Mayor Bloomberg Thanks NYC Firefighters Who Rescued More Than 60 Staten Islanders by Boat During Weekend Storm

Updates New Yorkers on Restoration of Services and Safety

NEW YORK—(ENEWSPF)—August 29, 2011. The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered this morning at Engine 166/Ladder 86 Fire Company on Staten Island:

“We’re here to talk about somebody that gave us a weekend to remember – and that was Irene. It was a storm that obviously could have turned out far worse. The storm isn’t behind us yet. There still are thousands of New Yorkers still without power, including some 7,000 customers here on Staten Island, but last night that was something like 25,000 so Con Ed really is making a big difference. And the FDNY and the NYPD have been very helpful in blocking off areas where there are downed power lines. If you see a downed power line, please don’t go near it. We just don’t need a tragedy. Con Ed will come eventually and fix it, they’re working as fast as they can, and I think in a day or so that all of the people will be back having power. But the most important thing is that nobody gets hurt.

“We have a big clean-up job ahead of us, there’s no question about that. And although our city did miss the worst of Irene, many of our neighbors upstate weren’t as fortunate.  They’ve experienced serious flooding and our hearts go out to them. That’s the reason why, if you look at the MTA system, the subways – which I took this morning – are back working. Certainly all of them probably by the end of the day, and all the buses. I hope not too far behind will be the Long Island Rail Road, but Metro-North has an enormous amount of damage going further north. There’s a lot of flooding up there still, and so if you have friends up there, if there’s anything we can do to help, tell them I put a call into the Governor this morning. I didn’t get to talk to him, I talked to his secretary, and I said tell him the City would be happy to offer anything if they need it. But I think the Governor’s got a good handle on it, and he probably doesn’t need help from us. What he needs is the water to slowly recede and for everybody up there to do what New Yorkers did – pull together. And I think they will do that.

“There is something that New Yorkers can do, however, to help get us through this and keep our city safe now, and that is donate blood. Irene disrupted blood collection throughout the metropolitan area. And with another three-day holiday weekend coming up, the supply will get even lower. So please, if you can, call the New York Blood Center. Their phone number is 1-800-933-2566, that’s 1-800-933-2566, or you can visit

“We’ve come to Staten Island to update you on the city’s recovery, but also to say thank you to the people who did some extraordinary work to keep Staten Islanders safe: the firefighters in Engine Company 166 and Ladder Company 86. Yesterday at about 8:30 a.m. – just as Irene was making landfall – they rescued more than 60 adults – including one elderly woman using a respirator, and also three children – from their homes on three blocks in the Bulls Head area of central Staten Island. This is not a low-lying area. Residents were not under an evacuation order. But Irene’s heavy rains did cause Willowbrook Park Pond to overflow its banks.

“Neighborhood streets were flooded with five to six feet of water, and water was flooding into the lower floors of the two-story homes – which incidentally, were also losing their electrical power. Flood waters were still rising when the firefighters from these companies arrived with three heavy-duty inflatable rafts powered by outboard motors. Each raft holds five to six, and firefighters made repeated passes down the street and rescued those in harm’s way – calmly, quickly, and safely, as you would expect them to do.

“The FDNY made similar waterborne rescues in other parts of our city, including Broad Channel, Howard Beach, and the Rockaways. We don’t have a full count, but I think it’s safe to say that firefighters rescued more than 100 people in our city in this way, and also rescued motorists stranded in flooded autos.

“There’s a reason why New Yorkers call the FDNY the Bravest. And on behalf of 8.4 million New Yorkers I want to express my gratitude to the members of Engine 166 and Ladder 86 – and also to all the other members of the Fire Department. You wonder why they train all the time? Well, you saw it yesterday, and that’s why they’ll keep training. This is the greatest fire department in the world. They’re ready to meet every emergency, most of which they couldn’t predict. You never know what you’re going to find when you answer a call, but when they get there, they have the equipment, they have the leadership, and most of all they have the training. And they have the training to go into harm’s way when the rest of us are going out of harm’s way. And so I did want to say thank you to them.

“It’s not just the FDNY that was great yesterday. Many New Yorkers went above and beyond the call of duty: The NYPD that did its usual extraordinary work; All the first responders and emergency management personnel who developed, trained for, and then flawlessly executed our Coastal Storm Plan, which we wrote back in the year 2006, deserve a great deal of credit; the volunteers who staffed our more than 80 evacuation centers and emergency shelters including many teachers and Department of Education staff; And let me add that there remain about 1,000 New Yorkers at 25 shelters, which is down from a peak of nearly 9,500 evacuees on Saturday night and Sunday morning. The workers in frontline agencies like the Departments of Transportation, Buildings, and Environmental Protection deserve our thanks, and the 311 operators who handled an incredible volume of nearly a quarter-million calls on Sunday – more than 10 times the normal load. Thanks also go to the bus drivers, cab and livery car drivers and others who drove New Yorkers to those shelters; the people who went door-to-door in the low-lying areas covered by the evacuation order to get the emergency message out and urge people to leave; the elected officials who mobilized their offices to help us communicate urgent messages to New Yorkers; the EMS, medical, and health professionals who carried out the incredibly well-done evacuation of more than 7,000 hospital patients and residents of nursing homes and other residential facilities in the low-lying coastal areas. And the MTA workers who prevented Irene from devastating our mass transit system and then got the system back up and running this morning. I just wanted to say thank you to Jay Walder who leads them, and all of them. Had they not moved all of that equipment, they wouldn’t have been able to get it back this morning, and fortunately they had the foresight to do it. In fact, this morning when I took the subway to work, I had a chance to say thank you to a couple of them who were on the subway platform when I got on my subway train. 

