New York Aquarium reopening after Hurricane Sandy


This video is called NEW YORK AQUARIUM 5 5 2009.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society in the USA:

WCS’s New York Aquarium Set To Reopen after Sandy

April 6, 2013

The Wildlife Conservation Society will partially reopen the New York Aquarium on Saturday, May 25.

This partial reopening will come about 7 months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the 14-acre aquarium campus, severely damaging its buildings, exhibits, and the facility’s aquatic life support systems.

The partial reopening will include: Glover’s Reef (featuring the sea life found in Glover’s Reef, Belize); Exhibits in Conservation Hall (Coral Triangle of Fiji, Great Lakes of East Africa, and the Flooded Forests of the Amazon); Outdoor spaces of Sea Cliffs (walrus, sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters and penguins); and a fully re-modeled Aquatheater with a new sea lion demonstration.

“We are ready to welcome New York families and tourists back into the WCS New York Aquarium,” said Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO. “We have worked nonstop to ensure that the marine life in the aquarium was safe and secure. We want to share this progress with New Yorkers and be a part of the Coney Island comeback following Hurricane Sandy. The aquarium is an important economic engine for the community, providing jobs and sparking commerce. We have been encouraged by the outreach from the city and across the country urging us to reopen.”

Watch a news clip about the aquarium’s comeback from ABC here.

More razorbills in Florida than ever


Trey Mitchell’s beautiful shot of a Razorbill bobbing about in nearly tropical waters

From 10,000 Birds blog:

The Razorbill Invasion of Florida

By Carlos • December 27, 2012

Razorbills (Alca torda) have invaded the coastal waters of Florida on an unprecedented scale this December of 2012. To put this invasion into perspective, there were only 14 documented records of Razorbill for the entire state before December 2012. This invasion has produced several documented sightings of flocks with well over a hundred individuals! The first sighting was of an individual seen and photographed right off the pier at Boynton Inlet on December 9, 2012. Many state listers immediately chased it even though the bird was very mobile and did not offer good looks for most who tried.

On December 11, 2012, an observer saw one at Government Cut in Miami-Dade right off the pier which was quickly followed by a sighting of three birds off Singer Island in Palm Beach, two birds filmed off Fort Lauderdale, and another bird photographed off Crandon Beach in Key Biscayne — already an unprecedented number of records. However, the true scope of the irruption was not apparent until people started chartering fishing boats to explore the waters just offshore where they were greeted by flocks of hundreds of Razorbills!

Listservs across the state suddenly lit up with posts about where and how many of these alcids were being seen, with records streaming in from such unlikely places as Dry Tortugas National Park, Key West, Fort de Soto, and as far west as Pensacola — there had been only one previous record of this species in the Gulf of Mexico before 2012.

Razorbills primarily feed on capelin, sandlance, herring, and other small fish in the productive waters of the cold North Atlantic, with large numbers wintering in the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy in the extreme northeastern United States and maritime provinces of Canada.

There is a reason why birds (and mammals and large, predatory sharks) like alcids, albatrosses, penguins, and other seabirds are restricted to the poles or areas of cold water upwellings — tropical waters lack the ability to hold onto as much oxygen as colder water. Also, tropical waters lack the dynamics for significant upwellings of cold, nutrient rich water to reach the surface and feed the extreme density of plankton that feed the vast schools of fish these birds rely upon. Why have these birds decided to fly so far south of their normal wintering range, and is it somehow connected to the fact that nearly all birds that have been documented are first year birds?

Sea surface temperatures off of New England and Nova Scotia have been unseasonably warm for the past few Decembers

Looking at the maps … by NOAA that measure sea surface temperature deviation from the average, one can see that temperatures have been unusually high in early December off the coast of New England for the past four years. Why would Razorbills be irrupting now if the above average sea surface temperature anomaly has been a near permanent fixture for the past four years or more?

The only unusual event that occurred this year that seems to match up nicely with the Florida invasion is Hurricane Sandy, an incredibly large and nearly unprecedented storm that hit the mid-Atlantic and New England in late October. Hurricane Sandy was an unusual beast not only for its unique landfall location and approach, but also its incredible size. As the storm was pulled northward across Cuba and the Bahamas, it began to temporarily weaken, lose convection, and suffer from dry air intrusion before it began interacting with an incoming trough. Due to the angle of the trough and the positioning of a high pressure system over Greenland, the storm began to curve northwestward and become re-energized due to baroclinic forcing — a process which also caused the windfield to expand and make Sandy the largest hurricane in diameter in the history of the Atlantic.

To put this bit of trivia into perspective, there were simultaneous tropical storm warnings for both New York City and Bermuda — a distance of about 770 miles! Her enormous windfield also resulted in a record amount of surge water being moved. The impacts of such enormous hurricanes and their accompanying surge on marine ecosystems are not well studied or understood but it may be related to the unprecedented invasion of Razorbills in Florida.

