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A judge ruled on Wednesday for the city to extend its hotel program for displaced victims of Hurricane Sandy. The city had originally planned on kicking remaining 196 evacuess out of hotels on April 30 but an extensionwill give victims until May 15. Five Sandy evacuees filed a lawsuit to gain the extension on Monday. The city Department of Homeless Services provided hotel rooms to victims who did not qualify for the FEMA hotel program. The FEMA program had previously been extended untill May 29.

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The state has reimbursed New York City $47 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency-approved funds for the costs of a program that helped homeowners recover from Hurricane Sandy.

The Rapid Repairs program assessed damage to properties and provided eligible repairs such as restoring heat, hot water and electricity.

"I am pleased to direct these funds back to the Department of Environment Protection for the work that was carried out under the Rapid Repair Program, which was then developed by the State and FEMA into the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) Pilot Program for similar needs beyond New York City," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg used his statement on the reimbursement to rebuff criticism that the city should have provided temporary housing for people whose homes were too devastated to live in or whose homes were infested with mold. Rapid Repairs did not deal with mold infestation.

“Rapid Repairs – which restored heat, hot water and electricity free-of-charge – provided homeowners with an important head-start in the recovery process, which is still far from over," Bloomberg said in a statement. "As we continue the hard work of recovery and rebuilding, there is no doubt that helping people get back into their housing via Rapid Repairs was a better use of taxpayer money than a massive temporary housing program. I want to thank the entire team at FEMA who worked with us to make the program possible, and these reimbursements, along with the first round of Federal aid, will ensure the City can continue to address housing, business and infrastructure needs in the hardest hit communities.”

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The federal government has approved the state's plan for spending $1.7 billion in funds to help communities rebuild from Superstorm Sandy.

New York City is covered by a separate plan that officials say was submitted this week and will be approved soon.

Congress approved a plan setting aside $50.5 billion in Sandy relief for all impacted states. New York is expected to get around $30 billion of those funds eventually.

The state's plan provides block grant funds that are designed to be more flexible than other FEMA loans and insurance plans. "We got to communities and we say, 'You tell us what you need to restore your community,'" Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference earlier today announcing the federal government's approval of the state plan.

He was joined at the press conference by Shaun Donovan, the secretaroy of Housing and Urban Development, and Sen. Chuck Schumer.

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Some residents in the Rockaway penninsula of Queens remain literally disconnected after Hurricane Sandy.

The 1,800-unit housing project Ocean Bay Apartments was one of the last two New York City Housing Authority buildings to regain power in late December, but local Councilman Donovan Richards says hundreds of his constituents are still waiting for phone service to return.

Despite the lack of landline service, Richards said that many of the residents have told him they are still receiving bills from Verizon. What they're not getting, he added, is any notice about when they can expect their phone lines to work again.

"This is a communication company," he said. "They should be able to communicate."

Richards said that a few of his constituents have continued to pay for the last five months of nonexistent phone service, including elderly residents who don't have access to wireless technology.

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The Office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is making it easy for New Yorkers to track what the state is spending on Hurricane Sandy relief.

DiNapoli ordered all storm expenditures to be expedited and is keeping a very prominent list on his webpage of all the contracts that have been approved, how much money was spent, what it was for and who was contracted.

You can check out the database here. If you see anything interesting, don't hesitate to let us know in the comments section or over social media.

Here is an accounting of last month's contracts:

02/22/2013 Cascade Water Services Inc. OGS $175,000 Clean HVAC duct systems, South Beach PC
02/21/2013 WW Grainger DHSES $299,192 Generators, heaters & accessories
02/19/2013 Imperial Restrooms, Inc. DHSES $221,244 Rent portable shower trailers & water tanks
02/13/2013 Teledyne Paradise Datacom, LLC DHSES $66,046 Satellite Modems
02/13/2013 Standard Textile Corp DHSES $89,200 Pillows
02/13/2013 CDW Governement DHSES $71,515 Cameras, ink, printer & accessories
02/13/2013 Audio Video Corp DHSES $146,144 Wireless video system
02/12/2013 Garner Environmental Services DHSES $1,007,087 Pumps and Hoses
02/12/2013 Skyworks LLC DHSES $245,240 Light towers
02/12/2013 Jeres Hardware DHSES $315,029 Generators
02/11/2013 One Power Solutions DHSES $334,107 Mobile water purification unit
02/11/2013 Stone Industries DHSES $235,500 Toilet rentals
02/07/2013 Certified Stainless Service DHSES $137,600 Potable water transport vehicle
02/07/2013 Innotech Products DHSES $70,234 Heater meals
02/07/2013 Innotech Products DHSES $161,302 Heater meals
02/07/2013 WW Grainger DHSES $74,880 Chainsaws
02/07/2013 The Sandbagger Corp. DHSES $51,910 Motorized auger w/chutes, sandbags
02/07/2013 Jeres Hardware DHSES $283,814 Generators
02/07/2013 Jeres Hardware DHSES $132,176 Generators
02/07/2013 Airgas Carbonic DHSES $116,013 Dry ice
02/06/2013 Imperial Restrooms, Inc. DHSES $545,693 Rentals of shower trailers, water tanks & generators
02/04/2013 RRS Construction Corp. OGS $300,000 Restore sewer plant services - Jones Beach SP
02/04/2013 Square One Construction Services Inc. OGS $300,000 Repair building structures - Belmont Lake SP
02/04/2013 Square One Construction Services Inc. OGS $100,000 Repair greenhouse, replace glass - Planting Fields Arboretum
02/04/2013 N/A DMNA $572,234 Emergency payroll, 313 employees, Jan 9 - Jan 22, 2013

