In his press conference on Thursday afternoon, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg gave an account of what the city has lost beyond its power. Hurricane Sandy has taken the lives of at least 37 New Yorkers and the mayor cautioned that that number may continue to rise.
“Today we’re taking new steps to prevent further suffering from Sandy,” the Mayor continued, and went on to announce that a major distribution of food and water to people in public housing, high-rises, and other areas throughout the city without power would begin at roughly 3 p.m. on Thursday, and include three meals and five bottles of water per person. Distribution will continue on Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and take place on the weekend between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Distribution locations are listed at nyc.gov, but other means are needed to inform those without power about these “staging areas.” The Mayor described distributing 500,000 flyers in English, Spanish and Chinese, door-by-door, no matter how many floors relief workers would have to climb within high-rises without working elevators. The areas include Coney Island, the South Shore of Staten Island, Chinatown and the Rockaways.
Four-hundred national guard members, 150 NYC Service volunteers and 24 Salvation Army staff are part of this effort that the Mayor called a “true private-public partnership” that involves “strong cooperation” among all levels of government and agencies. Despite the complexity of coordination at “levels that has never been experience before,” Bloomberg said this was “bringing food the old-fashioned way.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo later detailed during a press conference at the Hugh L. Carry Tunnel that the number of meals provided by FEMA would be one million.
Electricity is still out for 534,000 New Yorkers, 228,000 of them in Manhattan. This is an improvement from 649,000 without power on Wednesday night.
Addressing New Yorkers’ communication needs, Bloomberg announced that AT&T will bring trucks that will supply Wi-Fi internet access and charging for cell phones in the vicinity of food and water distribution centers. The Mayor quipped that the location of services is “pretty much one-stop shopping,” though all services are free. Only those with AT&T service will benefit from the “pods” that the phone service provider will set up.
Anticipating the question on how to make donations, the Mayor suggested cash donations and the logistics of distributing canned goods was “not good use of time” at this point. He recommended donations through the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York, where 100 percent of donation will go to relief efforts. Donations can be made through 311 or nyc.gov.
Though Bloomberg mentioned the priorities of restoring mass transit and power again, he also said, “We are focused on those who don’t have a place to sleep or have food.”
Other announcements made today:
- The majority of New York City parks will reopen on Saturday at 8 a.m.
- The Mayor urges New Yorkers to stay away from beaches and water, which is unsafe because of sewage discharges.
- New York City school teachers, principals and administrators are asked to report to work tomorrow as schools will open on Monday.
- The city’s 76 shelters will be consolidated to 15. Those who can not return home will be transported to new shelters as necessary.