One theory is that Razorbills, which had a very good nesting season this year, irrupted in large numbers due to the fact that there was a collapse in food availability in their normal wintering range with a simultaneous bumper crop of first winter birds, causing most of the first year birds to migrate south in search of better feeding opportunities. Although birds have been seen around the entire coast of the state, there are no reports west of Pensacola yet and may never happen due to the turbidity caused by the Mississippi River. Perhaps more due to being underbirded, there have been no reports of Razorbills from Cuba or the Bahamas (both would be first national records). This irruption will likely be discussed and studied for years to come. For the time being, Florida birders are being treated to a (hopefully) once in a life time event.

New York, still Hurricane Sandy trouble


This music video is Rockaway Beach, played live by the Ramones, long before Hurricane Sandy hit New York City.

By Philip Guelpa in the USA:

New York: Continuing misery in Rockaways in aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

12 December 2012

Nearly a month and a half after Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast coast of the United States, thousands of residents in the Rockaways section of the borough of Queens in New York City continue to live in misery. People in this area, where a number of public housing complexes are located, continue to cope with limited heat, electricity, food, medical care, and transportation.

As of late November, nearly 10,000 people were still without power. It is estimated that up to half of the small businesses that served this area have been destroyed and will never be rebuilt. Direct subway service to the Rockaway peninsula is not expected to be restored until next spring. The substitute bus service is grossly inadequate, causing long delays for those commuting to work or school.

The neighborhoods known collectively as The Rockaways (named after a Native American tribe which once inhabited the New York area) lie on a long, narrow peninsula that is effectively a barrier island on the south shore of Long Island, though connected to the mainland at its eastern end. It forms the southern boundary of Jamaica Bay, on which JFK airport is located.

As a barrier island, the south side of the Rockaway Peninsula fronts directly on the Atlantic Ocean. It therefore took the full brunt of Hurricane Sandy when the storm made landfall on October 29. The flood map published by the city shows that the low-lying peninsula was completely inundated with at least four feet of water coming from both the ocean and the bay. Many homes and other buildings were destroyed and many more were severely damaged. At least four people are known to have died in this area.

In addition to the direct effects of flooding, the storm caused the outbreak of multiple fires, including one in Breezy Point that destroyed over 100 homes. Hurricane conditions made it impossible for firefighters to effectively respond.

The city’s disorganized and poorly planned response to the storm is exemplified by the experience of residents and workers at more than a dozen nursing homes on the Rockaway Peninsula. These facilities were told to “shelter in place” even though the whole area was in a mandatory evacuation zone. Removal of the residents in the immediate aftermath of the storm was extremely difficult and dangerous, putting their lives at risk. The haphazard nature of the evacuation to scattered shelters meant that medical records were often unavailable and relatives had a difficult time finding their family members.

Rockaway neighborhoods are home to 125,000 people, including public employees as well as thousands of the unemployed and the working poor, many of whom live in four major public housing complexes. Although the peninsula was in the mandatory evacuation zone, no concerted effort was made by the city to provide adequate emergency shelters or to help residents, many of whom are elderly or infirm, to leave. Those shelters that were available rapidly became squalid and dangerous.

Even prior to the storm, living conditions for many residents of the Rockaways were difficult. The area is one of a number of low-lying neighborhoods in the city, including Coney Island and Red Hook in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where large numbers of housing projects were built in past decades.

Columbia geophysicist Klaus Jacob on Hurricane Sandy: here.

Six months since Superstorm Sandy: here.

The City of New York will evict hundreds of people made homeless by Hurricane Sandy from temporary housing in city hotels once federal subsidies end: here.

United States schools after Hurricane Sandy


This video from the USA is called Hurricane Sandy Aftermath Video: Inside the Chaos of Breezy Point, N.Y.

By Steve Light in the USA:

Hurricane Sandy compounds crisis facing public schools in New York City

5 December 2012

Thousands of teachers joined volunteers on the East Coast to help victims in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and subsequently, filling in the many gaps in government relief. This is no accident. On a daily basis educators make a dedicated effort in the face of official negligence and cuts to public schools, even as they are blamed for the growing crisis in education.

Two New York City teachers died in Hurricane Sandy—Jessie Streich-Kest was crushed by a tree and Henry Sullivan drowned in his home—and others lost family members.

In the wake of the storm, teachers had to deal both with their students’ long- and short-term trauma, including deaths to family members or friends. Meanwhile, teachers had to restore a much needed routine to their students’ lives, as well as make up for lost class time.

When New York City schools re-opened for their 1.1 million students and 100,000 staff a week after Hurricane Sandy hit, 57 of 1700 school buildings in New York City remained closed due to damage and 29 due to lack of electricity, while 16 were still serving as shelters for evacuees and 36 had no heat. It took another three weeks to bring the number of closed schools down to ten, most of them in the hard-hit Rockaways section of Queens.

Children in lower Manhattan and other areas lacking electricity did not have heat at home or in school against the cold weather. Many students whose homes were a total loss or damaged and are living elsewhere, including hotels and shelters, have been unable to attend their regular schools. Some schools opened late, or only partially, because evacuees sheltering in eight school buildings had to be shifted around to other floors or other buildings to allow schools to be cleaned up.

