With limited commuter rail service set in place Wednesday and some subway service expected Thursday, New Yorkers soldiered through Wednesday’s transportation hassles with the promise of tomorrow.
Whether navigating crowded sidewalks, gridlocked streets or lengthy lines at bus stops, city dwellers who had offices with electricity tried to return to work. Perhaps easing such annoyances as near-constant honking horns and nonworking traffic lights was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pledge to get some Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road trains moving again Wednesday afternoon. In addition, 14 of the city’s 23 subway lines are expected to have service Thursday.
Just when some apparel executives and retailers were stressing out about delayed deliveries, John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark International reopened Wednesday although with only limited flights. As harried travelers tried to find a way in or out of the city, Federal Express and UPS executives stepped up delivery and pick-up efforts. LaGuardia Airport remained closed.
Meanwhile, Cuomo is seeking the maximum authorized reimbursement from the federal government in response to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. He revealed plans to ask the New York congressional delegation to pass legislation that will allow the federal government to reimburse 100 percent of costs instead of the current rate of 90 percent. The funds would apply for all federally declared counties in relation to the clean-up effort.
Consolidated Edison officials said Wednesday that Manhattan and Brooklyn residents whose electricity is provided by underground equipment should have their power restored within three days, but the wait will be at least a week for those who are served by overhead power lines throughout the five boroughs.
Having restored electrical service to 109,000 customers who lost power, Con Ed was busy Wednesday trying to turn the lights back on for 786,000 customers. That figure included about 237,000 customers in Manhattan, 115,000 in Staten Island, 109,000 in Queens, 108,000 in Brooklyn, 40,000 in the Bronx, and 176,000 in Westchester County.
The storm knocked down more than 100,000 primary electrical wires in overhead areas and thousands of secondary wires, and numerous roads have been blocked by trees or flooding. Underground electrical equipment damaged by the largest storm surge in New York City history, must be cleaned of seawater, dried, inspected and tested before it can be safely placed back in service, Con Ed said.
In addition, Con Ed started distributing ice at six locations starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday to customers without power due to Hurricane Sandy. At each site, company reps were available to answer customers’ questions. ConEd set up outposts in Union Square Park in Manhattan’s and at the Walgreen’s on Neptune Avenue in Brooklyn.
After suspending service Monday night and all day Tuesday, FedEx resumed deliveries to most of the MidAtlantic and Northeast, but certain streets and areas remained impassable for safety reasons. “We are working to pick up and to deliver to our regular customers as best as possible. But granted some people need electricity to work,” a FedEx spokesman said Wednesday. “We are looking at this on a case-by-case basis. Everyone has been affected by this storm differently. It would be great to be able to say everyone will have normal delivery by ‘X’ date but road crews and power crews are working as fast as they can. Nothing is more important than safety. As soon as the water from the flooding recedes, we will be in those places. We won’t go over power lines or downed trees.”
With 678 of its own aircraft and ground transportation, FedEx has the infrastructure already in place. “We were the first plane to land at Newark [International Airport] this morning,” the spokesman said. “For us to go all out, we need to attain access to all the roads first.”
UPS is also working to make up for lost time. The company has 23 operating facilities and two air gateways servicing such major cities as New York City, Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and Yonkers. There are five operating facilities in the Manhattan area. In total, there are more than 12,000 employees in its North Atlantic district dealing with a population of more than 14 million.
“While safety and service have been the primary UPS goals during this storm, we’re quickly re-starting package and freight operations in all but a few of our delivery centers in parts of New Jersey, Staten Island and some mountainous areas in West Virginia and northwest Pennsylvania. Deliveries will be made in all accessible areas. With power out in many areas, we’ll have curfews for our drivers to return to buildings before dark.”