Temperatures approach freezing as another storm looks set to hit New York in the wake of Superstorm Sandy
Mere days after a devastating superstorm swept through the region, leaving a trail of destruction behind it, the residents of New York and New Jersey are facing another crisis.
As tens of thousands of people struggled without power, and with temperatures dipping towards freezing, state governor Andrew Cuomo, and Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, warned of a "massive, massive housing" problem, as residents waited to be relocated following the storm.
The most seriously affected are those in public housing, and therefore those who have nowhere else to go.
Many people are living in increasingly difficult circumstances - in damp, cold, dark and uninhabitable apartments.
Cuomo warned that up to 40,000 people needed relocating because of damage from the storm and the lack of electricity and 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.”
Genice Josey, a Far Rockaway resident said: “You shiver yourself to sleep. Nights are the worst because you feel like you're outside when you're inside.”
The crisis has been further exacerbated by the lack of fuel, with people struggling to run back-up generators.
Washington has already sanctioned the release of 12m gallons of unleaded fuel and 10m gallons of diesel, which was being transported into New Jersey and New York over the weekend.
As a new storm approached, which is expected to hit New Jersey and New York by Wednesday, fear and anger continued to rise over the government response, with some claiming the official response has been too slow.
The new storm is expected to bring the threat of 55 mph gusts and more possible beach erosion, flooding and rain.
With temperatures sinking into the 30s Fahrenheit (1 to 4 degrees Celsius) overnight, New York City officials handed out blankets and urged victims to go to overnight shelters or daytime warming centers.
But government leaders began to wonder where to find housing in the densely developed area around the largest US city for the tens of thousands whose homes could be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Bloomberg said 30,000 to 40,000 New Yorkers may need to be relocated — a monumental task in a city where housing is scarce and expensive — though he said that number will probably drop to 20,000 within a couple of weeks as power is restored in more places.
“We're not going to let anybody go sleeping in the streets. ... But it's a challenge, and we're working on it,” Bloomberg said.
One option is setting up Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer camps of the kind that existed after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, said George W. Contreras, associate director of the emergency and disaster management program at Metropolitan College of New York.
Contreras speculated that large encampments might be set up at a stadium, in a park or in some other open space in the city — something he couldn't recall being done in New York ever before.
“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,” he said.
In a powerless and heavily flooded Staten Island neighborhood, Sara Zavala 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.
“When I woke up, I was like, 'It's freezing.' And I thought, 'This can't go on too much longer,”' she said Sunday.
Nearly 1 million homes and businesses are still without power in New Jersey, and about 650,000 in New York City, its northern suburbs and Long Island.
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