much of this week, and potentially a serious storm with wind gusts of 40 to 50 miles an hour beginning Wednesday afternoon and into Thursday. The storm could bring more flooding, although thankfully not of the scale that Sandy did.
“All this makes our work more difficult and more urgent – which is why today I’ve designated ‘community restoration directors’ we’re calling them to deal with the immediate human needs of people recovering from Sandy’s effects. These community restoration directors are seasoned, high-level managers in our administration that I have enormous confidence in – their ability to manage, their ability to reach out, their ability to get resources from all parts of our administration.
“Haeda Mihaltses will be our point person on Staten Island. Matt Mahoney, associate commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, will be our point person for Manhattan and the Bronx. Community Affairs Unit Commissioner Nazli Parvizi will oversee efforts in Brooklyn, and Diahann Billings-Burford, New York’s Chief Service Officer, will be the point person in Queens.
“They’ll be responsible for identifying urgent needs and deploying resources to meet them. I think we’re at the stage now where we’ve got to get down at an even more micro-level and make sure that each individual gets the services they need, particularly when we think that in three or four days we’ll have made a lot of progress in restoring both heat and electricity and hot water to a vast bulk of the people who are still without.
“Since Saturday night we’ve maintained shelters where people living in areas without power can stay and get warm. If you’re living in a building without heat, and you’re elderly, or have an infant under a year old, or have heart disease or other medical conditions, you should get to a warm place.
“Or if you find somebody shivering uncontrollably, or if you see someone who is disoriented, those are the symptoms of hypothermia. Hypothermia can be fatal and anyone who has these symptoms needs to get to a warm place as quickly as possible.
“As they have for the past two evenings, buses at the City’s disaster assistance centers –there are now a total of six of them on Staten Island, the Rockaways, in Coney Island and in the Bronx – will help people get to shelters.
“Volunteers will continue to go door-to-door in affected areas urging residents who need help to move to one of the 15 shelters we’re maintaining to help people during this cold snap. And again this evening, NYPD patrol officers will use loudspeakers to urge people to go where they can be warm and safe, and tell them how to get there.
“There are also more than 200 centers where people can go to stay warm during the day. Call 311 and we’ll be happy to tell you where.
“We also continue to make enormous efforts to get food, water, and essential supplies to New Yorkers who are still without electrical power.
“Yesterday roughly 200,000 New Yorkers picked up some 600,000 prepared meals and 100,000 liters of water at 12 distribution sites. They also received 22,000 blankets, 4,500 boxes of disposable diapers, some 5,000 flashlights and batteries, and large quantities of toiletries.
“Some 3,700 volunteers coordinated by NYC Service and their partner agencies assisted this effort. That included distributing food, water, and supplies door-to-door. Volunteers also helped in clearing debris from parks and other locations.
“Food distribution centers opened at noon again today, and will operate until 4 pm. In the days ahead, they will remain open for as long as needed.
“To date, more than, I’m happy to say, $15.4 million supporting Hurricane Sandy relief has come into the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, and I can’t say enough about the generosity of individuals and companies.
“If you want to make cash contributions, go to nyc.gov or call 311 for details.
“In addition to these immediate, emergency steps, we’re also addressing the challenge of providing longer-term housing for New Yorkers displaced from their homes by Hurricane Sandy.
“Many buildings that flooded may well be out of commission for a long time because of damage to boilers and electrical systems. They may include public housing, as well as private apartments. As I said before, I am very optimistic on us getting back not everyone, but most of the public housing buildings in the developments that have suffered.
“There will be a handful with very severe damage and we’ll have to do something about that, but for most of them I think we are optimistic that since we finished the pumping and looked at the infrastructure we may be able to surprise everybody over the next two, three, four days and get everybody, or almost everybody, back.
“It’s a big challenge – but I want to assure everyone that every New Yorker who needs a warm place to live and a roof over his or her head is going to have one.
“And that’s why today I’m announcing the appointment of one of the nation’s top emergency management professionals, Brad Gair, as director of housing recovery operations. His mission will be to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to house New Yorkers displaced by Sandy.
“He is a resident of Brooklyn who has 20 years of experience in such efforts at every level of government, and has particular expertise in post-disaster housing recovery. As a senior official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency – FEMA – from 1999 through 2006, he managed long-term hurricane recovery efforts in Louisiana, Florida, and North Carolina.
“He was also the highest-ranking federal executive directly involved in helping New York City get back on our feet after 9/11.
“From 2006 through 2009, he was deputy commissioner for operations at our city’s Office of Emergency Management, which means that he really knows our city’s needs intimately.
“Since then, he has been the president of Good Harbor EM, a private emergency management firm with clients locally, including our OEM, and also overseas.His extensive, hands-on expertise I think makes him exactly the right person to tackle this job, and to get started on it today.
“Now, before turning the floor over to our other speakers, let me briefly touch on other post-Sandy recovery progress.
“One is transportation-related: As of midnight tonight, the emergency rules permitting street pick-ups by livery cabs and black cars and multiple fares in them and in taxis will be suspended. So service is back to normal for them, at least.
“Sanitation crews are cleaning up storm debris around the clock, which is why street cleaning rules remain suspended today, as well as on tomorrow’s Election Day.
“That’s also caused temporary cutbacks in picking up refuse; there is no recycling collection until further notice.
“We’ll get these services back on normal schedules as quickly as we can, but we’re trying to devote our efforts to those most in need: people that have had extensive damage, the debris from that damage they’re putting outside, and we’ve just got to get that off the streets and carted away so that they can resume some semblance of a normal life, and that people that want to get into those houses and help repair can get there.
“Three-fourths of the City’s parks and playgrounds, I’m happy to report, are now re-opened. There was some damage done, as you know, to many of them, mostly trees. But in some of these neighborhoods even the play equipment was damaged and we’re trying to make sure everything is safe before we open them.”