In a tacit acknowledgment that it took too long to get emergency supplies to neighborhoods that were hard-hit by Sandy, Bloomberg administration officials said they are taking a close look at its disaster preparedness plans.
During joint hearing before six City Council committees Wednesday, the officials emphasized that the city deployed emergency responders to those areas during and immediately after the storm. But Deputy Mayor Caswell Holloway also acknowledged that the city had not prepared for the extensive power outages that left thousands of people without heat, hot water or elevators to travel easily from high-rise apartments to the ground.
“There was an overwhelming amount of government resources devoted to this,” Holloway said, “also it was true it did take some time to stand up some of the more sustained efforts over the course of the weeks and now months that we have provided assistance.”
Some City Council members praised the administration’s handling of Sandy, while others said it was much too slow. According to the city’s timeline, a food and water distribution center was set up Nov. 1 at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, three days after the storm hit on Oct. 29. On Nov. 9, workers from federal and state agencies began going door-to-door in high-rise buildings in the Rockaways and Coney Island, eventually handing out provisions for 1,700 residents and prescriptions for 335 people.
“What the conclusion there is that these people needed special help presumably because they couldn’t get out of their apartments,” said City Council Member Oliver Koppell of the Bronx. “And that special help was not available for 10 days. That’s not adequate.”
The hearing was the first of several to examine the city’s response and preparation to Sandy. The next one, on the city’s public housing system, takes place Thursday.
At the same time, the Bloomberg administration is conducting an internal review to see if changes are needed to the city’s disaster response plan—which currently emphasizes evacuating people out of high-risk zones but details little about how to reach people who don’t leave or end up stranded in other areas. That review is expected to finish next month.
“The power outage that we had was much more extensive than we had anticipated and it lasted longer,” Holloway told WNYC after the hearing. “Given that kind of scenario should we have some things in place before hand?”