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New York Expects Days of Disruption

Public transportation remains shut down and Mayor Michael Bloomberg expects it could be three to five days before it is up-and-running again.

As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Northeast, businesses readied for the storm.

As New York City struggled to try to start to get back on its feet after massive destruction from Hurricane Sandy, public transportation remains shut down and Mayor Michael Bloomberg expects it could be three to five days before it is up-and-running again.

It could also take at least three days — potentially longer — before Consolidated Edison restores power for the 750,000 people who are currently without it, the mayor said. “It is fair to say the power may be out for two to three days, maybe even longer,” Bloomberg said.

New York City public schools will remain closed Wednesday for the third consecutive day. The mayor has encouraged municipal employees to get to work Tuesday, provided they can get there safely. Limited bus service started Tuesday afternoon in the city and Bloomberg said he hoped that most MTA bus service would be running Wednesday. Bus fares are being waived for both days.

The mayor pledged to “do everything humanely possible to help the MTA and ConEd” return to full capacity.

New York City’s three major airports are closed Tuesday but John F. Kennedy International Airport may reopen Wednesday, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

During a press conference Tuesday, Cuomo said that he told President Obama that flooding is the biggest problem now. In response, the National Underwater SWAT team is now en route to the state, Cuomo said. “This is going to be a long-term recovery and reconstruction effort,” he said.

Having spoken to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Cuomo said Wall Street was expected to be working again Wednesday.

While Bloomberg did not address the city’s potential economic loss, the U.S. loss in consumer and business spending has been estimated between $35 and $45 million. While some sources have said the figure could be considerably higher, former chief economist of the U.S. International Trade Commission Peter Morici noted in a Philadelphia Enquirer op-ed published Tuesday that the losses in consumer and business spending may very well not be permanent ones. The Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts could lead to a net gain in the GDP two years from now, due to the presumed upswing in employment and activity for rebuilding, Morici wrote.

Hurricane Irene was estimated to cause $7 billion in losses but the losses wound up being between $15 and $20 billion. “In an economy with high unemployment and underused construction resources, Sandy will probably unleash $15 – 20 billion in private spending directly related to reconstruction,” Morici wrote. Reached by phone Tuesday, Morici said he did not have specific figures for the potential loss to New York City.

New York City taxi and livery drivers are picking up multiple passengers even when a passenger is already in a cab, per an executive order signed by the mayor Tuesday. That will be in place as long as public transportation is out, though the mayor advised people to travel only with drivers with TLC license plates.

In what he described as the worst disaster the MTA has ever faced in its 108-year history, MTA chairman Joseph Lhota said that all of the subway damage is on the rail lines and track level. Highlighting the extent of flooding, he said the South Street station had water up to its ceiling Tuesday.

New Jersey residents are dealing with even greater destruction including major damage to each section of the New Jersey rail lines. Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that it could take seven to 10 days before the PATH system is operating again. Further complicating the situation is the fact that New Jersey Transit is dealing with “significant challenges.”

In addition, 2.4 million New Jersey residents are without power — double the number of people affected by Hurricane Irene, Christie noted.

New York City officials are also being frank about the unprecedented challenges at hand. After noting that public transportation is suspended until further notice, Bloomberg said in response to a reporter’s question Tuesday, “I don’t think people understand just how strong nature is.”