Electric power slowly returns to NYC, N.J.

Nov. 5, 2012 at 10:55 PM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Power was slowly coming back to 1.3 million homes in New York and New Jersey Monday, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday the progress was "unacceptable."

Many in the two states were still cold and hungry as they entered the second week after Hurricane Sandy struck, ABC News reported. The report said frustration among residents was rising as many homes in the region were still without electric power -- 780,000 in New Jersey and 540,000 in New York.

Cuomo laid into Con Edison and other utilities.

"To say that I am angry, to that I am frustrated, disappointed would be the understatement of the decade," the governor said. "I think the utility companies have not performed adequately."

He added the situation was "truly terrible" in Westchester, Long Island and New York City's outer boroughs, the New York Daily News reported.

On board Air Force One, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday 205,000 residents have applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and $192 million has been released. The Homeland Security Department has approved new assistance for debris removal.

Carney said FEMA Administrator William Fugate was in New York Sunday with other officials to assess damages.

The Sandy death toll is now at 49 in New York, with 41 of those deaths in New York City, ABC said. New Jersey saw 24 deaths, and Connecticut five.

ABC said many of the lights are back on in the NYC borough of Staten Island, but some areas by the water's edge remain dark and many homes are uninhabitable.

U.S. Marines and Navy sailors arrived to help victims in two storm-ravaged New York City boroughs and Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a commuter train Monday to work.

Marine engineers did a block-by-block assessment of Staten Island's Father Capodanno Boulevard Sunday to determine manpower and equipment needs for Monday when more Marines were expected to arrive to help with the recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

The military forces also assisted people in Queens.

The New York Post said Marines and sailors were using hammers and hacksaws for construction and cleanup jobs they could find.

"It was wonderful to see them," Jessie Gonzalez, 34, told the Post. Gonzalez's home on Patterson Avenue was flooded after the storm. "They gave us supplies, water and food. It makes us feel like we're actually getting help now. At least we feel safer with their presence."

Commuters trying to get into New York Monday had to suffer long waits and crowded trains, the newspaper said.

Bloomberg had promised to take mass transit, like many other New Yorkers trying to avoid the devastation in the city streets and was spotted riding the 5 train to City Hall Monday morning, the report said.

The mayor left his East 79th Street townhouse just before 7 a.m. He was driven in a black Chevy Suburban to the express 5 train stop at 59th Street, the Post reported. On the train, he read The Financial Times.

New York and New Jersey temperatures neared freezing early Monday and officials acknowledged tens of thousands of residents would remain homeless for weeks.

As many as 40,000 people in New York City needed housing, Bloomberg told reporters Sunday. About half lived in public-housing projects where wind-driven sand and water knocked out boilers and electrical systems.

"We don't have a lot of empty housing in this city," Bloomberg said. "We are not going to let anybody go sleeping in the streets or go without blankets, but it's a challenge, and we're working on that as fast as we can."

He estimated about 20,000 New Yorkers could still be homeless in two weeks.

Long Island and New Jersey officials didn't immediately estimate how many people were without homes.

More than 5,000 people stayed in New Jersey shelters Sunday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

"This is going to be a massive, massive housing problem," Cuomo told reporters. "And you're going to need a number of options for a number of situations -- short-term, long-term -- so it's going to be a true challenge. We'll get through it, but it's a true challenge."

Temperatures were forecast to be in the mid-40s Fahrenheit later Monday after approaching and sometimes going below freezing.

The National Weather Service forecast a nor'easter coastal storm with characteristics similar to a hurricane would likely hit the same battered New York-New Jersey area Wednesday and Thursday. This would likely bring heavy precipitation, high winds and more coastal flooding, the service said.

The New York Times said it would also likely tear down power lines recently replaced and halt other repairs.

The number of utility customers in seven states without power topped 1.8 million Sunday, the U.S. Energy Department said. Power outages reached as far south as West Virginia, as far north as Connecticut and as far west as Ohio.

The national death toll from Hurricane Sandy was at least 110.

Gasoline shortages persisted, with lines at some gas stations stretching for miles and rationing remaining in New Jersey.

But the crisis was easing, with about 27 percent of the gas stations in the region reported out of fuel, down from 67 percent Friday, the Energy Department said.

Cuomo said oil tankers and barges were on the way. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said the Elizabeth Marine Terminal in Elizabeth, N.J., reopened Sunday to receive its first shipments. Other Port Authority seaports remained closed.

New Jersey commuter-rail service was limited Monday. The Long Island Rail Road, bringing commuters to New York City from the eastern suburbs, was also limited, but the Metro-North Commuter Railroad, for commuters north of New York, was close to full service.

Most New York City subways were running to some degree for the Monday commute, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota said.

Most of New York City's 1.1 million schoolchildren were expected to return to school Monday, but more than 34,000 students, whose schools served as emergency shelters or suffered structural damage in Sandy's flooding, would likely start back no sooner than Wednesday, probably at different schools than normal, officials said.

About 143,000 voters in New York City were to be assigned to polling sites outside their districts, Bloomberg said, adding he had "absolutely no idea" if the city's Board of Elections was up to handling that.

The National Sept. 11 Memorial was scheduled to open Tuesday, the Times said.

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