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Posts tagged ‘Superstorm Sandy’

Christie Blasts ‘Washington Attitude’ But Doesn’t Mention Scandals in Inaugural.


Image: Christie Blasts 'Washington Attitude' But Doesn't Mention Scandals in Inaugural

Governor Chris Christie didn’t mention the New Jersey controversies threatening a possible 2016 presidential run as he began his second term by blasting political gamesmanship and called for bipartisan compromises.

“We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington,” the 51-year-old Republican said in remarks prepared for his inaugural address in Trenton. “The attitude that says I am always right and you are always wrong. The attitude that puts everyone into a box they are not permitted to leave. The attitude that puts political wins ahead of policy agreements. The belief that compromise is a dirty word.”

Challenges such as investigations of his office’s Hurricane Sandy spending and ties to politically motivated traffic jams come “out of nowhere, to test you,” Christie said last week. This weekend, another arose as a mayor accused his administration of threatening to withhold disaster aid unless she endorsed a redevelopment project. Today, with snow bearing down, the 51-year-old governor canceled an inaugural celebration at Ellis Island, a high-profile venue that had been taken as a sign that he might court a national electorate.

The governor and his family attended a prayer service today at Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church. The pastor, the Rev. Joe A. Carter, reminded the audience that hardships are ever present.

“All of us, at one time or another, have to deal with times of testing and seasons of frustration,” Carter said.

Muted Tones

The governor, ordinarily a clear-voiced, high-energy speaker, has appeared tired since Jan. 9, the day he told reporters he was “a sad guy” during an almost two-hour news conference to address the jams on the George Washington Bridge.

“He knows he’s in trouble,” said Peter Woolley, a politics professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey. “He’s concerned that long-time friends and associates are clearly in trouble.”

Christie’s calls for smaller government and lower taxes made him a national figure during his first term. He turned down calls to run for president in 2011, but hasn’t ruled out a 2016 bid. He became chairman of the Republican Governors Association in November.

“I do not believe that New Jerseyans want a bigger, more expensive government that penalizes success and then gives the pittance left to a few in the name of income equity,” he said today after taking the oath of office. “What New Jerseyans want is an unfettered opportunity to succeed in the way they define success. They want an equal chance at the starting; not a government guaranteed result.”

Broad Assessment

Last month, Christie was neck and neck with Democrat Hillary Clinton, 48 percent to 46 percent, in a CNN/ORC International poll based on a hypothetical 2016 presidential race. The edge was within the margin of error.

Now he is at the center of an inquiry unprecedented in the New Jersey governor’s office. Democrats, who control both houses of the legislature, are examining whether Christie or members of his administration had knowledge of the lane closings and whether they tried to cover it up.

Legislative committees on Jan. 16 issued 20 subpoenas to individuals and organizations.

Bridge Game

The administration’s ties to the traffic messes came to light in a cache of e-mails and text messages obtained on Jan. 8 by news outlets. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote on Aug. 13 to David Wildstein, a Christie ally at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the George Washington Bridge. “Got it,” Wildstein replied.

For four days starting Sept. 9, two of three access lanes from Fort Lee to the bridge were closed. Typical half-hour delays on the New Jersey side stretched to four hours or more.

Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who hadn’t joined colleagues to cross party lines and endorse Christie for re- election, asked the governor’s appointees at the Port Authority whether he was being punished. He got no answer.

On Jan. 9, a day after the e-mail trail was published, Christie apologized and said he was “outraged” and “saddened” by lies within his administration. The governor said he had nothing to do with the tie-ups.

His troubles grew Jan. 13, when the independent inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it was auditing Christie’s expenditure of $25 million in federal Sandy disaster aid on a “Stronger Than The Storm” ad campaign featuring Christie, his wife and their four children.

New Accusation

Then, this weekend, Hoboken’s mayor accused Christie’s administration of muscling her over the redevelopment project.

Christie’s office immediately rebutted the claims by Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat. But Zimmer said in a statement that she met Jan. 19 with federal investigators.

Her allegations will be included in lawmakers’ probe, said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat co-leading the probe. The Assembly and Senate plan to conduct a joint investigation with help from Reid Schar, the lead prosecutor in the corruption trials of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Christie ran up record public approval in the wake of Sandy in October 2012. He beat his Democratic challenger, state Senator Barbara Buono, by 22 percentage points in November.

“It matters what the public believes,” said Woolley of Fairleigh Dickinson. “It’s the tide of public opinion that will stay with him or turn against him. Where that tide turns, or doesn’t, is not always on the facts of the case.”
© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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Under Cloud of Scandal, Christie to Be Sworn In Again.


Tuesday’s celebrations to mark the start of Gov. Chris Christie’s second term could be tempered by multiple investigations into traffic tie-ups that appear to have been ordered by his staff for political retribution and an allegation that his administration tied Superstorm Sandy aid to approval for a real estate project.

