Two Weeks After Sandy, Thousands Remain in Dark

From Long Island to New Jersey, the wait for electricity stretches into a third week

For tens of thousands still without power in New York and New Jersey, living in darkness and cold two weeks after Sandy pummeled the tri-state is an unwelcome and frustrating milestone.

Staring ahead to a third week of darkness, weary residents pleaded for some relief.

"We can't live like this," said Liz Rosenthal of Levittown. "This is inhumane to live like this."

Nearly 60,000 Long Island Power Authority customers still had no electricity Monday.

The utility says it has 10,000 crews working on the outages and 99 percent of its customers should have power by Tuesday. The utility says it had already restored electricity to 1.1 million customers -- cold comfort for those still living in the dark.

Those without power say LIPA's poor communication has kept them in dark both literally and figuratively. Customers said they called LIPA multiple times a day for updates and got no answer, or contradictory advice.

"I was so disgusted the other night," said Carrie Baram of Baldwin Harbor, who said she calls the utility three times a day. "I was up til midnight but nobody bothered to answer the telephone." 

James Castellano, who's more anxious than ever to get his power back after bringing his newborn son home from the hospital, says no one has answered his calls at LIPA in the past two weeks.

"You can't have an infant in the house freezing," said Castellano. "We were staying in a hotel in New York City last week, and it's so expensive. I don't have the money to pay for a hotel and take care of a newborn."

Castellano remains the only home on his block without power after a large tree fell in his backyard during Sandy and severed the power line connecting his house to the transformer. His neighbors have all been restored. 

In New York City, Con Edison said it has restored power to more than 1 million customers, but 16,300 people in flood-damaged areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island still are without power. The utility says those people cannot get service until the equipment in those buildings is repaired, tested and certified by an electrician.

Mayor Bloomberg on Monday announced a $500 million emergency plan to pay for critical repairs to public schools and hospitals damaged by Sandy.

The plan would allocate $200 million for the Department of Education and $300 million for the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation to repair extensive damage. The repairs would include structural restorations, new boilers, new electrical systems and roof repairs.

The city council will vote on the plan on Tuesday. Bloomberg says the city has already spent $134 million on storm-related emergency relief.

City Comptroller John Liu says the city will work to recover these funds from FEMA.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he plans to request at least $30 billion in federal disaster aid to rebuild. The money is expected to cover costs to repair bridges, tunnels, subways and commuter rail lines, and will also reimburse local governments for emergency services.

New Jersey's utilities have restored electricity to nearly all their customers who lost service during Sandy and the nor'easter, but scattered outages remain from Ocean in the south to Passaic in the north. Restoration work continues for 6,197 homes and businesses statewide Monday.

Gov. Chris Christie said Monday the shuttered military base at Fort Monmouth is being readied to house up to 600 displaced families.

Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable said families will begin to be moved in from shelters by month's end.

More than 25,000 New Jersey residents are receiving federal rental assistance because their homes were damaged by the storm.

Constable says at least 7,000 will need housing beyond the number of vacant rental units available, based on preliminary estimates by federal and state emergency management officials.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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