In the City Council Chambers at City Hall last Wednesday, elected officials grilled city officials on issues ranging from Hurricane Sandy disaster recovery to the planning before the storm hit, as well as what New York City needs to do to prepare for the next major storm.
Caswell Holloway, deputy mayor for Operations, discussed the success of the Rapid Repairs program, and that the city has been able to knock the typical repair time on homes and buildings down to roughly 40 days, depending on the devastation.
He also mentioned how the city worked to secure meals for those affected by the storm, and how volunteers and first responders helped distributed these essentials, although critics have questioned the success of these projects.
Holloway gave City Council members the numbers: the storm left 230 damaged to the point where they needed to be torn down; it resulted in 1.3 million tons of debris; it downed or damaged 20,000 trees; and killed 43 New Yorkers.
Following the testimony, lawmakers asked a variety of questions, ranging from how the city prepared first responders to what it should have done to get the electricity up and running faster than it did.
“We have to do better, “ said Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr., who led the hearing.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn focused on the issue of food distribution. She grilled Holloway and Commissioner Joseph Bruno of the Office of Emergency Management on why the city was not prepared, in her opinion, to provide the necessary food and water for residents who could not leave their homes or had no homes left.
Israel Miranda, president of Local 2507 of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics, and Fire Inspectors Union, told lawmakers that calls had been dropped and first responders, in some cases, were given the wrong information causing confusion.
Despite Miranda’s testimony, Holloway told council members that the system did not fail.
After the hearing, Holloway spoke with reporters and explained that the city is looking at things they did wrong regarding the handling of the hurricane. He thanked the council for both their criticism and compliments.
“This is what the evaluation process is for and many of the questions that came today were really in that spirit,” he said.
Although Holloway defended the city during the roughly three-hour hearing, he said that changes will have to be made. He said that programs such as Rapid Repairs will benefit the city during the next crisis.
The city is asking 'Which of these things can be part of a playbook going forward?'” he said. “But every circumstance is different.”
The City Council plans to hold more hearings on specific topics regarding the response to Hurricane Sandy in the future.