But the 55th governor of New Jersey has a full schedule of inaugural events.

His day is scheduled to start with a service at Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church before a swearing in and address in Trenton and an evening party on Ellis Island, a symbolic spot synonymous with the promise of the United States. The island where some 12 million immigrants first entered the U.S. is divided between New Jersey and New York, but his party is to be in a hall on the New York side.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who was drawn into the controversy surrounding Christie this weekend, is also to be sworn in for her second term.

Christie won re-election in November by a 22-point margin over state Sen. Barbara Buono, a Democrat.

The Republican governor built a national following as a blunt-talking and often funny politician who strived to show that he could find common ground with Democrats on some key issues, including overhauling the state’s public-worker pension program and making it easier to fire teachers who are found to be underperforming.

Christie became a fixture in speculation about who would seek the 2016 presidential nomination with his leadership after Superstorm Sandy slammed into his state in October 2012.

He worked with President Barack Obama and took on Republican members of Congress who were reluctant to approve aid for storm victims, receiving high marks from his constituents and plentiful national attention.

But his reputation has been battered somewhat since revelations this month that a staffer ordered two of three approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge from the town of Fort Lee shut down for four days in September apparently as political retribution against the mayor there, perhaps for not endorsing Christie for re-election.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and two state legislative committees are now investigating.

Christie has apologized, denied any involvement with or knowledge of the plot and fired a deputy chief of staff at the center of the controversy. But questions have continued.

Christie’s administration also faces an allegation from the Democratic mayor of Hoboken that it tied the delivery of Superstorm Sandy aid to the low-lying city of 50,000 across from Manhattan to support for a prime real estate project.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that she was told by Guadagno that the ultimatum came directly from Christie. Guadagno strongly denied those claims Monday and described them as “false” and “illogical.”

“Any suggestion that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false,” she said.

Also on Monday, nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis said Christie dropped a plan to appoint him the state’s first physical fitness ambassador when he launched a political campaign against a Christie friend. Christie’s administration hasn’t returned an email seeking comment.

In his re-election campaign, Christie did not make big new promises, but said he would continue to work on recovery from Sandy, seek tax cuts and push for other previous priorities with which the Democrat-controlled Legislature has not been willing to go along.

Christie has not ruled out a 2016 presidential run.

But last week in an event with storm victims in Manahawkin, he emphasized his New Jersey roots and the task before him as governor.

“Come next Tuesday, I’ve only got about 1,400 days to go as governor. We’ve got plenty of time to get this job done,” he said. “You asked me and I accepted the task of leading this state for eight years, not four years.”

The $500 tickets to the inaugural celebration and other contributions will be used to help support three charities: Save Ellis Island, The New Hope Baptist Church and New Jersey Heroes, which was founded by first lady Mary Pat Christie.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Sandy aid package moving toward House votes.


  • This Jan. 3, 2013 photo shows a beach front home that was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy resting in the sand in Bay Head, N.J., Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. House conservatives opposed to more deficit spending chip away at a $50.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package by seeking spending cuts in other programs to pay for recovery efforts and stripping money for projects they say are unrelated to the Oct. 29 storm. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    View PhotoAssociated Press/Mel Evans – This Jan. 3, 2013 photo shows a beach front home that was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy resting in the sand in Bay Head, N.J., Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. House conservatives …more 

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  • FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2013, file photo, an unsafe for human occupancy sticker is attached to a home that was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy in Bay Head, N.J. Conservatives and watchdog groups are mounting a "not-so-fast" campaign against a $50.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package that Northeastern governors and lawmakers hope to push through the House the week of Jan. 14, 2013. Their complaint is that lots of that money actually will go toward recovery efforts for past disasters and other projects unrelated to the late-October storm. The measure bill includes $150 million for what the Commerce Department described as fisheries disasters in Alaska, Mississippi and the Northeast, and $50 million in subsidies for replanting trees on private land damaged by wildfires. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)View PhotoFILE – In this Jan. 3, 2013, file …
  • FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2013, file photo, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., right, accompanied by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y, enter a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, to discuss Superstorm Sandy aid. Conservatives and watchdog groups are mounting a "not-so-fast" campaign against a $50.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package that Northeastern governors and lawmakers hope to push through the House the week of Jan. 14, 2013. Their complaint is that lots of that money actually will go toward recovery efforts for past disasters and other projects unrelated to the late-October storm. The measure bill includes $150 million for what the Commerce Department described as fisheries disasters in Alaska, Mississippi and the Northeast, and $50 million in subsidies for replanting trees on private land damaged by wildfires. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)View PhotoFILE – In this Jan. 4, 2013, file …

WASHINGTON (AP) — Northeastern lawmakers hoping to push a $50.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package through the House face roadblocks by fiscal conservatives seeking offsetting spending cuts to pay for recovery efforts as well as funding cuts for projects they say are unrelated to the Oct. 29 storm.

