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The City Council authorized $500 million in emergency spending Tuesday to make repairs to public schools and hospitals damaged by Hurricane Sandy, coming on top of $134 million already approved by the city for the recovery effort and emergency services.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, announcing the plan at a news conference in Howard Beach Monday, said the needed repairs are critical.
“We’re committed to doing everything we can to get public school buildings damaged by Sandy reopened as soon as possible and also make urgent hurricane-related repairs to public hospitals,” he said.
The City Council unanimously approved Bloomberg’s plan Tuesday.
The plan allocates $200 million to the city Department of Education and $300 million to the city Health & Hospitals Corp. and will be added to capital funds in the current fiscal year. The money will go to structural restorations, new electrical systems, new boilers and other repairs.
Bloomberg said that to his knowledge the city has never before made such an emergency spending provision because of a natural disaster, and the total cost of replacing and repairing damaged city infrastructure may be billions of dollars.
“We won’t know the full cost for some time,” he said. “But we’re taking this step now because our public schools and public hospitals have immediate needs.”
Bloomberg made the remarks alongside Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), city Comptroller John Liu and Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) at PS 207 Rockwood Park. PS 207 is one of 23 school buildings closed for repairs, and Bloomberg said overall 26,000 students and their teachers had to resume classes at facilities elsewhere because of the damage.
“It’s an enormous number of students,” he said.
In addition, three public hospitals require extensive repairs, including the Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility on Roosevelt Island, Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan and Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn.
The mayor unveiled his plan the same day it was revealed Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning to ask the federal government for $30 billion in disaster aid to help rebuild after Sandy.
Bloomberg said he hopes the federal government will reimburse the city or pay outright for the costs of needed repairs, but the city cannot wait to address the damage.
“We aren’t waiting for federal aid before taking action,” he said, saying the city owes it to people to reopen hospitals and schools immediately.
He said when the city sees something that absolutely needs to be done, it does it and thinks about the costs later.
“New York has always stood by its neighbors in the toughest of times,” he said.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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