News Column

Tens of Thousands Remain Homeless After Sandy

Nov. 5, 2012

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

As many as 40,000 people in New York City alone needed housing, Mayor Michael 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," New York Gov. Andrew 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.

New York and New Jersey accounted for about 90 percent of the outages, with nearly 1 million customers without power in New Jersey alone.

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

More than 182,000 residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut applied for disaster assistance from FEMA, the agency said. The government had approved $158 million in assistance funding.

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 could 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.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2012

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