Michael Bloomberg

 

A firefighter surveys the smoldering ruins of a house in the Breezy Point section of New York, Tuesday. More than 50 homes were destroyed in a fire that swept through the oceanfront community during Super-storm Sandy.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Stripped of its bustle and mostly cut off from the world, New York was left wondering Tuesday when its particular way of life — carried by subway, lit by skyline and powered by 24-hour deli — would return.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the power company said it could be several days before the lights come on for hundreds of thousands of people plunged into darkness by what was once Hurricane Sandy.

And Bloomberg said it could be four or five days before the subway, which suffered the worst damage in its 108-year history, is running again. All 10 of the tunnels that carry New Yorkers under the East River were flooded.

Sandy killed 10 people in New York City. The dead included two who drowned in a home and one who was in bed when a tree fell on an apartment, the mayor said. A 23-year-old woman died after stepping into a puddle near a live electrical wire.

“This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced,” Bloomberg said.

For the 8 million people who live here, the city was a different place one day after the storm.

In normal times, rituals bring a sense of order to the chaos of life in the nation’s largest city: Stop at Starbucks on the morning walk with the dog, drop the kids off at P.S. 39, grab a bagel.

On Tuesday, those rituals were suspended, with little indication when they would come back. Schools were shut for a second day and were closed Wednesday, too.

Some bridges into the city reopened at midday, but service on the three commuter railroads that run between the city and its suburbs was still suspended.

The New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day, the first time that has happened because of weather since the 19th century, but said it would reopen on Wednesday.

Swaths of the city were not so lucky. Consolidated Edison, the power company, said it would be four days before the last of the 337,000 customers in Manhattan and Brooklyn who lost power have electricity again.

For the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Westchester County, with 442,000 outages, it could take a week, Con Ed said. Floodwater led to explosions that disabled a power substation on Monday night, contributing to the outages.

A fire destroyed as many as 100 houses in a flooded beachfront neighborhood in Queens. Firefighters said the water was chest-high on the street and they had to use a boat to make rescues.

The landscape of the city changed in a matter of hours.

The mayor said: “We will get through the days ahead by doing what we always do in tough times — by standing together, shoulder to shoulder, ready to help a neighbor, comfort a stranger and get the city we love back on its feet.”

NEW YORK — People waiting around in New York City hospitals for loved ones to come out of surgery can’t smoke. In a few months, they can’t have a supersized fast-food soda. And soon, they won’t even be able to get a candy bar out of the vending machine or a piece of fried chicken from the cafeteria.

In one of his latest health campaigns, Mayor Michael Bloomberg aims to banish sugary and fatty foods from both public and private hospitals.

In recent years, the city’s 15 public hospitals have cut calories in  meals and restricted sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks in vending machines. Now the city is tackling hospital cafeteria food.

And the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative is expanding its reach: In the past year, 16 private hospitals have signed on.

Earlier this month, the city moved to ban the sale of big sodas and other sugary drinks at fast-food restaurants and theaters. Critics say the hospital initiative is yet another sign that Bloomberg is running a “nanny state,” even though other cities, including Boston, have undertaken similar efforts.

Hospitals say it would be hypocritical of them to serve unhealthy food to patients who are often suffering from obesity and other health problems.

“If there’s any place that should not allow smoking or try to make you eat healthy, you would think it’d be the hospitals,” Bloomberg said.

The cafeteria crackdown will ban deep fryers, make salads a mandatory option and allow only healthy snacks to be stocked near the cafeteria entrance and at cash registers. At least half of all sandwiches and salads must be made or served with whole grains. Half-size sandwich portions must be available for sale.

Most hospitals have already overhauled their vending machines with two types of 12-ounce high-calorie beverages at each vending machine that must be featured on the lowest rack. Hospital vending machines have also swapped out most baked goods for snacks like granola bars and nuts.

At privately run Montefiore Medical Center, which operates several hospitals in the Bronx, changes have been under way for a couple of years.

“We took ice cream out of the cafeterias and began serving more whole grains,” said Dr. Andrew Racine, chief medical officer. “We changed white rice to brown rice.”