The amendments by budget hawks set up a faceoff Tuesday, withNortheast lawmakers in both parties eager to provide recovery aid for one of the worst storms ever to strike the region as the House moves toward expected votes on the emergency spending package.

The base $17 billion bill by the House Appropriations Committee is aimed at immediate Sandy recovery needs, including $5.4 billion for New York and New Jersey transit systems and $5.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief aid fund.

Northeast lawmakers will have a chance to add to that bill with an amendment by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., for an additional $33.7 billion, including $10.9 billion for public transportation projects.

The Club for Growth, a conservative group, is urging lawmakers to oppose both Sandy aid measures. Sandy aid supporters, nonetheless, voiced confidence Monday they would prevail. The Senate passed a $60.4 billion Sandy aid package in December with bipartisan support.

“We have more than enough votes, I’m confident of that,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., claiming strong support from Democrats and Republicans from the Northeast and other states for both the base $17 billion bill and the amendment for the additional $33.7 billion.

The House Rules Committee on Monday night approved 13 amendments for floor consideration, including one requiring spending offsets and four seeking to strike money for some projects either not directly related to Sandy or not seen as emergency spending.

“With that many amendments, one could sneak through,” King said. “We should be able to defeat the important amendments though.”

As with past natural disasters, the $50.7 billion Sandy aid package does not provide for offsetting spending cuts, meaning the aid comes at the cost of higher deficits. The lone exception is an offset provision in the Frelinghuysen amendment requiring that the $3.4 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects to protect against future storms be paid for by spending cuts elsewhere in the 2013 budget.

Conservative Reps. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., Tom McClintock, R-Calif., Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., offered an amendment to offset the $17 billion base bill with spending cuts of 1.6 percent for all discretionary appropriations for 2013.

Mulvaney said he wasn’t trying to torpedo the aid package with his amendment.

“This is not a poison pill,” he said. “It’s not designed for delay. … I just want to try and find a way to pay for” Sandy aid.

Other amendments set for floor debate would cut $15 million for Regional Ocean Partnership Grants, $13 million for the National Weather Service ground readiness project, $1 million for the Legal Services Corporation and $9.8 million for rebuilding seawalls and buildings on uninhabited islands in the Steward McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, planned votes on both the $17 billion base bill and the Frelinghuysen proposal for $33.7 billion more. He’s responding both to conservatives who are opposed to more deficit spending, and to pointed criticism from Govs. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., and Chris Christie, R-N.J., who are fuming because the House hasn’t acted sooner.

Boehner decided on New Year’s Day to delay a scheduled vote after House Republicans rebelled over a bill allowing taxes to rise on families making more than $450,000 a year because it included only meager spending cuts. Christie called the speaker’s action “disgusting.”

The Senate’s $60.4 billion bill on Sandy relief expired with the previous Congress on Jan. 3. But about $9.7 billion was money for replenishing the government’s flood insurance fund to help pay Sandy victims, and Congress approved that separately earlier this month. Whatever emerges from the House this week is scheduled for debate in the Senate next week after President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

FEMA has spent about $3.1 billion in disaster relief money for shelters, restoring power and other immediate needs after the storm pounded the Atlantic Coast with hurricane-force winds. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the hardest hit.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By ANDREW MIGA | Associated Press

Critics complain Sandy aid tied to other projects.


  • FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2013, file photo, an unsafe for human occupancy sticker is attached to a home that was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy in Bay Head, N.J. Conservatives and watchdog groups are mounting a "not-so-fast" campaign against a $50.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package that Northeastern governors and lawmakers hope to push through the House the week of Jan. 14, 2013. Their complaint is that lots of that money actually will go toward recovery efforts for past disasters and other projects unrelated to the late-October storm. The measure bill includes $150 million for what the Commerce Department described as fisheries disasters in Alaska, Mississippi and the Northeast, and $50 million in subsidies for replanting trees on private land damaged by wildfires. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    View PhotoAssociated Press/Mel Evans – FILE – In this Jan. 3, 2013, file photo, an unsafe for human occupancy sticker is attached to a home that was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy in Bay Head, N.J. Conservatives …more 

