The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered this evening at the Office of Emergency Management in Downtown Brooklyn:
“Let me first thank Pamela Mitchell for signing today. We try to do this when we have an emergency situation and want to make sure that everybody gets all of the information.
“We did want to bring everyone up to date on the City’s preparation and planning for Hurricane Sandy. We are here in the Briefing Room of the City’s Office of Emergency Management in Brooklyn. And joining us are a number of the City Commissioners, as well as Kevin Burke, the CEO of Con Edison.
“Kevin can bring us up to date on his facilities’ planning for the storm in a few minutes. I have talked to Governor Cuomo today to ensure that City and State agencies are coordinating our preparation efforts, and the staffs have had numerous conversations all day.
“President Obama asked Craig Fugate from FEMA to call me earlier in the day and offer any help. I assured him that we had, we think, everything under control but we appreciate the effort. What FEMA really can do is to help those parts of the country that don’t have all of the extensive facilities and agencies and practice that New York City does. But I did want to thank them for their offer.
“Many of you know, State officials gave an update on the status of their planning earlier this afternoon, including contingency plans for closing public transit should the need arise. That’s a decision they will make tomorrow probably in the middle of the day, and then my thought was that unless something would change dramatically we would try to give you one more briefing late Sunday afternoon tomorrow probably around six pm, but we’ll announce it. We’ll see, depends on what the storm does.
“What our expectation is for during the day tomorrow that there would be – it would be windy, maybe a little bit of rain, but not much during the day. Then the storm would start getting worse on Sunday evening, tomorrow into Monday. And we want to make sure, then I’ll go over what we’re going to do with parks and the beaches and that sort of thing. But don’t get lulled tomorrow when there’s not a lot of rain and not a lot of wind. This is a dangerous storm, and I think we’re going to be okay, but if it were to strengthen unexpectedly or change its expected path it could do a lot of damage, and you could be at risk.
“So if things are the way it’s planned and if everybody does what they’re supposed to do, we will get through this very nicely and look back on it and say maybe we can offer some help to other parts of the area upstate or below us, south of us, which might get hit a lot harder.
“The trajectory says that the storm will hit a little bit south of us, the Maryland/Delaware area. Nobody’s exactly sure where landfall is going to be, but we are working to ensure that no matter how or when the storm arrives the City will be well prepared and our residents safe.
“Lower Manhattan is the most vulnerable place to a storm surge, and Kevin Burke will talk about the elements of the Con Ed system down there that may be vulnerable to flooding, electricity and steam. Steam is used by a lot of big buildings to run their facilities, and if the steam pipes were to get inundated at the outside, the difference in the temperature makes them really dangerous to continue to keep going so they might have to shut down of them down.
“Let me tell you first we are not ordering any evacuations as of this time for any parts of the city. We’re making that decision based on the nature of the storm.
“Although we’re expecting a large surge of water, it is not expected to be a tropical storm or hurricane-type surge. With this storm, we’ll likely see a slow pileup of water rather than a sudden surge, which is what you would expect with a hurricane, and which we saw with Irene 14 months ago.
“So it will be less dangerous – but make no mistake about it, there will be a lot of water and low-lying areas will experience flooding. The City’s Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection will be deployed throughout the city to address flooding conditions.
“And as I said yesterday, there are 6 hospitals and 41 chronic care facilities in the area that we designate as Zone A – the low-lying coastal areas that are most at most at risk for flooding.
“Health Commissioner Tom Farley has been in touch with all of those facilities. All of those facilities have cancelled elective admissions and discharged all patients who do not need to stay there.
“Chronic care facilities will not evacuate patients in general, but as State Officials indicated earlier today, ventilator-dependent patients in these facilities will be transferred to a safe location by 5 pm Sunday.
“The concern there is that a prolonged loss of power could threaten the safety of those patients, and that’s why they are being transferred. All of these health care facilities are taking additional precautions to prepare – including bringing in more staff. A lot of them do have backup generators and any outages are not expected to be more than hours or at most a day or so, so they’ll be fine, they think. Every one of them has said that they’re comfortable in going for a reasonable period of time dealing with a power outage if that should occur.
“So let me reiterate – as of now we are not ordering any evacuations. However, these storm conditions can be dangerous. The safest thing you can do is to stay indoors.
“If you live in a low-lying area and have particular concerns about severe flooding or prolonged power loss, you should consider staying with friends or family members who live somewhere less vulnerable to those problems.
“If you live in a low-lying area and that is not an option for you, we also have 65 shelters in public schools around the city that are fully staffed and supplied. Let me repeat that, 65 shelters, they’re in schools. They have the personnel and the supplies. And if you don’t want to stay in your home and don’t have another safe option, they are available for use. They provide a safe place to sleep, they provide meals, and they have space for pets so bring your pets with you.
“They will be open as of 9 am tomorrow morning, Sunday. And to locate one of those shelters, all you have to do is go to nyc.gov or call 311. All of these shelters, incidentally, do have at least one entrance usable for wheelchairs.
“If you require further information, 311 or visit the OEM website, or the website of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, which can also provide information about accessible transportation.
