Council blasts city’s Sandy response
Council members blasted the city’s assessment of a job well done after Hurricane Sandy, lobbing questions this morning about why food, lights and gasoline took so long to organize after the storm.
Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway testified for more than two hours at City Hall, the first of seven weeks of Sandy hearings.
The hearing began with mutual praise for recovery efforts, but quickly swung to combative.
Queens Councilman Peter Vallone dismissed the city’s assertion that help was available soon after the storm.
He said he tried to contact the city’s Office of Emergency Management, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross in the days after the storm to transport supplies at his office. But only a local fire house finally helped, he said.
“I talked to many, many people who saw neither hide nor hair of OEM, FEMA, Red Cross, anyone for days and days,” he said.
Holloway said the services were there, but people may not have known.
“If people don’t know the resources are there, they think they’re not there at all,” Holloway said.
He added that the city was looking into how they could do better next time.
The 911 system was a reoccurring theme, as Council members said it did not answer calls and had an average time of seven minutes. Israel Miranda, head of the EMS workers union, said an elderly couple in Far Rockaway died after two calls to 911 were dropped.
Holloway maintained that the 911 system itself didn’t fail but that technology did not allow all calls to come through.
“For the woman who saw water coming down her street and up her steps, who called 911 and there was no one there, the system failed,” Staten Island Councilman James Oddo replied.
Criticizing the Red Cross
Council Speaker Christine Quinn at one point interrupted the hearing to suggest having a separate discussion on the Red Cross, which she called a “severe disappointment.” Many people had criticized the Red Cross in the days after the storm for not quickly getting food and supplies to affected areas. “If there is an entity that’s on my I am disappointed list, it is the Red Cross,” she said. Staten Island Councilman Vincent Ignizio added the Red Cross was “a week too late.” Red Cross spokesperson Sam Kille said the Red Cross provided supplies in the first days after the storm. “Our disaster responders were out in affected communities as soon as it was safe enough for them to travel.”