With the transit system only partially restored, many teachers and students could not reach schools when they re-opened. Hundreds of thousands of students travel daily across the five boroughs of New York to attend schools of choice rather than neighborhood schools, not uncommonly for one or two hours each way. This is the result of policies promoting “market” competition as a solution to improve schools.

Before schools and transportation were fully functioning again parents had to scramble for child care, often an expense they could ill afford, while those who could not get to work lost income. With New York State schools mandated to have 180 days of classes, three days were removed from the February winter break, leaving families with vacation plans disrupted, losing money in some cases.

Hurricane Sandy only compounded the problems devastating New York City’s public schools.

One-fifth of New York City’s population is at or below the official poverty line and two-fifths of the 47,000 people in homeless shelters are children.

According to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) in September, a record 670 schools had 6,220 oversized classes, with 270 overcrowded special education classes in those schools. The New York City Department of Education has reduced the teaching force by 8,000 positions since 2005, to the point where it had to cancel plans last May to wipe out 2,500 more positions by attrition.

Under these conditions, 217 New York City schools received grades of F, D or a third consecutive C that could lead to closure, one fifth of all schools graded and nearly twice as many schools as last year.

All levels of government are promoting private charter schools to further open the way to profit-making.

In the last 10 years, 140 comprehensive schools in New York closed while 589 small schools opened, mostly by co-locating into the same facilities, 136 of these being charters. Twenty-five of the fifty-four new schools planned for this year are charters.

Experienced teachers whose schools are closed down often find that principals of schools to which they apply do not want to hire them because their salaries may equal that of two new teachers. Rather than become substitutes sent from school to school toward the end of their careers, they retire as soon as they can.

Simultaneously, new teachers find themselves being turned into contract labor through the elimination of tenure. While in the past, 98 percent of teachers with three years’ experience were granted tenure, last year only 55 percent of eligible teachers were given that legal job protection.

The preferred lever for privatization is the spurious evaluation of teachers and schools based on student test scores. Over 1,500 school principals, one-third of those in New York State, have signed an open letter criticizing the standardized test-based teacher evaluation framework based on Obama’s “Race to the Top,” agreed to by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State teachers’ union.

The newly developed “Common Core Learning Standards,” adopted in almost every state, will become another device to attack public schools and teachers. Every effort is made to divert attention from the real causes of “failing schools”: social deprivation and the starving of the public schools of the funding they need.

New York daily life and theatre


By Fred Mazelis in the USA:

Sorry at New York’s Public Theater: American liberals on Election Day

23 November 2012

At the Public Theater, New York City, extended through December 21.

Sorry, the play by Richard Nelson that opened on Election Day at New York’s Public Theater, is the third in what is now projected as a series of four plays on the Apple family of Rhinebeck, New York.

Rhinebeck is a small village almost exactly 100 miles north of New York City. Nelson himself lives there. Although his plays are fiction, he is writing about subjects and people that are undoubtedly very familiar to him.

Each of these Apple family plays is set on the very day on which it opens, in real time. Nelson has set himself the task of exploring social and political themes of American life as refracted through the daily concerns and problems of a fairly typical family.

Sorry

The first installment, That Hopey Changey Thing, was set on the date of the 2010 midterm elections, and took its name from the sarcastic anti-Obama slogan used by former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Next in the series came Sweet and Sad, which was set (and opened) on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and which we reviewed last year (“Sweet and Sad: An honest, probing look at life on the anniversary of 9/11”).

Sorry is set on Election Day 2012, taking place while the voting is going on nationally, and before the outcome is known. And Nelson has announced the date of his fourth installment in the series of plays: November 22, 2013, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

This technique of placing the works in real time is an interesting one, and opens up the possibility of investigating historical and political questions in a fresh, living way. Indeed, one of the playwright’s strengths is his ability to write dialogue about the elections, war, the economy and other issues that are not set speeches but rather effectively interwoven with the concerns of daily life.

Nelson works on the plays until the very last moment, literally hours before the opening performance. In the case of Sorry, lines were inserted on Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, up to and including a reference to “another storm tomorrow,” the northeaster that hit the New York area the day after Election Day.

The cast of characters has been almost the same for the first three plays. Much of the plot revolves around retired actor Benjamin Apple, who lives with his unmarried niece Barbara, a schoolteacher in Rhinebeck. Another member of the household is Marian, Barbara’s sister and a grade school teacher in town whose marriage disintegrated after the tragic suicide of her daughter.

Visiting once again in Sorry, as in the earlier plays, are the other Apple siblings, who live in New York City. Jane is a writer and Richard a corporate lawyer, who has doubts about whether to continue in his job. The actor who plays a sixth character, Jane’s boyfriend, was unavailable for Sorry and so the latter has been written out of the script by sending him to an acting job in Chicago.

The cast is uniformly excellent, including Jon Devries as Benjamin, Maryann Plunkett as Barbara, Laila Robbins as Marian, J. Smith-Cameron as Jane and Jay O. Sanders as Richard.

