Cuomo: Sandy's NY tab to hit 'staggering' $33B

An insurance adjuster surveys a destroyed property on

An insurance adjuster surveys a destroyed property on River Road in Stony Point. He declined to give his name or the company he works for but said, "This reminds me of after [Hurricane] Katrina." (Nov. 8, 2012) (Credit: Angela Gaul)

The final tab for superstorm Sandy's damages and economic losses in New York State will reach a "staggering" $33 billion, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

Speaking at a news conference, the governor said the overall cost of the deadly storm for the affected states is an estimated $50 billion.

"That is a staggering number, especially with the financial situation we've been in," the governor said, referring to already tight budgets. "It's a tremendous undertaking . . .$33 billion is a lot of money."


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Cuomo said he will press the Federal Emergency Management Agency to foot the bill for most of the Sandy cleanup.

Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand Thursday urged Craig Fugate, administrator of FEMA, to include Orange and Putnam counties in its major disaster declaration, making the areas eligible for individual and public assistance for damage from Sandy.

"Hurricane Sandy's trail of destruction tore right through these Hudson Valley counties, leaving battered homes, roads and businesses in its wake," Gillibrand said in a statement.

CALL TO 'HARDEN' TRANSIT INFRASTRUCTURE

Cuomo also said the New York City metropolitan region's "archaic" transportation infrastructure must be "hardened" to avoid a repeat of the damage sustained from Sandy that struck on Oct. 29, leaving 100 dead in 10 states and hundreds of thousands still without power and struggling to find gasoline.

Mass transit systems and tunnels fell victim to flooding from the storm's tidal surges and gasoline supplies were disrupted by widespread power outages and delays in delivering fuel.

"Our transportation system is vulnerable. Our fuel delivery system is vulnerable," said Cuomo, describing them as the "circulatory system" of the region that can too easily be crippled.

"Look how fast you can shut down the region, just by shutting town the pumps," he said, adding that officials must examine what, where and how to rebuild infrastructure so the region is not hampered in the future.

Gasoline shortages are "more of a problem in New York City and on Long Island than in Westchester, Rockland, Orange and the northern suburbs because there are no long lines there and people aren't panicking" and hoarding, Cuomo said.

On Friday, both tubes of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, an East River crossing flooded by the storm, will reopen to all traffic at 6 a.m., Cuomo said. The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel (aka Brooklyn Battery Tunnel), however, will remain closed indefinitely.

NOR'EASTER'S DOUBLE WHAMMY

The governor's comments came after a snow-laden nor'easter laid a thick white, wet coat of woe on the region Wednesday.

The latest storm forced flight cancellations, stalled power restoration efforts and slowed commuters.

Snowplows were pushing piles of wet snow and drivers were clearing their windshields and rolling through rivers of melting slush on side streets in the wake of the surprise November snowstorm that dumped 2-6 inches on the region, according to News12 meteorologist Brysen VanEck.

"This has been unbelievable," said one man interviewed by News12 as he surveyed the snow. "I've been around for 70 some odd years and this has been really incredible. I don't remember anything like this."

As the sloppy snowstorm intensified, the power went out -- again -- at Sunnyside Manor. The 12-story co-op at 2 Sunnyside Dr., Yonkers, lost its electricity at around 8:15 p.m. when a transformer blew.

"I heard a loud bang, looked up and the lights were out," said Louie Linary, the building superintendent. One resident had to be rescued from a stuck elevator but otherwise, the building's many elderly cooperators managed to get through the night. Sunnyside's power, initially cut by Sandy, and was first restored a few days ago.

The lights and heat came on again at about 9 a.m. Thursday. "I'm very happy for all of us," said Mary Sutton, 89. "Last night, we had nothing . . . But we survived, said our prayers and hoped for the best."

Though major thoroughfares had few delays by midmorning Thursday, the Taconic State Parkway, the Saw Mill River Parkway and Executive Drive in Yonkers were scenes of chaos Wednesday night as the icy roads created massive tie-ups.

Sue Stepp, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation's Region 8, which is responsible for the Hudson Valley's 5,696 miles of state road, said the department was prepared, but the storm's timing created complications.

"We applied salt to the roads as soon as the snow started and we started plowing when the snow began accumulating," she said.

But the timing of the storm, which peaked at the height of rush hour, hindered efforts to get salt spreaders and plows on every road, she said.

EVENING RUSH HOUR SHOULD BE NORMAL

Scores of school districts in the region, including those in Yonkers and White Plains, announced delayed openings Thursday, but most should be operating on normal schedules Friday.

At Rockland County's South Orangetown district, schools remained on regular schedule despite the snow, and parents voiced relief. Those still without power wanted to send their kids to a warm classroom and others were just tired of having the children at home.

"Everybody just didn't want today to be a snow day," said Heidi Garner, South Orangetown Community Elementary Schools PTA president.

At Westchester County Airport, all morning departures were canceled until 8 a.m., when normal service resumed. At Stewart International Airport, overnight flights were canceled, but regular service resumed at 10 a.m. The major New York City airports -- Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark -- were experiencing delays Thursday. Travelers should check with their carriers.

Metro-North customers encountered some delays Thursday morning, but the evening commute was expected to be normal.

UTILITIES RESUME WORK

Con Edison spokesman Alfonso Quiroz said the storm forced the utility to pull back repair crews Wednesday, but they were back on the job Thursday.

"When there are high winds coming, you don't want to have crews in bucket trucks," he said.

The nor'easter added about 3,000 new outages in New York City and Westchester to those remaining from Sandy, Quiroz said.

In total, 38,570 customers in the Hudson Valley -- 35,000 in Westchester County -- remained without power Thursday, according to the governor. O&R tallied 3,400 Rockland and 700 Orange customers still without power. The utility is aiming to mop up nearly all the remaining outages by day's end Saturday.

During his news conference, Cuomo renewed his attack on utility companies, which have been the target of officials' and customers' ire because of delays in restoring power.

He called for a "groundup redesign" of the "archaic" system and characterized the utility companies as "nameless, faceless" bureaucracies.

WARMER, STORM-FREE WEEK AHEAD

As temperatures climbed to the mid-40s Thursday, VanEck forecast a storm-free week ahead. Temperatures are expected to climb into the 50s and 60s for Friday, Saturday Sunday, into next week.

With Betty Ming Liu and Meghan Murphy

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