U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said more than 36,000 individuals have filed requests for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency since Sandy caused major damage to much of the Northeast.
Appearing at a briefing Thursday outside of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Napolitano said FEMA teams are currently scouring the hardest-hit areas to try and reach people who could qualify for assistance.
“We want to make it as easy and as convenient for people to do this as possible. We know some people don’t have phones or access to the Internet right now,” Napolitano said. “We literally have hundreds of teams now walking through areas that have been affected, knocking on doors, finding people and making sure they know what kind of assistance they qualify for.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Thursday that FEMA had agreed to fully reimburse New York City and the state government for all costs associated with emergency transportation and restoring power between Oct. 30 and Nov. 9. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, has requested FEMA cover 100 percent of the state’s total rebuilding costs.
“We’re not shy as New Yorkers, so I’m going to ask madam secretary even with all you’ve done, we would like to see FEMA reimburse New York at 100 percent of New York’s costs, because this burden given our other burdens is too much for us to carry,” Cuomo said to Napolitano at the briefing.
Cuomo said New York City’s trademark high-rises and underground infrastructure is a “great strength” that becomes “a great liability in the face of a storm.” The briefing was held after officials inspected the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which is currently flooded for a one-mile stretch with 43 million gallons of water on one side alone.
“As massive an undertaking that the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel is, you have to times that five, six, seven, eight times,” Cuomo said. “You have the Holland Tunnel, you have the Midtown Tunnel, you have subway tunnels that are still flooded, you have ConEd vaults that are still flooded. And this is an engineering feat that we haven’t undertaken before.”