“The fact of the matter is it’s a long list, but that’s why things work in this city, because everybody works together. Nobody should be surprised about that. We train all the time and we talk about it, and every day you see inter-agencies like the Fire Department and the Police Department showing up a couple of hundred different times. People need help everyday in this city, and they do it professionally, and they do it with great understanding of the needs of an enormously diverse city.

“Let me talk for a few seconds about the MTA in terms of our daily update. Subway system came back to life even earlier than announced with a 6 a.m. start time. I was having dinner last night when Jay Walder called me and said he thought they could make that, and it did put a smile on my face because I was dreading getting to work without the subway. But fortunately I didn’t have to do that. People on the subway car this morning all had a big smile of their faces – they were relieved. The MTA is now running service across almost the entire system, including the Rockaways. The bus system is also in great shape. The MTA is reporting normal local, limited and express bus service in all five boroughs, with detours where road conditions are not passable.

“Here on Staten Island things are also looking up. The MTA is reporting delays and detours on five bus routes, but that’s all. All other buses are running close to schedule.  And the Staten Island Railroad resumed normal service at midnight last night, and is running well today, as is the Staten Island Ferry. Things are a little more difficult getting into the city from the suburbs. The Long Island Rail Road has restored services, but only its major lines with some delays and cancellations. They are making progress, however, in getting it all back.

“There is currently no service, as I said before, on Metro-North. Hopefully some service will be restored by this afternoon, but that was the part of the MTA’s system that suffered the most damage and gives them the most challenges to get everything back to work. Keep in mind, they want to make sure they do that without any of their employees getting injured. 

“The storm areas north of the city, lots of other services still aren’t working. That’s where the most trees came down, that’s where the most power outages are.

“Finally, New Yorkers who rely on Access-a-Ride should know that they will be back to normal service this afternoon.  These vehicles spent the morning helping evacuees return home.

“Let me update you on a few other elements of our storm recovery, starting with electrical service. As of 10 am today, there were about 38,000 customers in the city without power. That’s half of what there were last night. More than half of these 38,000 were in Queens, and about 7,000 were here on Staten Island.

“Con Ed tells us that they have 280 crews working in New York City and Westchester County to restore power. If you’re without power, let me just warn you, please don’t use generators or grills indoors. The result could be carbon monoxide poisoning that could kill you. And it’s a good time to remind yourself also, make sure your carbon monoxide and fire detectors are working. Those will save your lives, it will let our first responders – the Fire Department in most cases – get to the fire if it’s there quicker, and save your life and minimize property damage. So generators outdoors, and candles, keep them away from windows and vents.

“We’ve also received reports of more than something close to 2,000 trees downed or split or uprooted – roughly half of them are in Queens. Parks Department forestry crews and contractors and members of the FDNY are working on them. Let me remind New Yorkers, it really is a bad idea to cut down or remove trees yourself. Leave it to the professionals. You cut a tree and all of a sudden it snaps in a direction you hadn’t counted on. Our professionals know what they’re doing, and chainsaws are dangerous and trees are dangerous. If it took a little while longer to get that tree out of there but it was done safely, so much the better.

“I’m happy to report that none of the trees on the 9/11 Memorial were affected by the storm – and we remain on course to open the Memorial in time for the 10th anniversary. I drove by it this morning, and it seemed to be there was a full complement of construction workers, working not just on the memorial but on the buildings around it.

“Sanitation crews are out across the city cleaning debris and beginning some actual trash collection. They removed more than 50 truckloads of sand from streets in the Rockaways last night. All Monday refuse and recycling should be completed on an overnight shift tonight. Street-cleaning rules will remain suspended, for religious observances, until Friday.

“New Yorkers should throw away any food, including packaged food, that was touched by flood waters. Please, you don’t want to get sick. Flood waters may contain sewage, so it really is important to disinfect contaminated items and keep them from coming into contact with the sewage while you clean. After a flood, it is important to clean and dry affected items as quickly as possible to prevent mold growth, which also can ruin a lot of things.

“Before turning things over to our other speakers, let me add this: I do want to thank New Yorkers who heeded the evacuation order, who helped their neighbors during this trying weekend. You have a lot to be proud of.”