Earlier today, in Howard Beach, a neighborhood still picking up pieces of debris and pumping water out of basements, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new $500 million capital investment plan to repair the city’s schools and hospitals after Hurricane Sandy battered them. Next to Mr. Bloomberg stood two likely candidates to replace him in 2013, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Comptroller John Liu, who applauded the initiative. In a press release released soon after, a third 2013 candidate, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, stepped up to the plate to praise the move too, but while also offering some of the first direct criticism of Mr. Bloomberg’s handling of the storm.
“The steps announced today by the city are welcome, as it moves forward to make sure our school system meets the challenges of this crisis,” Mr. Thompson said in the statement. “It should not take 14 days to find out that three major New York City public hospitals are so significantly damaged and in desperate need of repair. Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, those who are powerless and without a voice, living in 23 NYCHA buildings are being ignored. Many seniors, families and city workers are trapped in the cold and dark. This is not indicative of a world-class response to a crisis.”
In order to keep the city’s fiscal house in order in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled new cuts and streams of revenue over the weekend. Among the changes, school-lunch fees will increase from $1.50 to $2.50, while city libraries will see their funding axed to the tune of $8.3 million. Asked about it during a press conference today in the hard-hit Howard Beach neighborhood in Queens, Mr. Bloomberg defended the budgetary measures.
“It’s easy to say, ‘I don’t like A, B and C,’” he argued. “Well, what things would they like us to raise taxes [on]? The issue here is that we’re trying to find some balance so that everybody shares a little bit in the pain, everybody contributes; we’re all in this together. And do it such that people can afford [it]. It’s not asking a lot to go, in this day in age, from one price to another if it’s a relatively small price. But if a large number of people do it, it contributes significant revenues.”
During his daily press conference discussing the city’s latest measures to recover from Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed a report that he told President Barack Obama to not visit New York in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Mr. Obama, of course, made a well-publicized tour of the damage in New Jersey with Republican Governor Chris Christie instead.
“That’s not true,” Mr. Bloomberg snapped, not waiting for a reporter’s question on the topic to finish. “I didn’t ask him to not to come. We had a conversation of where it would be most effective. I talked to him today, as a matter of fact; he called me. He’s coming to the city next week. We’re honored to have him.”
President Obama will be in town Thursday to survey the damage caused by the hurricane.
Running on Empty
Yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced new regulations to ration gasoline in New York City. Based on the last digit of their licence plate number, drivers will be able to fill up their tanks exclusively on odd or even numbered days, starting at 6 a.m. this morning. And, on his weekly radio interview with John Gambling today, Mr. Bloomberg made it clear that there wouldn’t be a lot of options to get around the policy.
“What we have done is put a police officer at every gas station that’s open, and are committed to doing that to any gas station that is not open but will open, to make sure that there’s security and that people don’t get pushy in the line and that sort of thing,” he said. “But hopefully this will help. The real answer, all the experts believe, is just with time.”
Hurricane Sandy has apparently brought together a pair of borough presidents who previously clashed over pop sensation Lady Gaga. The last time we saw Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer mentioned in the same breath, they had a tiff over Mr. Molinaro’s claim that Ms. Gaga was “a slut.” Now, they have teamed up for post-Sandy relief work in Staten Island.
Councilman Mike Nelson represents a swath of southern Brooklyn that needed to be evacuated in advance of Hurricane Sandy, but he himself decided to wait out the storm in his government office a few blocks from the ocean. The endeavor didn’t exactly work out as planned.
“I figured, you know what, I’m a councilmember, and I needed to be here to take phone calls,” he told Sheepshead Bites, reflecting. “I thought I was doing the right thing, and I guess I was.”
Strongly Worded Letters
A few days ago, Rabbi Noson Leiter of Torah Jews for Decency said Hurricane Sandy brought a “divine justice” upon New York State as retribution for legalizing same sex marriage. To prove his point Rabbi Leiter pointed to the storm damage in Lower Manhattan, which he referred to as “one of the national centers for homosexuality,” to make his point. In a statement released this afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who led the push for New York’s gay marriage legislation last year, took issue with the remark.
“The comments made by Rabbi Noson Leiter that sought to link the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy to our state’s embrace of marriage equality are as offensive as they are ignorant,” Mr. Cuomo said. “This catastrophic storm claimed the lives of more than forty New Yorkers. This kind of hateful rhetoric has no place in our public discourse, and is particularly distasteful in times of tragedy.”
Earlier this afternoon, “a group of irate Orthodox community leaders” held a conference call to protest poll site changes implemented in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens. In the call, local Jewish leaders alleged their new voting location was designed to dampen turnout in their ideologically conservative community as it struggles to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation.
“We’re a group of people who really, really suffered tremendously,” Richard Altabe, a board member of the Far Rockaway Jewish Alliance, said. “Or voting rights are about to be taken away from us. It’s going to be difficult enough to get people to vote….Our ability to speak and have our voices heard is going to be squashed by circumstances. I’m really, really horrified.”
In case you missed it, last weekend’s Saturday Night Live opened with a skit making fun of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s daily press conferences since Hurricane Sandy battered the city. Notably, the show featured Mr. Bloomberg’s sign language interpreter, Lydia Callis, who became a star thanks to her extremely effusive hand gestures and facial expressions, even earning a New York Times profile entitled, “During Storm Updates, Eyes on an Interpreter.”
Cecily Strong, playing Ms. Callis, took her interpretation to the next level with particularly wild hand gestures, for example, firing off shots with pretend guns in order to translate “police officers.” However, according to a tweet from Mr. Bloomberg’s deputy press secretary, Julie Wood, Ms. Callis “reports that many of cecily strong’s gestures on SNL last night were accurate ASL signs.”
During a press conference updating New Yorkers on the latest developments in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg also addressed arrangements made for Election Day this Tuesday. As at least 60 polling sites are without electricity or are otherwise compromised by storm damage, a number of last-minute decisions have been implemented by the Board of Elections. Needless to say, Mr. Bloomberg did not sound confident.
“The Board of Elections tells us that about 143,000 voters in all five boroughs will be assigned to poll sites different from their usual site,” he explained. “Over the next day, it’s going to be critical that the Board of Elections communicates this new information to their poll workers. Unfortunately, as you know, the Board has had a history of not opening all poll sites on time.”