Relief is due for thousands of New Yorkers still coping with power blackouts, lack of food and water, hobbled mass transit and shuttered businesses from superstorm Sandy.
Power should be restored today for Manhattan customers still without electricity and by Nov. 11 for most of those in the outer boroughs and Westchester County, said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Consolidated Edison Inc. (ED), in a conference call yesterday with reporters. Patience in the city was wearing thin.
“Open up!” Katy O’Connell, 41, yelled into the near-empty Staten Island Ferry terminal building as she waited yesterday to catch the first boat to her home borough in five days. The island was one of the hardest hit, accounting for about half the city’s 41 fatalities.
The city of 8 million, the most populous in the U.S., is still reeling after the biggest Atlantic tropical storm in history inundated transit tunnels, underground utilities and parts of all five boroughs. The storm killed at least 105 people in the U.S. and knocked out power to as many as 8.5 million homes and businesses along the East Coast.
“Lower Manhattan is like a war zone,” said Danielle Mederos, 23, who returned to a 23rd-story apartment in the Wall Street flood zone to retrieve her belongings. The hurricane ordeal was “absolute hell,” she said.
Two days of showering at health clubs was enough for Bernadette Callaghan, a 27-year-old MBA student at New York University waiting near Pennsylvania Station to catch a bus to her parents’ home near Philadelphia.
An almost full restoration of mass transit is within sight. In addition to the 14 of 23 subway lines already partially in service, at least three more have been dried out and can be operating about two or three hours after power is restored, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. Metro-North Railroad is operating at 90 percent capacity, and a requirement that all cars on East River bridges and the Lincoln Tunnel carry at least three people expired yesterday.
The New York City Marathon, expected to draw 47,000 runners, was canceled yesterday after criticism that staging the race tomorrow, so soon after the storm, would drain resources and be an affront to storm victims.
“We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and we have decided to cancel it,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Road Runners, which organizes the race, said in a statement. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
On Staten Island, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Richard Serino, the deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, met with state and local officials, first responders and disaster survivors, according to a statement from the Homeland Security Department.
Napolitano issued a temporary waiver of the Jones Act, which permits only U.S.-flagged ships to move between the country’s ports, to allow additional oil tankers from the Gulf of Mexico to deliver fuel to Northeastern ports, the department said.
Across the five boroughs, residents and business owners spoke of a community spirit bringing people together. On the Rockaways peninsula, where fire destroyed 111 homes in Breezy Point at the height of the storm, neighbors carried groceries for one another. Traffic lights were still dark for miles as young men brought water to the 11th-floor apartment of Jadwiga Waszczyk, 63.
James Rivera, 58, said he “didn’t want to burden anyone,” so he stayed behind in his 21st-floor Rockaways apartment as Sandy’s winds ripped away scaffolding. Most of the building was empty, and power loss rendered the elevator useless.
“There are others who got it worse,” he said. “If you’ve got a big cut on your arm, and then you have a mosquito bite, which do you take care of first? You’ve got to be patient. There’s nothing we can do right now besides help each other.”
The majority of waterfront warehouses and cobblestone streets in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood were ravaged by water. A bakery called Baked was one of few businesses with power, its tables filled as customers sought succor in power strips, recharging iPhones.
The day “was more about trying to get the community back on its feet, rather than business,” said Matt Lewis, a co-owner.
Fourteen distribution sites opened again yesterday after city workers, National Guardsmen and Salvation Army volunteers distributed more than 290,000 meals and almost 523,000 water bottles the previous day. The Pentagon deployed about 300 Marines and sailors and 17 planeloads of power equipment.
Most schools will open Nov. 5, save for 40 that were damaged and won’t hold classes until at least Nov. 7, Bloomberg said. About 5,500 people remain in evacuation centers.
Con Edison said about 450,000 customers in New York and Westchester County were still without power as of 8 p.m. yesterday.
“This has been the most massive restoration effort we have ever undertaken here at Con Edison, and we’re going to continue working 24-7 until the last customer is back,” said the utility’s Miksad.
“We’ve faced disasters before, but this is the largest natural disaster we have ever experienced,” Miksad said. “It hit us in every corner of our system.”
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the Empire State may lose more than $18 billion from the disruption of daily business and the loss of property and wealth.
With a presidential election three days away, about 1,000 state polling sites are without power, and 24 on Long Island’s South Shore and on Staten Island were unusable, posing “a very difficult situation” for local officials, said Douglas Kellner, co-chairman of the state Board of Elections.
“There is going to be an election, and it won’t be perfect,” he said. “But we will do the best we can.”
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