Herbert Padilla, a retired Manhattan hairdresser, was sitting a few feet from a giant coke machine Monday in an outpatient waiting area at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, where he was undergoing treatment for a nerve disorder. He said that in general, he supports efforts to keep people from overdosing on junk food, but “we shouldn’t be forced into this by a hospital.”

“The mayor is going too far with this. It’s ridiculous,” he said. “We’re being told what to eat and what to drink. We’re not living in a free country anymore.”

Printed on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 as: New York City mayor seeks healthy initiatives

NEW YORK — New York City’s mayor is facing off with Yale University over efforts by the NYPD to monitor Muslim student groups.

The Associated Press revealed Saturday that NYPD officers had kept close watch on websites and blogs maintained by Muslim student associations across the northeast U.S., and in one case sent an undercover officer on a rafting trip with students from the City College of New York.

Yale President Richard Levin said in a statement Monday that monitoring of students based on religion was “antithetical” to the schools’ values.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the practice. He says there is nothing wrong with officers keeping an eye on websites that are available to the general public.

He says, “I don’t know why keeping the country safe is antithetical to the values of Yale.”

The Stumpy Point Congregational Holiness Church is shown surrounded by water following the effects of Hurricane Irene in Stumpy Point, N.C. on Sunday. The storm that spent 12-hours scouring the North Carolina coast killed at least five people, brought pockets of flooding that required rescues along the sounds and left nearly a half-million customers without power. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Stripped of hurricane rank, Tropical Storm Irene spent the last of its fury Sunday, leaving treacherous flooding and millions without power — but an unfazed New York and relief that it was nothing like the nightmare authorities feared.

Slowly, the East Coast surveyed the damage, up to $7 billion by one private estimate, and worried of danger still lurking: the possibility of rivers and streams swelling with rainwater and overflowing over the next few days.

“This is not over,” President Barack Obama said from the Rose Garden.

Meanwhile, the nation’s most populous region looked to a new week and the arduous process of getting back to normal.

New York lifted its evacuation order for 370,000 people and said it hoped to have its subway, shut down for the first time by a natural disaster, rolling again Monday, though maybe not in time for the morning commute. Philadelphia restarted its trains and buses.

“All in all,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “we are in pretty good shape.”

At least 19 people died in the storm, most of them when trees crashed through roofs or onto cars.

The main New York power company, Consolidated Edison, didn’t have to go through with a plan to cut electricity to lower Manhattan to protect its equipment. Engineers had worried that salty seawater would damage the wiring.

And two pillars of the neighborhood came through the storm just fine: The New York Stock Exchange said it would be open for business on Monday, and the Sept. 11 memorial at the World Trade Center site didn’t lose a single tree.

The center of Irene passed over Central Park at midmorning with the storm packing 65 mph winds. By evening, with its giant figure-six shape brushing over New England and drifting east, it was down to 50 mph. It was expected to drift into Canada later Sunday or early Monday.

“Just another storm,” said Scott Beller, who was at a Lowe’s hardware store in the Long Island hamlet of Centereach, looking for a generator because his power was out.

The Northeast was spared the urban nightmare some had worried about — crippled infrastructure, stranded people and windows blown out of skyscrapers. Early assessments showed “it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said.

Later in the day, the extent of the damage became clearer. Flood waters were rising across New Jersey, closing side streets and major highways including the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 295. In Essex County, authorities used a five-ton truck to ferry people away from their homes as the Passaic River neared its expected crest Sunday night.

Twenty homes on Long Island Sound in Connecticut were destroyed by churning surf. The torrential rain chased hundreds of people in upstate New York from their homes and washed out 137 miles of the state’s main highway.

In Massachusetts, the National Guard had to help people evacuate. The ski resort town of Wilmington, Vt., was flooded, but nobody could get to it because both state roads leading there were underwater.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen in Vermont,” said Mike O’Neil, the state emergency management director.

Rivers roared in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In the Hudson Valley town of New Paltz, N.Y., so many people were gathering to watch a rising river that authorities banned alcohol sales and ordered people inside. And in Rhode Island, which has a geography thick with bays, inlets and shoreline, authorities were worried about coastal flooding at evening high tide.