One of the main plot lines in Sweet and Sad involved the preparation for a school commemoration of the 9/11 anniversary, and much of its dialogue dealt with the “war on terror” and the concomitant war crimes and attacks on civil liberties. At the same time, alongside these broader themes was the condition of Uncle Ben, who had suffered a massive heart attack and whose memory was now beginning to fail.

Sorry has a somewhat different emphasis than Sweet and Sad, and it is a revealing shift. Here the main focus, for most of the play, is the dilemma facing the family as they prepare that very day to place their uncle in an assisted living development. Barbara in particular is wracked by guilt, accusing herself of abandoning her uncle, while her siblings insist that there is no choice and that Benjamin, losing inhibitions as part of an Alzheimer’s-like decline, is becoming more difficult to live with.

Although the action is set on Election Day, there is virtually no discussion of this until the last 15 minutes or so. The siblings talk about Benjamin’s role in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman many years ago. They look at the journal he has been keeping, even as his faculties decline. There are passing references to the election, but they amount to very little.

Then Richard suddenly announces that, while he is not home and unable to cast his ballot, he would have voted for Barack Obama. Jane wonders, “Do we know what we’re rooting for?” The conversation turns to Billy, Jane’s son, in his early 20s, who compares the political situation to two divorcing parents screaming at one another.

Richard announces that if he had one minute with Obama, he would ask him “Why did you begin appealing to our hates?” One sister adds that she would ask Romney “if you really are just out to help your rich friends? Then God have mercy on your soul.”

This is, frankly, pretty weak and a far cry from the angry oppositional sentiments offered in Sweet and Sad, where the characters spoke about inequality, “the Wall Street Republicans and the Wall Street Democrats,” the militarization of American life and the attacks on basic civil rights.

What has happened to the Apples, and to the playwright, in the 13 months since Sweet and Sad? This is a question worth examining, because Nelson has not lost his touch at writing about daily life and making his characters quite real.

In an interview with the New York Times, Nelson reaffirms his liberal stance, talking about friends “who had misgivings and worries about Obama and other Democrats.” These misgivings, however, take a very different form than they did only a year ago. What begins to emerge from a comparison of Sweet and Sad and Sorry is the political trajectory of a certain fairly privileged layer of academics and intellectuals.

It would seem that Sweet and Sad reflected what might be termed an “Occupy moment.” Last year the characters and their creator were reflecting some of the anger that found momentary expression in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that quickly spread all over the world. This was far more of a moment than a movement, however. With no coherent political perspective and dominated by an assortment of anarchists and liberals, the demonstrations dissipated fairly quickly, to the point where local Democratic politicians were able to remove them by co-option or police action.

This set the stage for Sorry. Some of the angry Democrats of 2011 are now resigned to support for Obama as the lesser of two evils. They are not merely discouraged, but perhaps also not that angry after all, and now the twin parties of Wall Street are instead described as resembling bickering parents.

The themes of family relations, of the sorrows and difficulties in caring for older relatives are no less important than they were previously, but in Sorry Nelson seems to be retreating into these rather than explaining the connection between daily life and broader issues. One journalist writing about the play summed it up by referring to a moment of reconciliation in Sorry between Barbara and Benjamin, observing that “it points up what truly matters to people: making peace with a loved one, not who wins Ohio.”

Of course who wins Ohio is not important when the choice is Obama or Romney, but posing the question in this way is another way of saying nothing can be done about politics and we might as well simply turn to family and friends, “what truly matters”—as if the issues of daily life can be divorced from the fate of humanity as a whole.

What next for Richard Nelson? The half-century anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination certainly provides a good deal of food for thought. Will the next play deal with the confused and contradictory legacy of the 1960s, and with the virtual disappearance of the Democratic Party liberalism represented by Kennedy and Johnson? Sorry is not the most promising indication of what might come in this next and presumably final chapter.

New York neglected pre-Hurricane Sandy warnings


This video from the USA is called Hurricane Sandy Aftermath Video: New York at a Stand Still.

By Dan Brennan in the USA:

In advance of Hurricane Sandy, New York warned on vulnerable infrastructure

20 November 2012

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a common refrain from politicians, responders and victims alike was that the effects of the storm were like nothing they had ever seen before. The extent of damage, indeed, far exceeds any other recent storm in the New York area.

This, however, does not mean that the scale of the storm’s impact was unforeseeable. In fact, the opposite is the case for those in positions of power and authority. The scope of devastation wrought by Sandy actually was predicted by numerous scientific studies commissioned by government agencies over the past decade.

Warming oceans and melting ice have already led to significant sea level rise over the past century. The Battery in lower Manhattan has recorded a twelve-inch rise in sea level since 1900.

Climate scientists project that in the coming decades the rate of this rise will accelerate. This is particularly important for the New York region, where ocean currents and land subsidence result in a higher than average rise.

One recent assessment for New York determined the need to plan for up to 5 additional feet of sea level rise by 2080. The scientific community, as well as all levels of government, has recognized the increasingly likely danger of a severe storm such as Sandy generating never-before-seen flooding.

