Thousands Still Without Power as City Mulls Relocation

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    AP
    Kiva Kahl pours hot tea for neighbor Buddy Sammis,right, after she prepared it on a wood-stoked fire and cooking setup she and her fiance created in the street in front of their house on Beach 91st Street in the Rockaways.

    Little more than a week after Sandy slammed the tri-state, displacing tens of thousands of people from their homes, the city isn't ruling out any options for housing storm refugees, including hotel rooms or cash for people to make their own arrangements.

    Mayor Bloomberg on Monday announced he has appointed a former OEM and FEMA official to come up with a plan.

    Bloomberg said 30,000 to 40,000 New Yorkers may need to be relocated — a monumental task in a city where housing is scarce and expensive — though he said that number would probably drop to 20,000 within a couple of weeks as power is restored in more places.

    Brad Gair, a former OEM deputy commissioner and federal coordinating officer from FEMA, will coordinate the plan to relocate them.

    After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita smashed the Gulf Coast in 2005, hundreds of thousands of victims were put up by FEMA in trailers, hotels, cruise ships and apartments across several states for months and even years.

    Gair said his first objective is to figure out the demand -- who needs help and how long will they need it. The next order of business, he said, is to find the solution. The range of options is "very wide," from hotels to cash from the federal government for people to secure their own housing.

    "Everything will be on the table to start," he said.

    Power has been restored to nearly 87 percent of customers who were blacked out in the storm in New York, but efforts to get everyone back on line could be hampered by more wet, windy weather on the way this week.

    As temperatures sink into the 30s at night, Bloomberg said residents in public housing are a top concern; some 21,000 people have no electricity and 35,000 have no heat and hot water.

    Across New York City, about 127,000 customers were still without power, down from an estimated 960,000 initially affected. 

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo railed against the utility companies tasked with bringing power back to communities hit hard by Sandy.

    At a Monday afternoon news conference, he said that saying he was "angry, frustrated, disappointed would be the understatement of the decade."

    He said it is understandable that getting the power back on takes time. However, he said the utilities were not communicating with residents who were depending on them to get their lives back to normal.

    In Connecticut, both major utilities kept their promises to restore power to more than 95 percent of their customers. Just under 10,000 residents and businesses remained without power Tuesday, down from a peak of 620,000.

    Sandy, which killed more than 70 people in the tri-state, also created a fuel shortage that has forced New Jersey to enforce odd-even rationing for motorists. But there was no rationing in New York City, where the search for gas became a maddening scavenger hunt in recent days.

    Bloomberg said a police officer has been posted at each gas station open in the city to keep the peace.

    Meanwhile, the city is making changes to its garbage collections to ensure that around-the-clock cleanup continues in hard-hit neighborhoods.      

    Bloomberg said collections will be reduced in areas without a heavy storm impact. He says the collections could go from three days a week to two -- or from two days to one.      

    The department will not be collecting curbside recycling until further notice.      
    Sanitation enforcement agents won't be writing violations for refuse left at curbside throughout the city during the emergency operation.     

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