“If you can’t get to a shelter by yourself, you can request transportation by calling 311. But I would stress that your first option should be to stay with family and friends. What happened in Irene is a number of people moved upstate, and as you remember that was where the real damage was done.
“So my advice would be try to find places to stay that are in the city, just out of the flood zone. The City’s facilities are more robust and a lot less susceptible to power outages and flooding and tree limbs coming down, and the kind of damage that we did see with Irene upstate.
“We have not made a decision yet as to whether schools will be open on Monday. We will make that decision and announce it tomorrow, probably late in the day.
“As of now, all City offices will be open and all City employees are expected to be at work on Monday. Monday will be a regular work day. East River Ferry landings, however, will be closed beginning tonight.
“So there will be no East River ferry service on Sunday and until further notice. Passengers on the Staten Island Ferry, however, should anticipate delays or disruptions when the storm hits. Unless the storm gets to over something like 45 knots we would keep the ferries going, but they will be going slower than they normally would. If they have to get closed down to maintain safety, we of course would do that.
“Police will be on extended hours beginning Sunday and Highway Patrol units will be prepositioned to aid any stranded motorists.
“FDNY special rescue units are also prepared to respond to any emergencies, and Commissioner Cassano has put extra fire engines on Staten Island just in case the ferries aren’t going and the bridge had to be closed.
“Sanitation pickups are scheduled to proceed as normal on Monday morning so you –
as you put out your trash try to make sure it doesn’t get blown around. There are going to be windy conditions. Put some weights on them so that they don’t get blown around.
“Because of the hazards posed by high winds, all events in our City’s parks after 2 pm tomorrow will be cancelled and all parks will be closed tomorrow evening at 5 pm. All events stopped by 2 pm tomorrow, all parks closed by 5 pm.
“Let me say something again and again and again: please, the beaches are dangerous and surfing is extremely dangerous. No surfing please tomorrow. You may want to run the risk, but if we have to send our emergency workers into the ocean to save you, their lives are at risk. And you just don’t have a right to do that to somebody else. So please, tomorrow, I know the surfing looks attractive and there’s more surfing done around here than ever before, but this is just much too dangerous a storm, and for a small amount of pleasure your live might be at danger, but certainly the emergency workers’ lives will be in danger.
“As of now, no shutdowns in public transit service have been ordered as the MTA talked about earlier in the day. If conditions warrant, the MTA contingency plans call for closing down transit service beginning 7 pm tomorrow. Service would be gradually curtailed and totally shut down by 3 am on Monday morning. That’s what the MTA’s current plans are.
“That may or may not happen – but all New Yorkers are urged to take this possibility into consideration and plan accordingly. If you need to take public transportation, try to get to your destination before 7 pm tomorrow. The MTA has a plan to shut down because they cannot run the risk that the trains or the buses will be damaged. And I think they are taking the appropriate kind of planning that one should have, and they’ll have to make a decision tomorrow which we will support and work with them.
“New Yorkers can also take other precautions to make sure they and their families are prepared. For instance, you can visit the City’s website at nyc.gov, or call 311 for regular forecast updates and other info on the storm. Both the website and 311 are operating smoothly.
“We think that we will be able to handle the capacity, but as I said yesterday the record that we had in Hurricane Irene was 4-odd million calls and uses of the 311 service. Do not use 911 unless it’s a real emergency. If you’re using it and it’s not an emergency, you’re keeping somebody else who might try to get through.
“You can sign up for Notify NYC emails or text alerts on the City’s site or by calling 311. You can also follow NYCMayorsOffice on Twitter for updates. For information relating to the storm for people with disabilities or special needs, please check, as I said earlier, with Office of Emergency Management or the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities or call 311.
“You should also stock up on basic supplies and make a ‘Go Bag’ to take with you should you have to leave home at a moment’s notice. Your Go Bag should have things you would need in an emergency, like drinking water, a first aid kit, a flashlight, important medications, essential documents, a little bit of cash.
“You should also take common-sense precautions in your homes: clean out storm drains and rain gutters, bring in trash cans and lawn furniture. There will be a lot of wind no matter what happens here, and your trashcans and lawn furniture can be blown around and ruined. Take everything off your roof and terraces. Put it in low areas, and get heavy objects like gas grills, and close and secure your windows and doors.
“If you live in a high-rise and it loses power, you may lose water as well. So keep a supply of water on hand to drink and for household use. It would make some sense tonight to just take a few big pots and fill them up with water and leave them on the side. During the height of the storm, try to use staircases and avoid using the elevator. Stay away from windows and close your drapes.
“We have visited every crane site and every construction site in the city, and with the winds that are expected we think they have appropriately tied down all of the equipment. But if there’s a gust that’s a lot more than anybody had counted on, things could start to blow. Your windows are not likely to blow out, but if a piece of something blows off another building, even if it’s the house next door to you, it could come right through the window. So closing your drapes would make some sense.
“If you don’t have to be outside during the storm, don’t be. And if you do have to be outside, please be careful.
“Let me now turn things over to Kevin Burke.”
(YWN Desk – NYC)