The US Global Change Research Program, a federally funded research body that published its most recent major assessment of climate change impacts in 2009, warned: “The densely populated coasts of the Northeast face substantial increases in the extent and frequency of storm surge, coastal flooding, erosion, property damage, and loss of wetlands. New York State alone has more than $2.3 trillion in insured coastal property. Much of this coastline is exceptionally vulnerable to sea-level rise and related impacts.”

Detailed studies specific to the region began more than a decade ago. The Metropolitan East Coast Assessment examined the potential impacts of climate change on the transportation infrastructure of the New York metro area in 2001. The report noted the vulnerability of many critical facilities, which, at between 6 and 20 feet above the current sea level, lie well within the range of storm surges from hurricanes and nor’easters.

However, it doesn’t take the threat of a hurricane to expose New York’s vulnerabilities. A Transportation Research Board special report from four years ago noted: “The New York metropolitan area is no stranger to the devastating impacts of flooding. For example, the nor’easter of December 1992 produced some of the worst flooding in the area in 40 years, resulting in an almost complete shutdown of the regional transportation system and evacuation of many seaside communities. More recently, heavy rainstorms in September 2004 and August 2007 crippled the New York City transit system.”

Hurricane Irene, which made landfall in the city as a tropical storm last year, came within a foot of paralyzing the transportation system, according to Columbia University scientist Klaus Jacob. In 2011, Jacob and a team of researchers completed the most comprehensive assessment of climate change vulnerabilities in New York to date. ClimAID, as it was known, included a case study that modeled the impacts of a storm surge very similar to Sandy.

The study projected extensive flooding within an hour to most subway, rail and vehicle tunnels linking Manhattan to the rest of New York and New Jersey. It estimated that complete restoration of transit service could take weeks, and the economic damages reach near $50 billion, even without further sea level rise. A similar storm after 70 years of sea level rise could increase costs by 75 percent.

The report recommended a number of short, medium, and long-term measures to reduce vulnerability. “Raise or relocate to higher ground… critical infrastructure to avoid current and future flood zones,” was one. Another suggested looking at “constructing levees, sea walls, barriers, and pumping facilities, and… designing innovative gates at subway-, rail- and road-tunnel entrances.”

Just a little more than a month prior to Sandy hitting the East Coast, the New York Times quoted Jacob on the city’s preparedness for potential flooding. “We’ve been extremely lucky. I’m disappointed that the political process hasn’t recognized that we’re playing Russian roulette,” he said.

Of course, transportation was not the only critical infrastructure impacted by the flooding. Over 8.5 million homes lost electricity immediately following the storm, as substations, transformers and power lines throughout the region collapsed.

Gasoline shortages still persist, as petroleum terminals and major refineries in New York and New Jersey were damaged and remain shuttered.

Wastewater treatment plants were overwhelmed during the storm, leading a dozen drinking water systems to issue boil water advisories and hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage to spill into waterways during the week following the storm.

These impacts were also not unforeseen. The ClimAID report notes that a majority of the city’s largest power plants are located at an elevation less than 16 feet above sea level, vulnerable to hurricane storm surges. Much of the city’s critical transmission infrastructure is also extremely vulnerable, the report found.

As utilities have cut workforces and under-funded investment, their resiliency to storms has deteriorated drastically. The US Global Change Research Program explained: “The number of [weather-related electric grid] incidents caused by extreme weather has increased tenfold since 1992. The portion of all events that are caused by weather-related phenomena has more than tripled from about 20 percent in the early 1990s to about 65 percent in recent years. The weather-related events are more severe, with an average of about 180,000 customers affected per event compared to about 100,000 for non-weather-related events.”

With the known threats from rising seas, warming temperatures and other climate change impacts growing, the complete inability and/or refusal to implement protective measures has exposed the irrationality of development in the country’s largest city, whose gross metropolitan product approaches $4 billion per day.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, popular outrage has grown over the failure of the government and corporations to adequately prepare for and respond to the storm’s devastating impact: here.

Hurricane Sandy survivors interviewed


By A. Woodson in the USA:

Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy: Hoboken, New Jersey residents seek aid

15 November 2012
HobokenAudience at Monday’s meeting at Hoboken High School

Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy sent the Hudson River flowing through the streets of Hoboken, residents of the New Jersey city came to the local high school seeking aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other agencies.

The hurricane’s storm surge, mixed with fuel and sewage, came over the tops of cars and stranded many of Hoboken’s residents in their homes for days, with some being rescued by the National Guard.

Only by Sunday, nearly two weeks after the storm, was power restored to the city, but many buildings still remain dark because of storm damage. Gas has also been turned off to many residences because of concerns by the local utility company, PSE&G, over damage to lines.

Public transportation, including the PATH commuter rail line to New York City, has yet to be restored. According to Forbes magazine, the city has the highest rate of public transportation use in the country, with more than half its residents working across the river in New York City. Hoboken Terminal, a major PATH stop and a depot for six New Jersey train lines, is still closed after signals and other electrical equipment suffered severe damages.

