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After The Storm: Officials In New York & New Jersey Warn Of Potential Housing Crisis As Weather Gets
November 5, 2012
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Hurricane Sandy is long gone, but the damage it left behind is creating a new crisis in New York and New Jersey.

Adequate housing.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says authorities are facing a "massive, massive housing problem."

30,000 to 40,000 people - many of whom live in public housing - might need to be relocated because their homes are damaged and they still don't have any power or heat.

"People are in homes that are uninhabitable," Cuomo said. "It's going to become increasingly clear that they're uninhabitable when the temperature drops and the heat doesn't come on."

After-The-Storm-Officials-In-New-York-And-New-Jersey-Warn-Of-Potential-Housing-Crisis-As-Weather-Gets-Colder-feature4.jpg The weather is getting colder, with temperatures dropping to near freezing early today.

The city has opened shelters and daytime warming centres in areas with no power, and handed out blankets to people who are staying in their homes - even with no heat.

A lot of them say they have no place to go. As one man put it "You shiver yourself to sleep."

And of course, for city officials, finding shelter for that many people in a city as crowded as New York isn't easy.

"We're not going to let anybody go sleeping in the streets. But it's a challenge, and we're working on it," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

One option is to set up trailer camps like officials did in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Those camps could be set up at a stadium, in a park or in some open space in the city.

"The amount of actual units the city might have in buildings is probably very limited, so I think people will be in FEMA shelters for a while," said George W. Contreras, associate director of the emergency and disaster management program at Metropolitan College of New York.

After-The-Storm-Officials-In-New-York-And-New-Jersey-Warn-Of-Potential-Housing-Crisis-As-Weather-Gets-Colder-feature5.jpg As well, federal agencies are looking for flats and hotel rooms in order to get people out of shelters, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said.

In the meantime, Mayor Bloomberg is urging people - especially the elderly - to try to find somewhere warm to go and check on their neighbours.

"You can die from being cold. You can die from fires started when you use candles or stoves to heat your apartment," he said.

"If you don't know where to go, stop a cop on the street and say, please tell me where to go. They'll help you. But we have to make sure that you are safe for a few days and that you have food and water for a few days."

Both Bloomberg and Cuomo say they've called on the power companies to step up their game.

Meantime, another storm is expected to hit the New York-New Jersey area by Wednesday or Thursday.

It won't be as strong as Sandy, but thunderstorms and strong winds are expected, which could cause more flooding.

"Prepare for more outages," said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Pollina. "Stay indoors. Stock up again."

As of today, about 500,000 homes and businesses in New York state still don't have power - six days after the storm. In New Jersey, it's more than 750,000.

Staten Island and parts of Queens are among the worst hit areas in New York. Many areas are flooded and still in the dark, and might not have power restored for a few more days.

The BBC spent a day on Staten Island to see how people are coping.

Some people who don't have power say city officials have ignored them so they can get Manhattan up and running again.

"Nothing right is going on here. There's old ladies in my building that have got nothing," one resident told mayor Bloomberg as he toured Rockaway, Queens.

Sara Zavala of Staten Island sleeps under two blankets and layers of clothing. She has a propane heater but turns it on for only a couple of hours in the morning.

Plus, those who have generators are having a hard time getting fuel.

"When I woke up, I was like, 'It's freezing.' And I thought, 'This can't go on too much longer,"' she said.

The U.S. government has released another 20 million gallons worth of fuel and diesel, much of which was being trucked to New York and New Jersey this past weekend.

But officials say gas shortages could continue for days. New Jersey governor Chris Christie has ordered stations to ration gas until further notice.

As for Manhattan, normal day to day life is starting up again - step by step.

After-The-Storm-Officials-In-New-York-And-New-Jersey-Warn-Of-Potential-Housing-Crisis-As-Weather-Gets-Colder-feature2.jpg Today, more subways were running, but service was still limited and trains were so packed many people couldn't get on.

Many schools re-opened, as up to a million students headed back to class. In New Jersey, public transit is "still several weeks away from full service." Rail lines were still not operating.

After-The-Storm-Officials-In-New-York-And-New-Jersey-Warn-Of-Potential-Housing-Crisis-As-Weather-Gets-Colder-feature1.jpg The ferry to New York was jammed with people. And buses were a lot more crowded than usual.

Of course, tomorrow is the U.S. election. Voting is going ahead in both New York and New Jersey. More than 140,000 voters might have to find another place to vote other than their regular polling stations.

Officials are setting up tents where people can vote. As well, people who've been forced out of their homes will be able to vote by email or fax.

They'll be designated as "overseas voters" and can apply for mail-in ballots up to 5pm local time on election day.

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