With tens of thousands of people potentially facing homelessness and in need of long term shelter, Mayor Michael Bloomberg Monday appointed a former federal disaster coordinator to oversee the city's efforts to provide them with replacement housing. The new director, Brad Gair, is also a former deputy commissioner for the city's Office of Emergency Management.
On Sunday, the mayor said as many as 40,000 people might need long term shelter. A day later, however, Bloomberg, revised those numbers downward.
"I don't think we have a good number. It could be 10,000 it could be 5,000," Bloomberg said when asked for an estimate. "I don't want to just give you a number."
The mayor said public housing residents would likely get their housing back this week. As for the others, the mayor said the city would go door to door to see whose homes may be damaged beyond repair.
Twenty-six-year-old Eric Johnson and his wife Lina could be among the long-term displaced. They are currently staying at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. They said they walked there during the height of the storm after water filled their basement apartment in Coney Island.
"Everything is gone, everything," Johnson said. "The landlord is gone. There's nothing we can do about it."
The couple said they were renting the apartment and have no family or friends to take them in. They are hoping to receive help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
At a news conference Monday, Gair, the city's new director of housing recovery operations, said his first priority would be to quantify the demand for new housing before working on solutions. He said the federal government may help by providing hotel rooms, or cash for people to find their own temporary lodging.