Bloomberg, Christie Shutter NYC, NJ as Irene Looms

Friday, 26 Aug 2011 06:02 PM

 

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a mandatory evacuation order for low-lying areas, including Battery Park City and Coney Island, while area trains, buses and subways prepared to shut tomorrow as Hurricane Irene approached.

All New Jersey rail service will be suspended from noon tomorrow, Governor Chris Christie said. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will institute a shutdown of trains and buses starting at about noon local time. The suspension will include subways, buses, the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and Access-A-Ride. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will suspend PATH train service at noon as well.

Hurricane Irene, a Category 2 storm currently forecast to make landfall in North Carolina tomorrow, threatens to inflict the worst destruction in the Northeast since Hurricane Gloria in 1985. It may affect more than 65 million people, or one in five Americans, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park,” Christie said at a news conference at state police headquarters in West Trenton. “Get out. You’re done. You’ve maximized your tan.”

More Evacuations

Christie widened mandatory evacuations to include towns in Monmouth County north of Manasquan Inlet, the terminus of the Intercoastal Waterway. Early evacuation orders included Atlantic County, home of Atlantic City, the second-largest U.S. gambling center.

Cuomo said in an e-mailed statement that he is calling out as many as 900 members of the Army and Air National Guard. He also said bridges, including the George Washington span over the Hudson River, would be closed if wind speeds exceed 60 miles per hour.

New York City residents in the affected neighborhoods must leave by 5 p.m. tomorrow, Bloomberg said during a City Hall news briefing. It’s the first time New York residents have been ordered to leave their homes ahead of a storm, he said.

The evacuation order would affect about 270,000 New Yorkers, said Marc LaVorgna, a mayoral spokesman. Battery Park City is home to almost 40,000 people. More than 64,000 live in Manhattan Beach and parts of Sheepshead Bay, which are also in the evacuation area, known as Zone A. About 70,000 live in Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park in Queens.

“This is a mandatory evacuation,” Bloomberg said. “By five o’clock tomorrow you have to be out. Waiting for the last minute is not a smart thing to do. This is life threatening.”

Not Leaving

Adam Pratt, a Battery Park City resident for 24 years, said he isn’t going anywhere.

“It’s just going to be a huge crush,” he said while walking his dog. “It’s just going to be a big bottleneck getting to a shelter or getting out of the city.”

Pratt, a 39-year-old consultant for a natural-food company, was living in the complex in 2001, when the World Trade Center was attacked.

“Since 9/11 I’ve been very prepared for all emergencies,” he said.

Taking a different view was Julie Kuehndorf, a 51-year-old movie publicist, who plans to leave and said everyone she has spoken to is doing the same.

“We evacuated once before almost 10 years ago, so we know what to do, what to bring,” she said in an e-mail. “At least this time we have more time to prepare, and know better what to expect -- i.e. wind and rain. One of the worst things about 9/11 from the residents’ point of view was the uncertainty. Was it safe to move back, and could we face living there after such a calamity occurred in our back yard?”

Coney Island

In Coney Island, Haim Haddad, a 61-year-old operator of a T-shirt store, said he would comply with the evacuation order.

“We’ll leave before tomorrow night and put the merchandise two to three feet above the floor,” he said. “If the water goes higher, I don’t have a second floor. If it’s 10 feet deep, then maybe on Tuesday I open a swimming pool.”

MTA Chairman Jay Walder said it would take at least eight hours to shut down the transit system and store equipment in locations that don’t run the risk of being inundated by water. To get the system up and running on Monday morning will also take hours, and it probably won’t be available for rush hour, Walder said.

The storm has the potential to shut the New York Stock Exchange, a company executive said.

Stock Exchange

“If we can open here but none of our customers can get to their desks, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to open the exchange,” Louis Pastina, senior vice president for NYSE Euronext, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “We’ll have to gauge that in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other stock exchanges and our member firms.”

At the Home Depot Inc. store in midtown Manhattan, signs alerted customers that batteries and generators may sell out as shoppers prepare for the storm. Flashlights were already gone at a nearby Duane Reade Inc. drugstore, and the online grocer Fresh Direct said it won’t make any deliveries Aug. 28 or Aug. 29.

Christie, Cuomo and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy declared states of emergency yesterday, which freed up state resources to be spent on storm-related expenses. President Obama granted Cuomo’s request for a federal emergency declaration.

Yesterday, Bloomberg ordered hospital patients and people in nursing homes and senior housing in coastal areas moved to shelter on higher ground. Nassau Executive Edward P. Mangano closed all the county’s parks and canceled events effective 10 p.m. today through Aug. 29.

Airports Stocked

Hundreds of heavy-duty vehicles and dozens of police cars, including mobile command centers and rescue equipment, are stationed at the metropolitan region’s five airports, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said. The airports have been stocked with hundreds of cases of bottled water, diapers, cots, blankets and pillows to provide to stranded travelers if necessary, the agency said in a statement.

In New Jersey, Trump Entertainment Resorts has begun telling guests to leave and will shut down both its 39-story Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and the 2,000-room Taj Mahal Casino Resort as of 8 p.m. New York time, said Brian Cahill, a spokesman.

People were also being told to leave in Cape May County, a low-lying coastal area with a population of 97,000 that sits at New Jersey’s southern tip; on Long Beach Island, an 18-mile barrier island along the Intercoastal.

Seaside Heights

Access to some area islands will be restricted as of this afternoon. Officials lifted all tolls at county bridges and the Garden State Parkway in the area, according to a posting on the county website. The highway will be closed south of Exit 98 in Wall Township as of 8 p.m. tomorrow, Christie said today.

Tom Whalen, 60, surveyed the half-empty boardwalk in Seaside Heights, where he owns 1-1/2 blocks of amusement games. He said he expected to lose at least three days of business during the prime summer season.

“It’ll be a good hit for me,” said Whalen, who said he spent winters in South Florida as a kid and has experienced several hurricanes. “There’s nobody here.”

Irene, the strongest Atlantic storm to threaten the U.S. since 2005, battered the Bahamas yesterday with winds of 115 miles (185 kilometers) an hour on a course expected to take it near North Carolina tomorrow, according to the National Hurricane Center.

More than 25 million workers at 1.7 million businesses in 310 counties are in the storm’s path into New England, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

 


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