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  • FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2013, file photo, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., right, accompanied by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y, enter a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, to discuss Superstorm Sandy aid. Conservatives and watchdog groups are mounting a "not-so-fast" campaign against a $50.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package that Northeastern governors and lawmakers hope to push through the House the week of Jan. 14, 2013. Their complaint is that lots of that money actually will go toward recovery efforts for past disasters and other projects unrelated to the late-October storm. The measure bill includes $150 million for what the Commerce Department described as fisheries disasters in Alaska, Mississippi and the Northeast, and $50 million in subsidies for replanting trees on private land damaged by wildfires. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)View PhotoFILE – In this Jan. 4, 2013, file …
  • FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2013, file photo, Kim Baker works to clean up her Superstorm Sandy damaged home in Seaside Heights, N.J. Conservatives and watchdog groups are mounting a "not-so-fast" campaign against a $50.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package that Northeastern governors and lawmakers hope to push through the House the week of Jan. 14, 2013. Their complaint is that lots of that money actually will go toward recovery efforts for past disasters and other projects unrelated to the late-October storm. The measure bill includes $150 million for what the Commerce Department described as fisheries disasters in Alaska, Mississippi and the Northeast, and $50 million in subsidies for replanting trees on private land damaged by wildfires. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)View PhotoFILE – In this Jan. 3, 2013, file …

WASHINGTON (AP) — Conservatives and watchdog groups are mounting a “not-so-fast” campaign against a $50.7 billionSuperstorm Sandy aid package that Northeastern governors and lawmakers hope to push through the House this coming week.

Their complaint is that lots of the money that lawmakers are considering will actually go toward recovery efforts for past disasters and other projects unrelated to the late-October storm.

A Senate-passed version from the end of the last Congress included $150 million for what the Commerce Department described as fisheries disasters in Alaska, Mississippi and the Northeast, and $50 million in subsidies for replanting trees on private land damaged by wildfires.

The objections have led senior House Republicans to assemble their own $17 billion proposal, that when combined with already approved money for flood insurance claims, is less than half whatPresident Barack Obama sought and the Senate passed in December

That $17 billion package will be brought to the floor by the House Appropriations Committee, and Northeast lawmakers will have a chance to add $33.7 billion more.

House Speaker John Boehner intends to let the House vote on both measures. He’s responding both to conservatives who are opposed to more deficit spending, and to Govs. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., and Chris Christie, R-N.J., who are irate that the House hasn’t acted sooner.

Critics are taking the sharpest aim at $12.1 billion in the amendment for Department of Housing and Urban Development emergency block grants. Any state struck by a federally declared major disaster in 2011, 2012 or this year would qualify for the grants, and that’s just about all the states, saidStephen Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog group. Only South Carolina, Arizona and Michigan would not qualify, he said.

“That’s not a bad chunk of change, particularly if you are trying to get other lawmakers to vote for the bill,” Ellis said.

State and local governments like block grants because they provide more flexibility in how the money is spent. The money can go toward a variety of needs, including hospitals, utilities, roads, small businesses and rent subsidies.

The Northeast lawmakers’ $33.7 billion amendment also includes more than $135 million to help the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration improve weather forecasting.

“A lot of the money goes to government agencies to rebuild rather than helping people actually afflicted by Sandy,” Ellis said.

Before getting to the aid measures, the House on Monday planned to consider legislation intended to streamline Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations that critics blame for slowing down recovery efforts. That bill would let FEMA make limited repairs instead of lease payments to provide housing that might be less expensive than traditional agency trailers.

A $60.4 billion storm aid package passed by the Senate in December included $188 million for an Amtrak expansion project with an indirect link to Sandy: Officials say that new, long-planned tunnels from New Jersey to Penn Station in Manhattan would be better protected against future flooding.

The Club for Growth, a conservative group, complained the Senate bill was overpriced, full of pork and would swell the federal deficit because other government programs weren’t being cut to cover the costs of the legislation. That bill expired with the old Congress on Jan. 3. So whatever additional aid package the House passes would have to go back to the Senate for its approval.

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, two frequent critics of government spending, tried unsuccessfully to strip the Senate version of $125 million for an Agriculture Department program to restore watersheds damaged by wildfires and drought, $2 million for roof repairs at Smithsonian Institution museums in the Washington area and the $50 million in tree planting subsidies.

McCain also targeted $15 million to repair storm-damaged NASA facilities, saying the agency had called its Sandy damage “minimal.”

“An emergency funding bill should focus on the emergency needs of the victims, not the needs of politicians,” said Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, the senior Republican on Senate Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security. “Loading up a massive $60.4 billion package with unrelated projects and earmarks for other states is not the way we should use taxpayer dollars.”

Coats’ scaled-back $23.8 billion Sandy aid bill was rejected by the Senate.

Republicans also criticized $13 billion in the Senate bill for projects to protect against future storms, including fortification of mass transit systems in the Northeast and building new jetties in vulnerable seaside areas. While maybe worthwhile, those projects don’t represent emergencies and shouldn’t be exempt from federal spending caps, GOP lawmakers said.

The basic $17 billion before the House on Tuesday is aimed at immediate Sandy recovery needs, including $5.4 billion for New York and New Jersey transit systems and $5.4 billion for FEMA’s disaster aid fund. The $33.7 billion amendment would bring the total up to the more than $60 billion sought by Obama and passed by Senate Democrats.

It includes the block grants for previous disasters, weather forecasting improvements and measures to minimize damage from future storms, but not the $188 million for the Amtrak expansion project.

