Hurricane Sandy beat the hell out of Queens, the rest of New York City, the tri-state region and much of the Eastern Seaboard Monday, killing dozens of people and leaving millions without power, cars crushed under trees, homes ablaze and public transit utterly stopped.
The storm killed at least 18 people in the city, Mayor Bloomberg said at a press conference held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. One of those was a Flushing resident who died when a tree crashed into his home, crushing him.
South Queens was among the areas especially hard hit. Areas south of the Belt Parkway were largely under water Monday evening. There were reports of looting on Cross Bay Boulevard [see separate story here at qchron.com].
More than 100 houses in Breezy Point burned down, the latest reported number being 111. The home of U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Queens, Brooklyn) was reportedly one of those destroyed.
Fire also destroyed many homes in Belle Harbor, Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) reported, and at least one Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department rig was burned.
Con Edison said Sandy caused the largest storm-related power outages in its history, and that crews are working day and night to assess the damage and restore service. Cell phone connections were spotty in many areas. Daily newspapers went undelivered to much if not all of Queens, except for the Spanish-language El Diario. Many businesses were closed. The city had received approximately 4,000 requests for tree service by early Tuesday afternoon, according to the Mayor's Office.
More than 400,000 Con Ed customers lost power, utility CEO Kevin Burke said at Tuesday's press conference with the mayor. Burke called the storm "an extraordinary event that devastated our system."
Bloomberg said most people who lost power should not expect it to be restored before the weekend.
All bridges and tunnels to and from Manhattan were closed Monday, but were beginning to be reopened Tuesday. The RFK-Triborough and Queensboro-59th Street bridges were reopened at 11:30 a.m., according to the Mayor's Office. A radio report on Tuesday described the Queens-Midtown Tunnel as flooded but open, but on Wednesday morning it was closed, causing a traffic nightmare across Queens.
Limited bus service will resume at 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said, but subways will not be operational for days. The buses will run fare-free on a Saturday schedule, according to Mayor Bloomberg. Regular bus service is expected to resume Wednesday.
Bloomberg also announced that the city is temporarily allowing ride-sharing in taxis and livery cars. Taxis are operating on a normal fare schedule, he said at the Tuesday press conference, and the charge for extra passengers is to be negotiated. The fee must be stated up front, Bloomberg said, and the administration is recommending a charge of $10 per extra rider.
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) warned drivers to slow down because many traffic signals are out, effectively turning intersections into four-way stops.
Vallone also took on a Twitter poster who allegedly had been spreading false rumors about the hurricane's impact, like one saying Con Edison was shutting down all of Manhattan. Playing on the poster's Twitter name, Vallone said he should be less comfortable and smug because "I'm talking to Cy," in an apparent reference to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
The NYPD reminded residents to call 311, not 911, about downed trees and other nonemergencies, so as to not delay police response to genuine emergencies.
Bloomberg advised people seeking storm-related financial aid to visit disasterassistance.gov. President Obama declared New York a disaster area before Sandy even hit, speeding up the process for applying for aid. Details on various federal programs can be found at fema.gov/disaster/4085.
This week's Queens Chronicle will be distributed on Friday instead of the usual Thursday. The paper will continue reporting on the storm's aftermath online as more information becomes available.