Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo plans to ask the federal government for at least $30 billion in disaster aid to help New York City and other affected areas of the state recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, according to top administration officials.
In making the case for federal aid, the governor’s advisers provided a staggering inventory of need as the city and state continued to rebuild in the storm’s deadly wake: $3.5 billion to repair the region’s bridges, tunnels and subway and commuter rail lines; $1.65 billion to rebuild homes and apartment buildings; $1 billion to reimburse local governments for overtime costs of police, fire and other emergency personnel; and several billion dollars in federal loans and grants to affected businesses.
In all, Hurricane Sandy caused more than $50 billion in damage in the New York region, according to Cuomo administration officials, making it the country’s costliest storm other than Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast region in 2005. That hurricane caused about $145 billion in damages, with the federal government providing about $110 billion in disaster aid, according to Cuomo officials.
In outlining the plan, Cuomo officials provided an assessment of the economic toll of the storm in New York. Businesses throughout the city and state lost $13 billion after being forced to close for days either because of damage to their property or because employees could not get to their jobs with travel restrictions widely in place, according to Cuomo aides.
The governor’s move comes as President Obama is scheduled to appear on Thursday in the New York City area, where he is expected to view the recovery efforts and announce a rebuilding program for the region. On Sunday, the Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, toured Staten Island to view the response there.
It is clear that the effects of the storm are still being acutely felt. More than 125,000 customers were still without power on Sunday, including about 110,000 customers served by the Long Island Power Authority. Many gas stations remained closed, but the city’s introduction of odd-even gas rationing seemed to have shortened lines.
The storm-related death toll in New York City officially rose to 43, as a man who fell during the storm in his home in Queens succumbed to his injuries on Saturday. And transportation officials made more progress on shuttered lines and crossings. The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel will reopen only for bus traffic on Monday, and more service will be restored on the Long Island Rail Road and PATH.
Mr. Cuomo’s request could be seen as a challenge to Mr. Obama to make good on his pledge, delivered during a high-profile visit to New Jersey, to provide federal support for the recovery effort. But it also could be seen as a test of the governor’s ability to extract billions of dollars of aid from Washington at a difficult time, with White House officials and Congressional leaders searching to find areas of government to cut to avert a Jan. 1 fiscal crisis.
It is far from certain whether Mr. Cuomo will get what he is looking for despite the president’s reassurances. The amount the governor is apparently seeking would exceed the roughly $12 billion in FEMA disaster aid currently available in Washington without action from Congress, where there is likely to be strong opposition to more spending.
Mr. Cuomo’s plan, which is still being drafted by his aides, rests in part on persuading the federal government to make an emergency appropriation in the coming weeks during a lame-duck session of Congress that begins on Tuesday.
New York will not be alone in seeking disaster relief from Washington. Members of Congress in both major parties from other storm-ravaged states – including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia – will almost certainly be seeking federal assistance for their constituents.
Mr. Cuomo intends to use the money from Washington for far-reaching improvements to the critical but decaying infrastructure of the city and the state.
For example, he is looking at a proposal to replace the region’s power grid with a so-called smart grid that would improve the ability of utility companies to pinpoint areas with power failures and respond to them. That proposal could cost at least $30 billion over 10 years, according to senior aides to the governor.
In addition, Mr. Cuomo is looking at a plan to have the federal government invest billions of dollars to modernize the fuel supply capacity of the New York City region to avoid the kind of gas shortages that have plagued New Yorkers since the storm barreled through.
The plan would include building new oil and gas pipelines from the New England states to reduce New York’s dependence on fuel that arrives through ports in New Jersey, a state that was also hobbled by the storm and was thus unable to continue to fully supply the region with fuel.
Mr. Cuomo is also considering the creation of an emergency petroleum reserve for the state, much like the one the federal government has at its disposal in the event of a national crisis.
Over the weekend, gas lines appeared to ease in New York and New Jersey. On Sunday morning in Manhattan, all the pumps at a BP station at Houston and Crosby Streets were serving taxis. About five cars were waiting in line.
In Brooklyn, there was a line at a Hess station at Fourth Avenue and Union Street. About 60 cars stretched for several blocks down Union. At another Hess station at Fourth Avenue and 30th Street, there were about 30 cars in a line stretching three blocks.
In the Rockaways, a Long Island Power Authority official told a skeptical but orderly crowd of about 300 people on Sunday that the utility was already beginning to restore power along the peninsula east of Breezy Point. But for power to be switched on, each building must receive certification from a licensed electrician that the building is ready for electricity, said the official, Nick Lizanich, vice president for operations.
“As soon as we receive confirmation that your house can be restored, we will restore it within a very short period of time,” Mr. Lizanich said.
His comment drew an immediate response from a woman in the crowd. “Your nose is growing,” she said.