Officials: Nor'easter could strain city further
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A battered New York City continued post-Sandy cleanup efforts Monday while bracing for another powerful storm that officials said could put more strain on emergency services already stretched thin.
Police patrols in areas flooded by Sandy broadcast pleas over their car loudspeakers to vulnerable residents last night to find shelter before the storm hits Wednesday.
Hopefully it will be some place "safe and warm," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during his daily Sandy briefing.
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Preparations for the approaching nor'easter came as residents of hard-hit boroughs like Staten Island and Queens continued painfully slow recovery efforts, grade schools started reopening and more residents had their power restored.
Bloomberg said the supply of gasoline was increasing, but long lines persisted at gas stations and a police officer was being posted at each open station in the city to maintain order.
Flooded public housing projects have been pumped out and the city might not need to use temporary trailers for housing, Bloomberg said at a Brooklyn daily briefing.
There will be no recycling pickup until further notice as sanitation workers concentrate on removing debris from flooded areas, he said.
During a tour Monday of hard-hit areas of the Rockaways, Coney Island and Lower Manhattan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, said federal agencies have already distributed nearly $200 million in FEMA disaster relief claims.
She warned area residents to make preparations for the next storm even as they try to recover from Sandy. The storm is expected to bring heavy rains and cold winds to the tri-state area. Another dangerous tidal surge is possible, forecasters have said.
"As much as has been done, we know a nor'easter is coming our way," said Napolitano during a stop at a FEMA staging center in the parking lot of the Brooklyn Cyclones stadium on Surf Avenue, where food and supplies were being distributed. Attendance at school Monday was 86.3 percent, Bloomberg said, about the same as on the Monday before Election Day last year. He said 16 schools are being used as shelters and in coming days the shelter populations may be moved to keep them separate from students.
City schools are closed Tuesday for the elections.
There had been progress in restoring light and heat at public housing projects. Some 402 buildings operated by the New York City Housing Authority lost power; 114 are still out, impacting around 140,000 people, Bloomberg said.
"I am very optimistic on us getting back, not every one, but most of the public housing buildings in the developments that have suffered. There will be a handful with very severe damage and we'll have to do something about that," he said.
"We may be able to surprise everybody over the next two, three, four days and everybody, or almost everybody back. It's a big challenge, but I want to ensure everyone that every New Yorker who needs a warm place to live and a roof over his or her head is going to have one."
With Martin C. Evans and William Murphy