“We know it’s going to be a heavy lift for the $33 billion, but we’ll find the votes,” said Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., whose Staten Island district was heavily damaged by Sandy.

But conservatives clearly prefer the smaller, $17 billion version. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., a frequent critic of Boehner after losing his seat on the House Budget Committee, said the Sandy aid legislation should be focused on storm-related recovery.

“Conservatives want to see a real plan that addresses real needs for Sandy,” he said.

Obama has signed a $9.7 billion replenishment of the national flood insurance fund to help pay claims from 115,000 homeowners, businesses and renters.

FEMA has spent more than $2 billion in disaster relief money for shelter, restoring power and other immediate needs arising from Sandy. The Oct. 29 storm that pounded the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Maine with hurricane-force winds and coastal flooding. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the hardest hit.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By ANDREW MIGA | Associated Press

Gawkers head to NY’s storm-ravaged neighborhoods.


  • FILE- In this Nov. 10, 2012, file photo, John Papanier, 12, directs traffic on a street congested by vehicles during cleanup after Superstorm Sandy, in the New Dorp section of Staten Island, N.Y. Residents of New York's Staten Island borough are noticing something new as they and volunteers work to clear the remains of storm-damaged homes: gawkers. Cruising by in cars or walking through streets snapping photos, these are people drawn to the scene of a tragedy to glimpse what they've seen on television come to life.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

    Enlarge PhotoAssociated Press/Seth Wenig, File – FILE- In this Nov. 10, 2012, file photo, John Papanier, 12, directs traffic on a street congested by vehicles during cleanup after Superstorm Sandy, in the New Dorp section …more 

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NEW YORK (AP)Garbage trucks, hulking military vehicles and mud-caked cars move slowly through a Staten Island waterfront neighborhood still reeling from Superstorm Sandy’s storm surge. Then comes an outlier: a spotless SUV with three passengers peering out windows at a mangled home choked with sea grass.

Residents recognize the occupants right away. They’re disaster tourists, people drawn to the scene of a tragedy to glimpse the pictures they’ve seen on television come to life.

Two weeks after the superstorm socked the region, cleanup continues in New York and New Jersey, which bore the brunt of the destruction. At its peak, the storm knocked out power to 8.5 million in 10 states, and some during a later nor’easter. About 73,000 utility customers in New York and New Jersey remained without power late Sunday, most of them on Long Island.

But the storm didn’t just bring darkness and despair; it also brought the gawkers.

“It’s a little annoying,” said Chris Nasella, who paused as he finished cleaning up a home reduced to a shell on the first floor. “By the same token, I would do it, too. I don’t think anyone wouldn’t want to look at boats that are picked up and left on the streets. As long as you don’t get a kick out of it, it’s an amazing thing.”

[Related: Frustration for powerless]

There weren’t many tourists in Nasella’s neighborhood on Saturday. Cleanup crews had done some extensive work. The neighborhood is only accessible through streets clogged with idled cars in gas lines and traffic made deliberate by still-powerless traffic signals.

But they left an impression.

“The gawking was amazing last week,” said Joanne McClenin, whose home was filled with water five feet high on the night Sandy came ashore. “It was kind of offensive as a homeowner, because I felt violated.”

As the power outages on Long Island drag on, New Yorkers railed Sunday against the utility that has lagged behind others in restoring power, criticizing its slow pace as well as a dearth of information.

Separately, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited with disaster-relief workers Sunday in Staten Island’s Midland Beach neighborhood, which is still devastated two weeks after Sandy hit.

[Related: Victims scramble for rentals]

The lack of power restoration for a relative few in the densely populated region at the heart of the storm reinforced Sandy’s fractured effect on the area: tragic and vicious to some, merely a nuisance to others.

Perhaps none of the utilities have drawn criticism as widespread, or as harsh, as the Long Island Power Authority. Nearly 67,000 of the homes and businesses it serves were still without power late Sunday. That was almost all of the remaining outages in New York state.

“We certainly understand the frustration that’s out there,” LIPA’s chief operating officer, Michael Hervey, said in a conference call late Sunday. But, he said, the storm had been worse than expected, no utility had as many workers in place beforehand as it would have liked, and the power was coming back rapidly “compared to the damage that’s been incurred.”

“I was so disgusted the other night,” said Carrie Baram, 56, of Baldwin Harbor, who said she calls the utility three times a day. “I was up till midnight, but nobody bothered to answer the telephone.”

[Related: Death toll continues to grow]

LIPA has said it knows that customers aren’t getting the information they need, partly because of an outdated information technology system that it is updating. Sunday, executives said they were working on setting up information centers near the most heavily damaged areas. The company also said it had deployed 6,400 linemen to work on restoring power, compared to 200 on a normal day.

“‘They’re working on it, they’re working on it’ — that would be their common response,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said Sunday, describing LIPA’s interaction with his office.

