Mayor Bloomberg announced Monday that the city will release another $500 million in funding to help schools and hospitals recover from Hurricane Sandy.
Joined by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), the mayor made the announcement at PS 207 in Howard Beach, one of 23 schools in the city that remain closed after the hurricane more than two weeks ago.
The money will be exclusively used to make necessary repairs to schools and hospitals that were damaged during the hurricane, including PS 207, which suffered a catastrophic oil spill in its basement when it was flooded by the storm surge. The school remains closed and students were relocated to PS 232 in Lindenwood.
Schools will get $200 million of the allocations and hospitals will receive the other $300 million. No major hospital in Queens suffered damage, the mayor said. The three major hospitals that suffered damage were Bellevue in Manhattan, Coney Island in Brooklyn and a rehabilitation hospital on Roosevelt Island.
“These school buildings and public hospitals are resources that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers rely on every day — and we are not waiting for Federal aid to begin the work of repairing and reopening them,” the mayor said. “This emergency capital spending is a vital investment in our recovery and future.”
Speaker Quinn said she expects swift approval for the money from the City Council because of the importance of the schools and hospitals the money will repair.
“Think about it, if you’re a child who lost your home, what is your second home when you’re a child? Your school,” she said. “So if we can spend and reallocate taxpayer money quickly to get the schools reopened, we will give children an additional sense of stability, a little normalcy back in their lives.”
The city has already authorized $134 million in spending for the recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy, including $12 million to the Department of Sanitation Office of Emergency Management for debris removal; $5 million for plumbing and water line inspections in homes; $2.5 million for food and water distribution; $2 million for the delivery of maintenance; repair and operations supplies for response operators and $1.1 million for more ambulances.
The mayor said the final cost to the city for Sandy recovery will run far higher than what has already been spent.
“It will run into the billions of dollars,” he said. “We won’t know the full costs for some time.”
Liu said the emergency funding will not severely impact the city’s already-fragile finances, but stressed that the federal government would have to kick in reimbursements to help cover the spending.
“I believe that the city’s financial position is solid enough to handle this additional need,” he said. “But nonetheless, we will also work hard to maximize the reimbursements that we are due from the Federal government as quickly as possible.”