NYC opens service centers for Sandy victims

A disaster-relief center in Far Rockaway. (Nov. 13, A disaster-relief center in Far Rockaway. (Nov. 13, 2012) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

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New York City has opened new disaster-relief centers, bringing a variety of services such as financial and temporary housing assistance under one roof to help residents most impacted by superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday.

Four of the seven "restoration centers" up and running Tuesday are in Staten Island, Far Rockaway, Queens, and Brooklyn's Coney Island and Gravesend neighborhoods.

Three more offices will open later in the week in Breezy Point on the Rockaway peninsula, Brooklyn's Red Hook and Throgs Neck in the Bronx.

"We are taking our ongoing relief efforts an important step further by setting up one-stop city offices that make it simpler and more convenient for New Yorkers get the help they need," Bloomberg said in a news conference at the Far Rockaway center. "The restoration centers will be an invaluable resource for the New Yorkers most impacted by the storm -- and for the communities hit hardest."

Whitney Goosby, 42, a school bus driver from Far Rockaway, said he stopped by Tuesday, hoping to find free services that would help him clean and fix his two-story house, which was partially destroyed by floodwater.

Goosby, who shook Bloomberg's hands after the news conference, had no idea the mayor was in town.

"I didn't get the help I was looking for," Goosby said afterward. "My thing is that they were pushing for us to get loans."

Electricity was turned on in Goosby's home Tuesday for the first time since Sandy upended his family's life. Goosby, his wife, their three sons and his mother have been living with his brother in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.

Goosby is hoping he and his family could move back home and live on the second floor while they wait for his insurance company to assess the damage.

Meanwhile, at the news conference, Bloomberg also said gas rationing, imposed last Friday, will remain in effect for another five days and he will re-evaluate the situation then.

"But there's certainly no reason to cancel it," Bloomberg said. "Things seem to be getting better and I don't want to upset the apple cart as we go along."

Tuesday, the City Council approved Bloomberg's request for $500 million to repair 37 school buildings and city hospitals damaged during the storm. The city will borrow the money, which will come out of the 2013 capital budget.

Bloomberg said he anticipates the federal government will reimburse the city.

"This funding will help to repair facilities that are urgently needed so that patients have a place to be cared for, and so our students will have a place to learn," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

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