He said LIPA had failed to answer even simple questions from its customers and that Sandy’s magnitude wasn’t an excuse.

On Staten Island, Napolitano said “a lot of progress” had been made since the storm hit and especially since her last visit 10 days earlier.

“It seems like a different place,” she said. “You can really tell the difference.”

But, she added, there was a lot more to do. “The last big chunk” to solve, she said, is the question of how quickly power can be returned to thousands of homes without it.

If homes are not inhabitable even after power returns, she said, the government is finding temporary apartments and hotels where evacuees can stay — preferably in the same community so kids can continue going to the same schools.

On Staten Island’s streets, many of the volunteers who carried garbage cans and shovels, or pushed grocery carts filled with supplied carried mobile phones with them and, like Chelsea Chan, paused to take pictures of the damage. Chan said she was taking the pictures for her father who was in another part of New York City and unable to see the damage for himself.

Seaver Avenue on Staten Island was sloppy with mud, sand and curbside mounds of couches, personal photos, mattresses and sodden sheetrock. Mickey Merrell’s front porch was askew, and the storm surge nearly knocked a neighbor’s house into hers. Across the street a house was washed off its foundation. It was a scene of human misery — and one of New York City’s new attractions, just like the construction crane that collapsed and dangled precariously high above mid-town Manhattan on Oct. 29.

“Sometimes it’s like we’re at the zoo,” Merrell said. “So many people come and stop and stare at this place.”

Michelle Van Tassel, a Staten Island resident who has friends who lost everything, said she tried to deliver supplies but couldn’t get through because there were so many people on the street who had no business being there.

“There were a tremendous amount of people who came into the borough to take pictures, to look at the devastation themselves, and it seemed like more of a tourist attraction down there than it actually felt like people who were trying to help,” she said, her voice breaking.

Peter Lisi, a renter who is fighting a landlord trying to evict him from his damaged home, said he doesn’t mind the gawkers, “as long as they’re not making fun.” Some of them are drawn in to what’s happening and help, he said.

Domenick and Kim Barone said they could tell the tourists apart from the volunteers because the gawkers’ clothes and shoes are clean, and they’re often snapping pictures.

“Obviously they have nothing else to do,” Kim Barone said. “If this is their source of entertainment, to wallow in other people’s despair, I don’t have the time. I’m trying just to clean out and save what I can save. I don’t really have the time to worry about them.”

___

Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela contributed to this report.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By CHRISTINA REXRODE, DAVID BAUDER and VERENA DOBNIK | Associated Press

New York readies for Veterans Day as region struggles.


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(Reuters) – New York City was preparing to stage its first major event since cancelling its annual marathon as thousands of victims of Superstorm Sandy continued to struggle with power outages, gasoline shortages and freezing weather conditions.

Sunday’s annual Veterans Day Parade is expected to attract crowds of over 600,000 people to central Manhattan and will be a test for a city still struggling to clean up after one of the worst natural disasters in the region’s history.

Thousands were in temporary shelters, and in New Jersey a tent city on the edge of Monmouth Park racetrack was home to hundreds. Authorities in the region said they did not have access to enough alternative housing or hotel rooms for all those who have been displaced.

There were still over a quarter of a million customers without power nearly two weeks after the storm. As of Saturday, 66,000 of those were on Long Island, where residents hit hard by the storm protested outside the headquarters of the Long Island Power Authority in Hicksville.

New Yorkers also faced their second day of gasoline rationing under a system in which cars with odd- and even-numbered license plates can fill up only on alternate days.

Electric utilities have drawn withering criticism for their failure to quickly restore power throughout the region. For many, no electricity means no heat, hot water or hot meals.

“It’s been terrible,” said Diane Uhlfelder, a former New York City police officer at the protest in Hicksville, where a local police officer estimated about 300 hundred gathered outside LIPA headquarters.

“The cold is the worst,” she said. “It’s been hell.”

Sandy smashed into the East Coast on October 29, killing at least 120 people and causing an estimated $50 billion in damages and economic losses. It destroyed homes along the New Jersey Shore and around New York City, cut off electricity for millions of people and knocked out much of the public transportation system.

Newly re-elected President Barack Obama is to visit hard-hit areas of New York City on Thursday. Obama put off an earlier visit at the request of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who feared it could hinder relief efforts.

Back outside LIPA headquarters in Hicksville, two 13-year-old girls held white cardboard signs decrying LIPA’s slow response. One, in pink magic marker, read: “LIPA Stinks!” The other read: “Lame, Inept, Pitiful, Awful.”

As a LIPA truck drove by, the unsmiling driver gripped the wheel with his left hand and raised his right hand to give the girls the finger.

FREE FUEL

Early on Saturday in Far Rockaway, a coastal area of New York City devastated by the storm surge, more than 500 people lined up with empty fuel cans. Word had spread Friday night that a tanker truck carrying 8,000 gallons of free gasoline was to arrive around 10 a.m.

