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MTA subway commuters start week after Sandy as Nor'easter threatens NYC

Commuters travel trough the 59th Street subway station

Commuters travel trough the 59th Street subway station in New York during the first day of limited subway after Hurricane Sandy. (Nov. 1, 2012) Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

New York-area residents head into their first full week of commuting since superstorm Sandy crippled the biggest U.S. mass-transit network, even as a new storm threatens a fresh set of disruptions to daily routines.

Subways and most commuter-rail lines will run on full or modified schedules, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A Nor'easter expected to hit Nov. 8 may hamper efforts to restore power to about 180,000 in New York City and Westchester County and led to stepped-up efforts to help those affected stay warm.

Sandy's floodwaters on Oct. 29 inundated transit tunnels and underground utilities and damaged parts of all five New York boroughs. While the storm left more than 100 dead in 10 U.S. states, including 42 in the city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said city schools will reopen today, helping restore routines. Power remained out to more than 1 million in the region.

"It's not going to be normal tomorrow, and people should expect that," Cuomo said Sunday at a news briefing. The Democratic governor was joined by Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate and New York officials including Bloomberg and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.

Nor'Easter Coming

A storm forecast for Nov. 8 along the East Coast will probably bring cold temperatures and rain to areas still recovering from Sandy, the National Weather Service said. It said coastal winds may gust to 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour and heavy rain may cause flooding in some areas of the mid- Atlantic region and New England through early Nov. 9.

The new storm may slow down power-restoration work, said John Miksad, senior vice president of electric operations at Consolidated Edison Inc., on a conference call with reporters.

"Crews love blue skies," Miksad said on the call yesterday. "It certainly does complicate the restoration." About 950,000 ConEd customers lost power as a result of Sandy, Miksad said. The company listed the number of customers still without service by late yesterday as 5,000 in Manhattan, 45,000 in Queens, 22,000 in Brooklyn, 16,000 in Staten Island, 10,000 in the Bronx and 79,000 in Westchester County. Miksad said the vast majority should have power back by Nov. 9.

Cold Snap

The arrival of colder weather with so many residents still blacked out "is the next big problem for us," Bloomberg said.

"One of the great fears we have is with cold weather coming, we have to make sure that people can stay warm," said the mayor, who is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP. He said emergency workers were distributing blankets along with food and water.

"Among hardest hit are the Rockaways and Staten Island, a lot of places that don't have electricity but are going to experience the cold," Bloomberg said. "If you are elderly, or you have an infant under a year old, or have heart disease or other medical conditions, you really should go to a warm place." Police patrols yesterday would use loudspeakers to urge people to go where they could be warm and safe, Bloomberg said.

The city may need to find shelter or new homes for as many as 40,000 people, at least half of whom live in public housing, Bloomberg said. That total, a worst-case scenario, may get reduced by half as power is restored, he said.

Housing Challenge

"We don't have a lot of empty housing in this city, so it's really a problem," the mayor said in the City Hall news briefing. "We are not going to let anybody go sleeping in the streets, and we're not going to let anybody go without blankets, food and water." In the Queens neighborhood of Breezy Point, where a firestorm leveled more than 100 homes, the drinking water isn't safe, Bloomberg said. He advised using bottled supplies instead.

Many commuters in the region face an array of disruptions and rearrangements, depending on how they normally reach their jobs.

All numbered city subway lines were running Sunday, with the No. 1 train, a West Side local, stopping at 14th Street instead of South Ferry, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The No. 2 train, an express, will take riders from 241st Street in the Bronx to Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, and the No. 3 train has resumed running between 148th Street in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Among the lettered lines, the F train began operating from Queens to Brooklyn, through Manhattan, the MTA said. The Q line was restored between Ditmars Boulevard in Queens and Kings Highway in Brooklyn, via the Manhattan bridge, and M service is back through Manhattan and Brooklyn to and from Queens, according to an MTA statement.

The Staten Island ferry is back to its normal schedule.

Trains Running

The authority, which normally serves 8.5 million riders daily, said the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter trains would operate on full or modified schedules. Officials asked commuters to be patient and expect delays. October monthly tickets will be valid through today.

"We're in uncharted territory here in bringing the system back," Joseph Lhota, the MTA's chairman, said at a news briefing. "We'll do everything we can." The MTA's bridges -- the Throgs Neck, Henry Hudson, Marine Parkway, Bronx-Whitestone, Robert F. Kennedy, Verrazano-Narrows -- are open, while the Queens-Midtown and the Brooklyn-to- Manhattan Hugh L. Carey tunnels remain closed, Lhota said. Crossings between New Jersey and the city are open, with the Holland Tunnel limited to buses.

Crane Secured

At least one Manhattan headache ended late Sunday, as workers secured the buckled section of a construction crane dangling from atop a West 57th Street high-rise since Sandy swept through. Paul Browne, a police spokesman, said the section of the street near the building was reopened to pedestrians, and resumption of normal traffic would soon follow.

In New Jersey, NJ Transit will provide rail service to New York's Pennsylvania Station on the Northeast Corridor from Trenton, with the exception of Jersey Avenue in New Brunswick, and on the North Jersey Coast Line from Woodbridge. Special schedules are in effect for most other routes, and the Bergen, Pascack Valley, Montclair-Boonton and Morris & Essex lines remain out of service. Some buses will be provided instead.

Almost all, 90 percent, of New York City's 1,750 public schools will be open, Bloomberg said.

"We're working to help more people get their lives back to normal, and opening schools will be an important part of that," Bloomberg said. "Our kids need to get back to class after a week without school, and this way we'll be able to use Election Day to adjust the bus routes and staffing and supplies." Preparing for the presidential election tomorrow, the city Elections Board announced the relocation of 60 flood-damaged polling places to new sites, affecting some 143,000 registered voters. Twenty-four are in Brooklyn and 28 are in Queens. Details are listed on the board's website.

Cuomo said fuel supplies continue to pour into the region as barges move through ports reopened Nov. 2, while shortages may linger for days. He called on New Yorkers to be patient and cautioned against hoarding gasoline.

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