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State Looks For Quick Action on Gun Laws

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to toughen New York's gun laws and according to The Times Union Cuomo wants to do it as soon as next week. A source told the times union that a gubernatorial aide presented Senate Republicans with a draft of proposed gun legislation on Wednesday but Republicans turned it down. Republicans deny turning down any legislation. A myriad of Assemblyman have confirmed they were asked to stay in Albany on Wednesday in case a special session came to fruition this week but now all eyes or on Dec. 28. Cuomo has said he will address the issue of gun violence in his Jan. 9 State of the State Address but with the action in Albany it seems like something could happen much sooner. Cuomo has said he wants to eliminate loopholes in the state's assault weapons ban. Meanwhile, the Times Union reports that the same venue Cuomo will give his State of the State address in next year will also scheduled to host a gun show two weeks after the speech.




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Legislation aimed at fortifying the city's infrastructure to withstand future extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy has been introduced into the City Council.

"Before we see another Hurricane Sandy hit our five boroughs, we must ensure our shoreline, our streets, our transportation system, our electrical system — every part of our city's foundation and groundwork is fully prepared," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn before the legislation was introduced. "If we want to protect our neighborhoods and prevent and limit future devastation, we have to act now."

They mayor's office said it was reviewing the bills.

The Council also announced a series of oversight hearings to look at the city's response to Sandy, scheduled to begin in January.

When asked whether the Council would look at the question of whether some rebuilding along the shoreline should be reconsidered, Quinn said it was a debate worth having.

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The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and more than 100 influential business leaders called on the U.S. Congress to decide on $60 billion in aid for Superstorm Sandy relief before the holidays begin. The governors said Congress had taken longer to approve aid to their states than it had for relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Business executives also wrote a letter to congressional representatives. "We believe that failure to expeditiously fund storm relief and recovery will severely weaken this region and worsen our nation's overall fiscal condition," they wrote.

In the Press...

Utilities To Give Rebates For Lost Service During Sandy (Associated Press)

Republican Senator Who Voted For Gay Marriage Concedes (Gotham Gazette)

Countdown 'Til Senate Democrats Pick a New Leader? (Gotham Gazette)

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Senate Republicans and members of the Independent Democrats will gather in Queens today for the first meeting of the Bipartisan Senate Task Force on Hurricane Sandy — and they have invited a couple of members of the Democratic conference as well.

"There isn't any room for poltical differences," said Queens Sen. Joe Addabbo who is a member of the Demcoratic conference. "We have no room for that when there are still 10,000 without power in the Rockaways."

Addabbo will be just one of a number of legislators who have seen their districts ravaged by the storm. From Staten Island to Long Island, the senators who will gather in the Rockaways today represent areas that need immediate attention.

Sens. James Sanders, Dean Skelos, Diane Savino, Andrew Lanza, Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, Martin Golden and Charles Fuschillo have been confirmed for the gathering. The group will tour the Rockaways and then meet with community leaders.

Addabbo says it will be the task force's job to keep the Legisalture connected to the areas and constituents that need the most help.

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On Friday, President Obama asked Congress for $60.4 billion in Sandy aid for New York, New Jersey and other states. Nearly $48 billion of it would go to relief, while the rest would be used for mitigation of future storms. To further help recovery efforts, two U.S. senators have also proposed billions in tax breaks, a plan modeled after a Katrina bill. Meanwhile, a relief fund set up by Gov. Cuomo has been criticized for the political nature of the board that oversees the money it raises. Many members were involved in fundraising for the governor's election campaign. In related news, a number of the area's non-Sandy related charities have seen a drop in donations since the storm hit.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday that the city would rethink evacuation zones, electrical infrastructure, telecommunications networks, hospitals and transportations systems after Superstorm Sandy caused billions of dollars in damage, paralyzed communities and killed dozens of people.

But Bloomberg said that his administration would not abandon the waterfront and dismissed the possibility of building sea walls to hold back the ocean. Instead, he said the city would look at "coastline protections" such as berms, dunes, jetties and levies.

"No matter how much we do to make homes and businesses more resilient, the fact of the matter is we live next to the ocean, and the ocean comes with risks that we just cannot eliminate," the mayor said.

Bloomberg outlined the post-Sandy plan, his first major address since the storm, at a Lower Manhattan event, where former Vice President Al Gore also made an appearance and praised the mayor's previous efforts to respond to the effects of climate change.

In the Press...

