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Obama Tours City's Hard-Hit Areas, Names Former HPD Head To Lead Rebuilding Effort

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TWC News: Obama Tours City's Hard-Hit Areas, Names Former HPD Head To Lead Rebuilding Effort
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President Barack Obama on Thursday toured some of the city's hardest hit areas from the storm and also announced a native New Yorker will be the point-person in the effort to rebuild.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan will be in charge of coming up with a long-term recovery plan.

Donovan, the former head of the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, will be working with city, state and local officials to come up with what the president called an "effective plan".

The president also promised to work with Congress to come up with the resources necessary to support it.

President Obama arrived on Staten Island via helicopter just before noon.

He then took an aerial tour of parts of Queens and Brooklyn that were hard hit by the storm.

The president also met with families on Staten Island, and thanked local officials and first responders for their work.

The president was joined by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

This is the president's second visit to the region since the storm.

He visited New Jersey and met with Governor Chris Christie two days after the storm.

While on Staten Island, Obama visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency's operation at Miller Field in the New Dorp section of Staten Island.

The president also recognized one of Staten Island's first responders who helped a family while their sons were missing after the storm.

Damien and Glenda Moore's two young boys, Connor and Brendan, were swept up by the flood waters during Sandy.

46-year-old Lt. Kevin Gallagher of the NYPD stayed with the family during the search until their bodies were found days later.

Obama, who met with the family during his trip, said the Moores asked him to recognize Gallagher's work during his speech.

“That's not in the job description of Lt. Gallagher," Obama said. "He did that because that's what so many of our first responders do. They go above and beyond the call of duty to respond to people in need."

During his 24-years with the NYPD, Gallagher has earned 64 police medals.


Power Outages Latest

Although the city announced Tuesday night that the remaining 402 New York City Housing Authority properties without power had their electricity restored, some residents of the Red Hook Houses are still dealing with spotty electrical service.

The housing authority said this is because there's a delay between power restoration and its actual return due to damaged circuits.

They say in some cases, walls need to be demolished before everything can be fixed, slowing down the work.

They say while that work is ongoing, power will be intermitent.

Speaking on "The Call" Wednesday night, NYCHA General Manager Cecil House said that the authority had to take down electricity to about 95 apartments to make repairs to improvements put in place over the last few days.

Approximately 14,500 residents in 76 NYCHA buildings still have no heat or hot water, the housing authority said Thursday.

NYCHA said they were able to restore heat and hot water Wednesday to five buildings (one in the Red Hook West development, three in the Red Hook East development and one in the Surfside Gardens development).

NYCHA said Thursday that they are in the process of connecting and testing temporary boilers to bring heat and hot water to the remaining buildings. They say they hope to restore service to all this week.

NYCHA officials also said that by Thursday afternoon, power was restored to 651 of 699 elevators affected by Sandy.

Knickerbocker Village officials say that power to all homes in Knickerbocker Village was restored at approximately 4 p.m. Thursday.

Tenants of those buildings say while they're grateful the power is back on, getting heat and hot water is still an issue.

There are also reported problems with the drinking water in the 12-building-complex.

"We had some hot water and now there are boiler issues that remain and we're without hot water," said one resident.

"The drinking water is still coming out brown," said another resident. "I don't know why. I don't understand that."

Building management says all units should have full heat and hot water by Saturday.

Residents will not pay rent for any days during which they did not have full essential services.

Managment says it's also providing supplies such as water and meals.

Meantime, Con Ed says it will not pay residential claims for food and medicine that spoiled as a result of Sandy.

The utility says because the hurricane was beyond its control it is not responsible for property damage and other losses like food and prescription medicine.

Con Ed's website does say you can file a claim if you lost items as a result of a power outage. But a disclaimer at the top of the page states the company is not responsible for items lost during Hurricane Sandy.

The company is taking this position even for customers in areas where it chose to shut down power.

Con Ed says that too is storm-related, because the pre-emptive shutdowns were intended to minimize damage.

National Grid's workers' union is suing the utility for not doling out overtime pay from Hurricane Sandy.

The union says the storm coincided with the implementation of a new payroll system and says workers were not properly trained on how to use it.

Now, nearly three weeks after Sandy, workers have only received their regular 40-hour pay.

"People are working an incredible amount of hours to help people get their gas and electric back on line, and these people are out there working working very hard," said John Malone of Local 101 of the Transport Workers Union of America. "They want to keep working to get this all done, but when the company isn't supporting them, you know, they're spending all this time away from their family and then when they try to get compensated for that, they're hitting a brick wall."

The company responded to the lawsuit Thursday, saying it is quickly addressing the issue and all affected employees will get their overtime pay as soon as possible.


Traffic & Transit Latest

On Thursday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared that the Queens Midtown Tunnel is reopening to trucks at 6 a.m. Friday.

The tunnel, which flooded following Sandy, was previously opened to buses on November 6 and cars on November 9.

It took five days to pump out the water from the tunnel's twin tubes.

With subway service largely restored, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is now focusing on the hardest hit parts of its system in lower Manhattan and the Rockaways.

R train service in lower Manhattan remains suspended.

The MTA says repairs on the tunnel connecting the R line with Brooklyn could take weeks.

Number 1 train service to South Ferry could take even longer after that station was flooded floor to ceiling.

Southbound trains now terminate at Rector Street.