The city’s economy had previously been based on industry and the docks, but lost both beginning in the 1970s, going into decline. In the 1990s and 2000s, Hoboken, which boasts Frank Sinatra as its favorite son, experienced an upscale business and residential boom as a lower-cost bedroom suburb to New York City. With 50,000 people living in one square mile, it is the fourth most densely populated municipality in the US.

Around 200 people turned out at the Monday night meeting at Hoboken High School. Many complained that insurance companies were refusing to cover their flood damage and that FEMA had failed to provide aid. Some charged that the utility company had shut off their gas even though their equipment had not been damaged.

Among those present were some of Hoboken’s poorest residents, whose precarious living conditions have been rendered virtually impossible in the storm’s aftermath.

Rosalind

Rosalind Delacruz, who works part time as a school crossing guard, said she had been homeless since being evicted from a public housing apartment more than a year ago because of a charge that her daughter had not fully reported her income.

“Since Hoboken Housing Authority threw me out, I have been homeless,” she said. “I have slept on the street, been to shelters and stayed with my daughter some. All this time I have been working.

“After Sandy, I stayed with my brother in Jersey City for a little while. Now I am staying in the one shelter in Hoboken. I am a diabetic. Some nights you can’t get a bed so you are stuck in the streets. Since Sandy, more people have come to the shelter. You have to get in line early. People get frustrated over who is and isn’t going to get a bed, and they get in fights over it. I am here because I am displaced, and I am looking for the resources to find a place to live. I just need a stable place to stay.”

Lisa

Lisa Barbosa, who works in sales, described the situation she and her fiancé faced, showing photos of flood waters and destruction to her home taken on her iPhone.

“We live on Monroe Street in Hoboken, which is 10 to 14 blocks from the Hudson River where the surge came from. During Irene, we got 14 inches of water in the house. That was enough damage, because our house doesn’t have a basement; it is built on a slab. We thought we were prepared and that the city was prepared for any storm this time.”

Lisa cited the city’s building of an $18 million pump, completed in October 2011, to deal with flooding that has particularly affected Hoboken’s low-lying southwestern neighborhoods. She added that she and her fiancé had also bought two sump pumps and put in a new drain.

“But there was a surge from the Hudson River that rushed through the whole town,” she continued. “It reached us about 8:40. It poured four feet of salt water into our house and has ruined it. We got the robo phone calls from the city warning us, but we thought we were prepared, and that the city was prepared.

“The power went out about five to seven minutes before the water started rushing through. Then we evacuated to a higher level. We walked out, shut our front door, and prayed for the best.

“The other day I heard that 10,000 cars still needed to be towed out of Hoboken. The first night, you could only see the tops of cars. The whole city was under water. Hoboken was hard hit because the city is essentially at sea level. It took a day and a half for the water to recede. Tuesday it was still two to three feet.

“The power and the heat were shut off, and the first people didn’t start getting power in Hoboken until Sunday. Our home is not habitable.

“Why don’t they do something like build a levee? With all the talk about budget cuts, they don’t even talk about this. They didn’t give us the figures here about how many people have had their homes totally destroyed. We don’t know how many people lost their lives here.

“My fiancé and I were going to get married shortly. We can’t now. With two storms like this in 14 months, I’m scared to go to sleep at night.”

Shamequa

Shamequa Clark is a young worker from Jersey City who works at a bank in Hoboken, which was flooded and is expected to remain closed until January.

“We are conducting business out of the drive-through across the street, she told the WSWS. “We have power there, and I was able to get back to work on Election Day. All our workers were called back to work, but each of us will lose an hour of work each week. I used to work 30 hours a week. Now, I only work 29.

“We could have gone back to work before November 6, but there was no public transportation anywhere in New Jersey until then, and I need public transportation. It is terrible, but the stations were flooded.

“I have a friend whose grandmother lives in Curries Woods public housing in Jersey City. She is wheelchair-bound. The elevator stopped working in her building. She didn’t have lights or heat for two weeks. She was homebound for that time. I don’t know how she survived.

“When the poor are cold and children are cold, they don’t get heat or light. But for Wall Street, they get heat and light in a day.”

Hurricane survivors billed for disconnected electricity


This video from the USA is called Hurricane Sandy – Aftermath Long Island, New York.

By David Reich-Hale in the USA, writing about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy:

LIPA Sends Out Customer Bills

The lights are still out in many Long Island homes, but the LIPA bills come on time.

As Hurricane Sandy pummeled Long Island last week, Levittown‘s Victoria Kalt Waterman joined more than 900,000 of her closest friends in the dark.

Unable to reach the Long Island Power Authority or turn on her lights, she has been there ever since.

In the meantime, she shivered and the mail showed up. So did the Long Island Power Authority bill, which she has yet to pay.

After 11 days without power, Waterman said on Facebook “I will send my payment 11 days late.”

The timely distribution of bills have angered some ratepayers, who have otherwise heard little from LIPA, forcing them to depend on an outage map many have called inaccurate.

In Greenlawn, Edward Woody Ryder IV said he lost power last Monday. After six days of watching that outage map on LIPA’s site, there was light.