The entire Northeast has been drenched this summer with what has seemed like relentless rain, saturating the ground and raising the risk of flooding, even after the storm passes altogether.

The storm system knocked out power for 4½ million people along the Eastern Seaboard. Power companies were picking through uprooted trees and reconnecting lines in the South and had restored electricity to hundreds of thousands of people by Sunday afternoon.

Under its first hurricane warning in a quarter-century, New York took extraordinary precautions. There were sandbags on Wall Street, tarps over subway grates and plywood on storefront windows.

The subway stopped rolling. Broadway and baseball were canceled.

With the worst of the storm over, hurricane experts assessed the preparations and concluded that, far from hyping the danger, authorities had done the right thing by being cautious.

Max Mayfield, former director of the National Hurricane Center, called it a textbook case.

“They knew they had to get people out early,” he said. “I think absolutely lives were saved.”

Mayfield credited government officials — but also the meteorologists. Days before the storm ever touched American land, forecast models showed it passing more or less across New York City.

“I think the forecast itself was very good, and I think the preparations were also good,” said Keith Seitter, director of the American Meteorological Society. “If this exact same storm had happened without the preparations that everyone had taken, there would have been pretty severe consequences.”

In the storm’s wake, hundreds of thousands of passengers still had to get where they were going. Airlines said about 9,000 flights were canceled. United, Continental, Delta and JetBlue said they planned to resume service into and out of New York on Monday, and in Boston on Monday. Philadelphia International Airport was reopening Sunday afternoon, but there were no departures scheduled yet and only a few arrivals.

In the South, authorities still were not sure how much damage had been done. North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said some parts of her state were unreachable. TV footage showed downed trees, toppled utility poles and power lines and mangled awnings.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell had initially warned that Irene could be a “catastrophic” monster with record storm surges of up to 8 feet. But the mayor Virginia Beach, Va., suggested on Twitter that the damage was not as bad as feared, as did the mayor of Ocean City, Md.

One of two nuclear reactors at Calvert Cliffs, Md., automatically went offline because of high winds. Constellation Energy Nuclear Group said the plant was safe.

In New York, some cabs were up to their wheel wells in water, and water rushed over a marina near the New York Mercantile Exchange, where gold and oil are traded. But the flooding was not extensive.

“Whether we dodged a bullet or you look at it and said, ‘God smiled on us,’ the bottom line is, I’m happy to report, there do not appear to be any deaths attributable to the storm,” Bloomberg said.

New York officials could not pinpoint when the trains would run again but warned that the Monday commute would be rough. The New York subway carries 5 million riders on an average weekday.

The casinos of Atlantic City, N.J., planned to reopen Monday at noon after state officials checked the integrity of the games, made sure the surveillance cameras work, and brought cash back into the cages under state supervision. All 11 casinos shut down for the storm, only the third time that has happened.

In Philadelphia, the mayor lifted the city’s first state of emergency since 1986. The storm was blamed for the collapses of seven buildings, but no one was hurt and everyone was accounted for. People kept their eyes on the rivers. The Schuylkill was expected to reach 15 feet.

The 19 deaths attributed to the storm included five in North Carolina, four in Virginia, three in Pennsylvania, two in New York, two in rough surf in Florida and one each in Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey.

In an early estimate, consulting firm Kinetic Analysis Corp. figured total losses from the storm at $7 billion, with insured losses of $2 billion to $3 billion. The storm will take a bite out of Labor Day tourist business from the Outer Banks to the Jersey Shore to Cape Cod.

Irene was the first hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States since 2008, and came almost six years to the day after Katrina ravaged New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005.

As the East Coast cleans up, it can’t afford to get too comfortable. Off the coast of Africa is a batch of clouds that computer models say will probably threaten the East Coast 10 days from now, Mayfield said. The hurricane center gave it a 40 percent chance of becoming a named storm over the next two days.

“Folks on the East Coast are going to get very nervous again,” Mayfield said.

Printed on Monday, August 29, 2011 as: Northeast deals with floods, power loss.