There's also no word on when J and Z service south of Chambers Street will be restored.

In Queens, the MTA says it will take months to rebuild the bridge connecting the A train from Howard Beach to the Rockaways.

For now, a shuttle bus is transporting commuters from Mott Avenue to the Howard Beach stop.

Meanwhile, there's some good news for Rockaways residents commuting to Manhattan using the city's new ferry service.

Starting Thursday, ferry riders can park for free at a lot across from the landing on Beach 108th Street and Beach Channel Drive.

The ferry service launched on Monday as crews work to bring the A Train back to the peninsula.

It runs during morning rush hours to Pier 11 near Wall Street with return service available in the evening.

A one-way ticket costs $2 and includes a free transfer to the East 34th Street Pier.


Alternate-Side Parking Suspended In Certain Neighborhoods

Alternate-side parking resumed in most parts of the city on Wednesday, but the city Departments of Transportation and Sanitation say it is suspended indefinitely in parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

On Thursday, DOT officials announced that alternate-side parking regulations are reinstated immediately in parts of Brooklyn Community Board 6 east of Hamilton Avenue, which includes the neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Gowanus and Cobble Hill.

DOT officials said Thursday that alternate-side parking regulations remain suspended indefinitely in areas of Brooklyn Community Board 6 west of and including Hamilton Avenue, which includes the neighborhood of Red Hook.

Other areas where alternate-side parking remains suspended include Brooklyn Community Board 18, which covers Canarsie, Bergen Beach, Mill Basin, Flatlands, Marine Park, Georgetown and Mill Island; Brooklyn Community Board 13, which represents Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Sea Gate; Brooklyn Community Board 15, which includes Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach and Gerritsen Beach and Homecrest; and Queens Community Board 14, which covers the Rockaways.

Staten Island does not normally have alternate-side parking.


Response and Relief

With temporary housing hard to come by, the federal government is hiring an army of private contractors to do basic repairs to homes badly damaged by the storm.

Under the new FEMA program, contractors will do basic electrical and structural repairs.

The idea is to make the homes liveable while residents wait for permanent repairs.

FEMA officials say they are prepared to pay thousands of dollars per home under the program designed specifically for New York.

You can register your home for disaster assistance by contacting 1-800-621-FEMA.

Licensed contractors and inspectors also began fanning out across some of the hardest-hit areas of the city Tuesday as part of an effort to speed up repairs for homeowners affected by Sandy.

View a list of ways to help local Sandy relief efforts.

The Rapid Repairs program is designed to speed up the repair and permit process.

Contractors will choose the electricians, plumbers, and other subcontractors to do the work.

Under the typical process by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, homeowners have to arrange their own repairs. However, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the Rapid Repairs process will get New Yorkers back into their homes faster.

To take part in the program, homeowners must have a FEMA ID number which can be obtained at disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362.

Homeowners can also get a FEMA ID number at one of the city's restoration centers, which are providing a wide range of emergency and long-term assistance services all under one roof.

They are located in Coney Island at Our Lady of Solace, in Gravesend at the SSA Building, in Far Rockaway at 10-01 Beach 20th St, and on Staten Island at 1976 Hylan Boulevard.

The city says that additional centers are now open in Red Hook at 85 Richards St and in Fort Tilden at 321 Rockaway Point Blvd. In addition, the city says another center in Throgs Neck-Pelham Bay is scheduled to open next week.

The centers are open until 8 p.m.

View a list of city restoration centers.

FEMA has approved more than $400 million in storm aid for housing and other aid for Sandy victims in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

To find a FEMA disaster recovery center near you, visit fema.gov.


More City Schools Open

Meanwhile, more storm-damaged city schools reopened their doors Tuesday. Fifteen schools serving 6,000 students are back online, though some are still running on generators.

The New York City Department of Education says 33 schools, serving approximately 15,000 students, remain in their relocated sites.

The DOE says that students at I.S. 211 John Wilson are returning to their regular building in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn on Thursday.

According to the DOE, water was pumped from and fuel oil was cleaned from the building. A temporary boiler was also installed at the school.

Shuttle buses are being provided for all kindergarten through eighth grade students.

City officials say they are hopeful that 31 of those locations will be up and running by the end of the month.

Repairs at the other six locations may not be complete until next year.

For more information, visit schools.nyc.gov.


Gas Rationing End Date Unclear

Bloomberg said the city's odd-even gas rationing seems to have eased the post-Sandy pain at the pump, but it's not clear when it will end.

The rationing system took effect Friday after the storm disrupted the area's fuel distribution network.

Wait times for gas have diminished from hours to minutes in many places.

The mayor says he plans to leave the system in place for now.

New Jersey ended its rationing Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the state is launching an investigation into 13 gas stations, including six in the city, for price gouging after Sandy.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his office notified the stations, including a Brooklyn Sonomax, of his intent to start proceedings.

Schneiderman said they violated the state's price gouging statute, which prohibits businesses to jack up prices during a crisis.

He said complaints claim prices shot well over $5.50 a gallon at some gas stations.

Two other stations in the Bronx and three in Queens are also being investigated.

The attorney general said this is the first in a series of steps his office will take to investigate hundreds of complaints of price gouging he received.

Both Mobil and Shell told NY1 their stations are independently owned and that the stations, not the companies, set the prices.

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