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Obama Expected to Ask For $50 Billion in Storm Aid


Preisdent Barack Obama is expected to ask Congress for about $45 to $50 billion in storm aid reports The New York Times. That figure is far below the $82 billion requested by New York, New Jersey at Connecticut “While $50 billion is a significant amount of money, it unfortunately does not meet all of New York and New Jersey’s substantial needs,” Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York and Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, all Democrats, said in a joint statement. The storm aid may get tangled up in the battle between President Barack Obama and Republican legislators over debt and tax rates.

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Faith leaders working with Occupy Sandy on Hurricane Sandy relief efforts plan to converge on the residence of Mayor Michael Bloomberg to demand that the city provide temporary housing for those displaced by the storm or those living in unsafe conditions.

The rally in front of the mayor's office is expected to begin at 11 a.m. today.

As we reported Monday, elected officials say FEMA is considering renting empty apartments and housing those in need of safe refuge because of damage done to their homes by Sandy — especially in neighborhoods in the Rockaways.

Housing conditions are deteriorating in the communities on the peninsula as mold continues to grow unchecked in many homes, while still others remain without heat and power.

Grassroots groups have been protesting the lack of temporary housing for weeks now and the movement seems to be growing.

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Gov. Cuomo says he's optimistic about his meetings yesterday with the White House and Congressional leaders where he pressed for aid to help rebuild from Superstorm Sandy. Congress and the president are currently trying to agree on how to avoid a possible fiscal crisis next month. The disaster aid will most likely be tied to those talks. Some in Congress have suggested the aid be offset by cuts elsewhere, a move that would put the money at risk. This is the first time Cuomo has visited Washington since being elected. Mayor Bloomberg made a similar visit last week. New Jersey is also seeking about $37 billion in aid.

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As politicians begin taking more seriously the possible construction of a sea barrier, Gov. Cuomo will travel to Washington today seeking over $40 billion in aid -- a large chunk of which will go towards protection from future storms. The Washington Post backed up similar thinking, calling big spending on preparation well worth it. But of course, planning will be difficult, and it's much more complicated than just walling of the city from nature. Future development should come into consideration; like new plans for Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. Some say the park's role as natural buffer against flooding would be compromised by the proposed stadiums and malls. And then there's the gas pipeline planned for construction under The Rockaways. Environmentalists say flooding in the area threatens its stability.

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Hypothermia, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning on the Rise


Following Hurricane Sandy the City has seen a rise in carbon monoxide poisoning and hypothermia cases due to city residents living in unheated homes, or simply living on the street. The New York Times reports that the number of cold-exposure cases tripled after Sandy as compared to the same time frame last year. The City Health Department issued a letter warning doctors and health care providers of the issue. Carbon monoxide poisoning was 10-times higher the week of Hurricane Sandy and continued at an elevated rate due to people heating their homes with unsafe alternative methods. The findings seem to give further weight to recent pleas from advocates for the city to deploy temporary housing in areas hard-hit by Sandy.




In the Press...

Bloomberg Lobbies Washington For Storm Aid (NY Times)

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The numbers Gov. Cuomo used to argue that Sandy had more of an impact than Katrina left some room for debate. In 2006, HUD put the number of damaged homes in Louisiana at 515,249, not 215,000, as the governor had implied. That brings the damage close to the final count of 550,000 damaged homes they expect to find in New York. There were also many times more businesses impacted by Katrina than the figure Cuomo used. And of course deaths caused by the Southern storm were staggering compared to the loss of life in the New York area.

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Gov. Cuomo said Hurricane Sandy affected more people than Katrina in his plea for nearly $42 billion in federal aid. He noted many more died in Katrina, but that the economic toll of Sandy was higher, reaching almost $33 billion in clean up costs. The aid request from Cuomo grew from his previous plea for $30 billion.The aid would be used to cover damage and restoration, but $9 billion of it would be used to prepare for future storms. Mayor Bloomberg is making his own plea for nearly $10 billion in aid. State health officials are also asking for almost a half-billion dollars in special Medicaid funding for hospitals, nursing homes and clinics affected by the storm.

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Weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit, the stories of people unable to stay in their apartments because landlords have yet to make repairs are still commonplace.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to put an end to that and is pushing landlords to act and wants to make sure they know the city is offering them the resources to make their apartments liveable again.

As we reported last week, groups in the Rockaways are concerned about the number of displaced residents who may be at the mercy of the increasingly cold weather and say they are concerned about hypothermia and other conditions that are exacerbated by exposure.

“As the weather gets colder, we cannot stress enough the importance of making sure those who are living in homes or apartments without heat get to a warmer place,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley in a statement. “Prolonged exposure to cold is not just uncomfortable, it is dangerous, especially for infants, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases.”

The Bloomberg administraion reminds landlords they have two options to repair their properties:

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Gov. Cuomo's response to Superstorm Sandy has earned him high approval ratings, despite some mistakes -- such as his failure to reform the state-controlled Long Island Power Authority since he took office. But he has begun making up for another misstep, and will meet today with the state’s Congressional delegation to discuss his request for federal recovery aid. He had been criticized for not coordinating with them. Meanwhile, the state will use a federal grant to hire over 5,000 unemployed New Yorkers in temporary positions to help clean up after the storm. Also, Cuomo has said he won't raise taxes to cover losses resulting from Sandy.

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