Employees from New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority… (Patrick Cashin /Metropolitan…)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a transportation emergency Wednesday night, giving New York City the go-ahead to waive fares on the city’s buses, subways and rail lines through Friday.
An estimated 330 buses will move Brooklyn residents through the city, which Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Joseph Lhota called a “flotilla of buses,” and half the city’s subway lines will begin limited operation along with limited rail service.
It will all be slower, more complicated and more crowded at first, but these are just the first steps, Cuomo and Lhota said at a news conference Wednesday night.
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“Just bear with us as we come back from what I’ve described as the most devastating event ever to happen to the MTA,” Lhota said.
“These are historical obstacles we’re dealing with,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo requested the maximum aid available for New York’s counties that have been declared disaster areas, and sought to comfort the hundreds of thousands without power and the families of the dozens of New Yorkers who died as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
“The only good news is, the worst is really behind us and we’re going to be OK,” Cuomo said. “My grandfather, God rest his soul, said as long as we have our health everything else we can fix. We can replace the bricks and mortar … we can fix the bridges and tunnels … there are a lot of people that want to help.”
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The Army Corps of Engineers is flying in 250 high-speed pumps to help drain the subway tunnels, some of which are still floor-to-ceiling with water, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is delivering 1 million meals and 1 million gallons of drinking water for senior
citizens who are running out of both.
Three of the city’s primary transportation pathways, the Midtown, Brooklyn-Battery and Holland tunnels, are still flooded, Cuomo said. He urged New Yorkers to carpool into Manhattan or use public transportation to lessen congestion. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced earlier in the day that drivers would not be able to get into Manhattan unless at least three people were in the vehicle, effective through Friday midnight.
Cuomo also recalled surveying the scene of the Breezy Point fire, which demolished 110 homes in the Queens neighborhood Monday night. Miraculously, no one was killed, he said. In Long Beach, entire homes were washed away by the storm surge.
“It is a painful situation to watch, painful for us to see on TV, painful for us to see our neighbors suffer this way,” Cuomo said. “I believe there is a silver lining to this storm. We will not just rebuild, we will build back better. We are stronger, we are smarter. We are going to rebuild Breezy Point, we will rebuild Long Beach. We will rebuild the subway system and we will build it better. That’s what New York is all about.”
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