On the seventh day, there would also be a bill for $138.

“We are in a first world country, but we have a fourth world electrical authority,” Ryder said. “It’s astounding. They could have stopped the automated bill system. They clearly know nothing about crisis communications. What they’ve done makes no sense. How they’ve handled this makes no sense.”

Across Long Island, readers said they haven’t been able to reach the power authority. The text messaging system LIPA pumped before the storm was ineffective – silent, according to some, including Rena Barsh-Rudolph, who wrote to East Meadow Patch that “my husband signed up to get communication from them via text and we haven’t heard anything in days.”

Matt Harris of Huntington Station hasn’t heard much from LIPA either, even though he hasn’t had power for 10 days. As for the bill? Yes, that came “two days ago.”

Debby Izzo, who owns Dirty Dawg, a dog grooming business in Bellmore, was more forgiving than most. She wrote “billing is done by computer” and added that “LIPA office employees” are doing their jobs.

Izzo added, “Don’t hate. Maybe take notice to how many more bills are estimated rather than actual.”

Ryder, meanwhile, said he would pay his bill, because he had no choice.

“What am I going to do, not pay it?” Ryder said. “I have to pay it. Otherwise they’ll send me a disconnect letter and turn my power off.”

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross didn’t immediately return a phone call requesting comment.

Two and a half weeks after Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States, thousands of people remained without electricity, heat, or hot water. In some areas of Long Island, victims organized rallies to protest the failure of the local utility company, LIPA, to restore power to their homes: here.

After Hurricane Sandy, still more misery?


This video from New York City in the USA is called Staten Island tries to bounce back after Sandy.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Millions still without power as temperature nears freezing in Eastern US

5 November 2012

One week after Hurricane Sandy pummeled the Eastern Seaboard of the United States with high winds and a record storm surge, nearly two million homes and businesses remain without power in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut as temperatures fall near the freezing mark.

Fear is growing that Sandy’s death toll, already topping 100, will be augmented by further fatalities, caused not by natural disaster but rather the inability and unwillingness of all levels of government and a social system driven by private profit to mount an adequate relief effort for the millions of people left without electricity, heat, water and food.

On Sunday New York City’s billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that between 30,000 and 40,000 New Yorkers would be left homeless by the storm for a lengthy period, the bulk of them residents of the city’s public housing developments. Much of this housing, he said, will be “out of commission for a very long time.”

Bloomberg said that the numbers left homeless were comparable to those recorded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, noting that many then left that city for Houston, Texas.

These comments raised the very real possibility that the ruling establishment in New York may well use the devastation of Hurricane Sandy as a pretext for eliminating a section of the city’s public housing, which layers of the financial and corporate oligarchy have long regarded as an anachronism and an impediment to profitable real estate development.

In many of the housing projects, conditions have gone from bad to worse after nearly a week without power, heat and water. Even where lights have been restored, as in the developments on Manhattan’s lower east side, heat remains off and residents are attempting to warm themselves by turning on stove-top burners or boiling water, raising the threat of fire or asphyxiation.

The overwhelming sentiment heard over and over again throughout the region is that victims of the storm have been left behind in working-class and poor areas, while unlimited resources were lavished on getting Wall Street up and running with full power a day after the hurricane ended.

Bloomberg was the target of these sentiments Sunday when he sought to make a brief disaster tour of the Rockaway section of Queens, which has been left without power since the storm. Residents were pushed back by his police escort when they began yelling, “When are we going to get some help?” and questioning what was going to happen to older people trapped in high-rise public housing. The mayor was hastily hustled out of the area by his bodyguards.

The incident took place just a day after Bloomberg was forced to suddenly announce the cancellation of the New York Marathon, an annual event that has been held for more than 40 years. Public anger over the social inequality and class divide that pervades New York focused on the event, particularly after news reports that generators were being set up in Central Park for media tents and other facilities related to the race, while truckloads of food and water were arriving for the runners. People in devastated areas of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island and beyond demanded to know where their generators, food and water were.

The anger was exacerbated by the fact that the race’s starting point was in Staten Island, where the bulk of the city’s 41 deaths have taken place, and where the bodies of two little boys swept out of their mother’s arms by the storm surge were recovered only on Thursday.

It is still not entirely clear what caused Bloomberg to suddenly reverse himself only hours after he had insisted that the race was necessary to give New Yorkers something “to cheer about” and to boost business. It has been reported, however, that the city’s police commissioner, Ray Kelly, had weighed in heavily in favor of calling off the event. No doubt Kelly was receiving reports from the commanders of the army of police sent to maintain order in the devastated parts of the city that conditions were turning into a social powder keg that could be ignited by fury over the marathon.

Bloomberg on Sunday urged people without heat to go to warming centers and shelters, warning, “You can die from being cold.” However, people in the affected neighborhoods have reported that many of these centers are already overflowing, without room to sleep or enough food to give those coming for help.

Utility companies have given no precise timetable for when power will be restored, with reports that in the more hard-hit areas it could be off for as long as two weeks or more.