The fuel was delivered under the auspices of the Fuel Relief Fund and funded by an anonymous donor, according to two police officers on the scene.

More than a quarter of the gas stations in the New York metropolitan area did not have fuel available for sale on Friday, the same number as on Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

At the Inwood refinery in southern Queens, a line of more than a dozen tanker trucks stretched from the refinery entrance. Some drivers slept while they waited.

Seven tanker drivers, most of whom serve independent gas stations throughout Long Island and New York City, said the average wait in recent days to fill up their tankers was about 3 hours, and then another 90 minutes once they reached the pumps.

“We’re now lucky if we can get two runs in a day,” said Parkash Ram, 54, of Queens, who works for a trucking company that supplies independent gas stations on Long Island.

But there were signs fuel lines were starting to ease up. There were no gasoline lines reported at most gas stations in New Jersey as well in some places in Long Island.

COMMUNITIES ISOLATED

Bloomberg announced a day of service on Saturday and hundreds of volunteers helped stricken areas of the city.

On Staten Island, the New York City borough hit hardest by the storm, the sense of total material loss has settled in and residents were preparing their homes for demolition.

On Saturday, Yevgeniya Maltseva, 63, a Staten Island homeowner and medical office staffer was staying warm burning all five elements on her stove.

“We don’t have any info at all. Con Edison (the electric utility company) is not even picking up the phone,” she said.

On Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will visit Staten Island. Homes along the island’s south-eastern flank took the full brunt of the Atlantic storm surge.

Subway services to coastal areas were slowly being restored. Service to Coney Island resumed on Friday, but there was still no service to Far Rockaway. Widespread delays were reported on New Jersey commuter trains.

Many communities remain isolated. At a supermarket parking lot on East Park Avenue in Long Beach late Saturday afternoon, hundreds of weary residents were met with trucks carrying donated food and water, clean-up supplies and piles of clothes.

“Out here, time doesn’t mean anything anymore,” said Miles Rose, 58, an IT consultant from Long Beach. “You live by the sun, and when it goes down, the day is over and you go to bed. That’s how we live now.”

In New York’s Broad Channel community, there was a boat in the middle of a road with a sign that read: “Broad Channel – the forgotten town.”

On Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the deadline to February for New Yorkers who lost their income due to the storm to apply for federal assistance.

A boat belonging to Staten Island-based actor Clem Caserta called the “Jimmy Whispers” after a character Caserta played in Robert de Niro’s debut film “A Bronx Tale” was washed up in Harbortown, 20 miles south of Newark, New Jersey.

Sandy ripped some 300 feet of floating dock off its moorings on the Staten Island side of the Arthur Kill waterway, and pushed it about half a mile across the water along with a half dozen fishing boats.

There were 289,239 customers without power on Saturday in the states struck by Sandy, a drop of 144,901 from Friday, the U.S. Energy Department said. At the peak 8.5 million were without power.

(Additional reporting by Chris Francescani Lauren T. LaCapra, Jonathan Spicer, and Jonathan Leff; Editing by Jackie Frank and Todd Eastham)

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Edward Krudy | Reuters

Battered by storm, Staten Islanders feel forgotten.


RELATED CONTENT

NEW YORK (AP) — Gazing at her bungalow, swept from its foundation and tossed across the street, Janice Clarkin wondered if help would ever come to this battered island off the coast of Manhattan.

“Do you see anybody here?” she asked, resignation etched on her face. “On the news, the mayor’s congratulating the governor and the governor’s congratulating the mayor. About what? People died.”

Staten Island was devastated beyond recognition by superstorm Sandy and suffered the highest death toll of all of New York City’s boroughs, including two young brothers who were swept from their mother’s arms by the swirling sea and drowned. Yet days after the waters receded, residents feel ignored and forgotten.

That sense of isolation is deeply rooted on Staten Island, a tight-knit community that has long felt cut off from the bright lights of Manhattan.

“It’s always been that way. We’re a forgotten little island,” said Catherine Friscia, who stood with tear-filled eyes across the street from the Atlantic Ocean in front of homes filled with water and where the air smelled like garbage and rotting fish.

“Nobody pays attention to any of us over here.”

In the shadow of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, dazed survivors roamed Staten Island’s sand-covered streets amid ruined bungalows sagging under the weight of water that rose to the rooftops. Their contents lay flung in the street: Mud-soaked couches, stuffed animals and mattresses formed towering piles of wreckage. Boats were tossed like toys into roadways.

Residents washed their muddy hands with bottled water and handed out sandwiches to neighbors as they sifted through the soggy wreckage of their homes, searching for anything that could be salvaged. Spray-painted on the plywood that covered the first floor of one flooded home were the words: “FEMA CALL ME.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited Staten Island on Friday, touring a shelter and a Red Cross distribution center where storm victims lined up to get food, water and clothing. A short distance away, a long line of cars snaked down the street, waiting to get to one of the few gas stations with fuel.

