Hurricane Sandy, the loose ends

the aftermath

Recovery continues in the outer boroughs from Hurricane Sandy and its Nor’Easter cousin that slammed into us on Wednesday. Snow is gone now, but thousands are still out in the cold. Fortunately, it’s warming up over the next few days.

On the recovery side of the ledger, thousands of people in places like Oceanside NY are still without power some 12 days into this event–and Oceanside is hardly alone in this respect. People are pretty pissed. Local politicians are demanding the  Federal government take over for Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) which did not prepare for the storm (they’re out of light poles, for instance).

A side note: Back in the days before we de-regulated everything, power companies were public utilities. They were guaranteed a certain rate of return based on service and the value added of new capital investments. Most utilities had ‘gold-plated’ infrastructure, because the more the company spent on infrastructure, the higher the cost basis for the value of their capital. Just sayin.

In New York, it’s news to us that Mayor Bloomberg apparently turned down an offer for FEMA to come in and help prepare for Sandy. “President Obama asked Craig Fugate from FEMA to call me earlier in the day and offer any help. I assured him that we had, we think, everything under control but we appreciate the effort. What FEMA really can do is to help those parts of the country that don’t have all of the extensive facilities and agencies and practice that New York City does. But I did want to thank them for their offer”. 

This begs the question–what other preparatory help did Mike spurn? And how hard is it to impeach a mayor under the city charter?

That the subways came back to (mostly) normal over a ten day period is nothing short of a miracle.  There are still huge problems, of course–Q and B service were interrupted for better than an hour when several trees from Prospect Park decided that now was the best time to fall down, preferably on the tracks. No injuries to report.

I’m also told that much of the Manhattan hospital district (1st Avenue from 34th Street south) was turned into a virtual lake, with building foundations undermined and hospitals closed due to flooding. Where are the pictures of this? Where are the iconic pictures of the breadth of the water destruction?  Some brave souls ventured into the South Ferry subway station to document that the station was completely flooded up to the banisters and down to the platforms. All well and good, but what about the rest? Is the system safe? Is this a replay of 9/11, when people were told they could safely go back to work downtown even as the EPA got inside estimates of toxic levels of asbestos and other toxins?

People around here are still pretty shell-shocked. But there’s a growing sense of anger at all the things that were broken before this storm even hit.


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