Meanwhile, still another storm is set to strike the region by the middle of this week, bringing heavy rains and wind as well as more coastal flooding.

The New York Times noted Sunday that even after power is restored and repairs are completed, the region’s infrastructure will remain “just as vulnerable to the next monster storm,” rendered all the more likely and inevitable by climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather.

From Associated Press today:

TRENTON, N.J. — Forecasters are tracking another coastal storm that threatens cleanup and recovery efforts in New York and New Jersey after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy.

The National Weather Service says the nor’easter could hit the region on Wednesday into Thursday.

The storm could produce strong winds, heavy rain and cause moderate tidal flooding along the coast, Raritan Bay and lower Delaware Bay.

Buildings and trees weakened by Sandy would be vulnerable to additional damage.

The storm would also hamper efforts to restore electricity that was lost during Sandy. Meanwhile, temperatures have dropped in the region.

New York after Sandy: Lights on in Wall Street while others suffer: here.

With tens of thousands homeless and hundreds of thousands still without power from Hurricane Sandy, the Northeast of the United States was hit by another storm Wednesday night: here.

The end of the current generation of environmental satellites will likely produce a gap lasting up to four years, in which crucial data used in predicting the intensity of hurricanes will not be collected: here.

J.A. Myerson, In These Times: Hurricane Sandy struck the Bay Parkway Community Job Center, New York City’s only center for day laborers, and the NYPD continues to deny entrance to the area. This has forced workers to go back to street corners: here.

Poem on Hurricane Sandy: here.

Hurricane Sandy and unusual birds


This video says about itself:

A visit to the tropical island of Saba to study the rare and beautiful Red-Billed Tropicbird.

From Reuters:

Besides destruction, Sandy brought lots of unusual birds

By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK | Fri Nov 2, 2012 8:25pm EDT

While superstorm Sandy sent most people running for shelter wherever they could find it, bird enthusiasts rushed outdoors as soon as possible to scan the skies for birds that usually don’t visit these parts.

A powerful storm can take birds far from home or thousands of miles off their migratory course if they are swept up in the center of a storm and carried along until they reach the first spot where it is safe to land.

To greet them, there are often groups of intrepid bird watchers, or birders, eager to spot an extremely rare out-of-town visitor like the Leach’s Storm-Petrel.

Birders were quick to say on Friday that they were very upset by the devastation caused by Sandy, which killed scores of people, ruined homes and left many without power. But they also view dangerous storms as an opportunity.

Because the storm that ravaged the U.S. Northeast this week combined a hurricane from the south and winter winds from the north, it brought in a more peculiar group of birds than usual when it made landfall in New Jersey on Monday night.

“This was a storm that mixed species groups you don’t ever usually see together,” said Andrew Farnsworth, a New York-based researcher for Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.

One birder discovered a Red-billed Tropicbird in New Jersey – more typically seen in the Caribbean – and brought it to a wild-life rehabilitator, according to Farnsworth, who studies reports on the online forum ebird.org.

Near Ithaca in Upstate New York, one ebird.org visitor reported seeing an arctic bird, the Ross’s Gull, while another reported a sighting of the same bird near Lake Ontario, Canada.

“The same storm that brought this arctic bird also brought this Caribbean bird,” said Farnsworth, 39.

On Tuesday, as soon as they decided it was safe to go outside, several Manhattan birders headed to the banks of the Hudson River. They were delighted to catch sight of Jaegers, which are typically only found out at sea.

“It’s just exciting to be on the Hudson and see these birds that you’d normally only see out on a fishing boat,” said Dale Dancis, a retired teacher who declined to disclose her age.

Starr Saphir, 73, who leads bird tours in Central Park and appeared in a HBO birding documentary, “The Central Park Effect,” said she saw Forster’s Tern on Tuesday. “They had already migrated south so they got blown back,” she said.

Peter Post, 73, a retired social services worker who has been a birder for 62 years, said he spotted an American Oyster Catcher on the Hudson, far from its coastal habitat.

Post was disappointed he missed the Leach’s Storm-Petrel Farnsworth spotted on Tuesday. “It would’ve been nice,” he said.

Joseph DiCostanzo, 60, an ornithologist who works at the American Museum of Natural History, was lucky enough to see a Red Phalarope, usually an ocean bird, near the river through the window of his Manhattan home before he was able to go outside.

“My wife and I did try to go out. The problem was that they were closing all the parks,” DiCostanzo said.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew; editing by Todd Eastham)

While Hurricane Sandy has ravaged cities and communities across the east coast of the United States, its effect has been equally devastating on wild birds: here.

Hurricane Sandy and the Storm’s Effects on Bird Migration: here.

Where do the birds go for protection during severe weather such as blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes? Here.

Response of Tidal Marsh Birds and Plants to Hurricane Sandy: here.

After Sandy, Staten Island Helps Its Own, but More Relief Still Needed: here.

VIDEO: In Staten Island, hordes of volunteers armed with shovels came out to help those who lost their homes: here.

How Natural Disasters Help Birds: here.