“We know that Staten Island took a particularly hard hit from Sandy, so we want to make sure that the right resources are brought here as quickly as possible to help this community, which is so very strong, recover even more quickly,” said Napolitano, who was joined by Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern and Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro — who a day earlier had sharply criticized what he said was the Red Cross’s inadequate response in Staten Island.

Sticking together in the aftermath of the storm has kept Staten Islanders who lost everything from completely falling apart. Self-reliance is in their blood just as the island’s very geography lends itself to a feeling of isolation from the mainland: the only way to get on or off is by car, bus or ferry.

After the storm, residents who had evacuated had to wait four days until the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge finally reopened to the public.

Most of the deaths were clustered in beachfront neighborhoods exposed to the Atlantic Ocean along the island’s southeastern shore, an area of cinderblock bungalows and condominiums. Many of these homes were built decades ago — originally as summer cottages — and were not constructed to withstand the power of a major storm.

Diane Fieros wept as she recalled how she and her family survived by huddling on the third floor of their home across the street from the ocean, watching as the waves slammed into the house and the water rose higher and higher, shooting through cracks in the floor. A few blocks away, several people drowned.

“The deck was moving, the house was moving,” she said. “We thought we were going to die. We prayed. We all prayed.”

Fieros rode out the storm with her two sons, her parents and other extended family members. She pointed to a black line on the house that marked where the water rose: at least 12 feet above the ground.

“I told them, ‘We die, we die together,'” she said, her voice cracking. “You saw the waves coming. Oh my God.”

The storm has reopened old frictions among local officials who maintain Staten Island’s infrastructure remains inadequate and that it has little sway on City Council compared to the other, bigger boroughs. In 1997, Staten Islanders voted in favor of seceding from New York City and incorporating on its own, buoyed by a belief that the borough pays more in taxes than it receives in return and that it’s typically put last on the list for city services.

Molinaro suggested earlier this week that people should not donate money to the American Red Cross because that relief agency had neglected his borough. On Friday, however, he praised the Red Cross response and said he had spoken in anger.

“You see what the Red Cross is doing here today. They got 11 trucks out here For four days, this borough was cut off. No bridges, no way of getting off or on. Sometimes you get frustrated, you get angry. So I got angry, I was frustrated. I think they’re doing a good job,” Molinaro said.

The controversy surrounding this weekend’s New York City Marathon, which was cancelled Friday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, had special resonance among Staten Islanders. The lucrative race begins on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and would have brought nearly 50,000 runners to an area not far from the Staten Island neighborhoods where people died.

Resident George Rosado, 52, who spent two days scrubbing a thick layer of sludge from his tiled floors and was preparing to demolish the water-logged walls of his home, found the idea repulsive. Except for a lone hospital van offering bottled water and power bars, Rosado had seen no federal, state or local agencies in his neighborhood, which sits about a block from the ocean.

“Nothing, nothing,” he said, choking back tears. “We’re hit hard. Homes are washed away. People are dying. Look around. You hear anything? It’s quiet.”

The city’s tourism officials have long complained that Staten Island is the one borough that nobody wants to visit. But that has never bothered the half-million people who reside in this community, which is more suburban than urban and has a high concentration of police officers and firefighters.

It’s a place families are drawn to by the allure of having their own backyard and raising their children in a small-town atmosphere.

“We were all around family, you know what I’m saying?” said 68-year-old Joseph Miley, Clarkin’s cousin. “A person went away and there was always somebody here to watch their house, watch their animals.”

In fact, so many relatives lived on the same street that they jokingly referred to it as “The Compound.”

That’s all been wiped out now. The family’s mud-spattered possessions lie dumped on the street; their homes will be bulldozed.

Billy Hague, 30, described paddling around the neighborhood looking for his missing 85-year-old uncle, James Rossi, who refused to evacuate before the storm.

“I kayaked back to the house and broke the windows and got in the house trying to find him,” he said. “I found the dog, but I didn’t find him until the next day until the waters subsided.”

Rossi was among the 19 Staten Islanders claimed by the storm. His dog also drowned.

Hague, Clarkin and other now-homeless family members are bunking with relatives who live on higher ground, just beyond the reach of the devastating ocean waves. They have no idea where they will live. They do not have the money to rebuild their homes.

But they have each other. Amid the debris and the broken glass and the uprooted trees, an American flag blew in the breeze. Clarkin waved a dismissive hand at the scene of destruction. She considers herself one of the lucky ones.

“People perished,” she said. “This is stuff. That’s all.”

___

Associated Press writers Eileen A.J. Connelly and Michael Rubinkam contributed to this report.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By MEGHAN BARR | Associated Press

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