NYC Mayor Seeks $500M to Repair Hospitals, Schools

Nov. 13--New York City will be asking for an emergency appropriation of $500 million to repair schools and hospitals damaged by superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.

About $200 million will be used to repair about 37 schools damaged by the storm, and the rest will go toward fixing city hospitals such as Bellevue Hospital Center and Coney Island Hospital, among others, the mayor said.

The announcement of the emergency request, expected to be made Tuesday of the City Council, comes as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state will be asking for $30 billion in a special appropriation from the federal government. But Bloomberg said the city can't wait and needs to start repairs as soon as possible.

Bloomberg also described continued progress in restoring power and major corporate donations to help those displaced by the storm.

But in another development, one city councilman has asked for hearings on how the city deployed emergency response teams to flood zones before superstorm Sandy.

Peter Vallone Jr., (D-Astoria) who heads the council's public safety committee, said he heard from residents that special "community emergency response teams," known as CERT, weren't sent to warn homeowners in flood-prone areas as intended.

"They were not deployed to alert communities to evacuate, they were sent to shelters," Vallone said. "We will have a hearing."

But a spokesman for the city Office of Emergency Management disputed Vallone's claim and said the CERT units, made up of specially trained volunteers, went door to door to warn residents in flood areas before the storm and staffed the shelters as well.

The use of CERT was one of the emergency notification systems OEM chief Joseph Bruno mentioned during an October 2010 city council hearing on preparedness for a major hurricane. At that time, the city had 56 special teams composed of more than 1,200 credentialed volunteers, Bruno said.

Bruno also said at the time that the city had 5,700 pallets of medical supplies, personal care items, cots, food, water and blankets stockpiled for distribution to help shelter people for up to seven days. OEM spokesman Chris Miller said Monday that all of the pallets were distributed in advance of Sandy to shelters.

Miller also said the city's warning system for special medical needs people was also activated during the storm and involved contacts with more than 900 agencies that provide assistance to vulnerable populations.

Vallone said that, overall, the city response in the storm was to be credited but that he wanted to hold hearings to delve into some specifics. He did not give a hearing date.

In his 2010 testimony, Bruno estimated that a Category 1 hurricane, which Sandy was before she struck land, would bring a 6- to 10-foot wall of water into coastal areas of the city. The storm surge at the Battery was measured at nearly 12 feet at one point, just about a foot shy of the 13- to 16-foot surge expected by OEM in a Category 2 storm.

A city news release said the total number of Con Ed customers without power is now 17,441; the total of LIPA customers without power is now 29,387. Power has been restored to 390 of the 402 public housing buildings that were impacted by the storm, the release said.

Copyright 2012 - Newsday

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