Normalcy cruelly eludes New York, commuters

Outages, other woes persist into week after Sandy

A fallen tree near Public School 195 was only one of the challenges in the Manhattan Beach section of Brooklyn Monday.
Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
A fallen tree near Public School 195 was only one of the challenges in the Manhattan Beach section of Brooklyn Monday.

NEW YORK — In Lower Manhattan, students shivered in school buildings that had lights, but no heat; in Staten Island, they sat by classmates whose homes had been destroyed; and in every borough, some students stayed home as the city used their classrooms, hallways, and gymnasiums as shelters.

All day Monday, New York City scrambled to deal with a Rubik’s Cube of displacements, delayed openings, modified schedules, and new plans for evacuees using school buildings in an attempt to return as many students to classrooms as soon as possible.

Buses arrived to take homeless men, uprooted hospital patients, and evacuated residents from a makeshift shelter in Midtown Manhattan at the High School of Graphic Communication Arts, which was closed to students, to another location. That move was part of the city’s effort to consolidate the eight school buildings that are being used as shelters to free up space for students to return to classes.


But even Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has emphasized repeatedly the importance of restoring order to schools, acknowledged Monday that many of those shelters were not likely to clear out quickly.

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‘’For every two that come in, three leave,’’ said Jeff Pedersen, the facility manager of the shelter at Susan E. Wagner High School on Staten Island, describing the situation Monday.

The day was supposed to be a major step toward restoring New York City to what it had been before Hurricane Sandy struck. After the longest unplanned vacation in recent memory, most of the city’s 1.1 million public school students attended school, many of them making their way around downed trees and through streets where traffic lights blinked on only recently.

Monday-morning commuters discovered just how much the hurricane had transformed the transit system. Almost every subway line had at least partial service restored, and Amtrak and intercity buses had resumed weekday service. But long lines at bus stops and impossibly packed trains were the norm, particularly on Long Island and in New Jersey.

Persistent gas shortages compounded the headaches, with long lines of cars still crawling slowly toward the pumps. Bloomberg said that the police had assigned an officer to every gas station that was open.


And there was more bad news from forecasters: Another bout of perilous weather was coming, a nor’easter that was expected to send gusts of up to 60 miles per hour between the Delmarva Peninsula and Long Island by Wednesday afternoon, along with sleet, snow, and rain to parts of the region. It could also bring a moderate storm surge, which could further damage properties where protective dunes were flattened by Hurricane Sandy.

Federal officials said that more than 30,000 families had been approved for temporary rental assistance, totaling more than $95 million for apartments. The approvals were the start of a housing assistance program that will accelerate in the coming weeks, as tens of thousands of people left homeless look for places to stay while their homes or apartment buildings are repaired.

Meanwhile, more than 700,000 customers in New York and New Jersey still awaited the return of power. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York called the performance of the utility companies ‘‘unacceptable’’ and again suggested that they might be punished for moving too slowly to restore power after Sandy.

Consolidated Edison responded by saying that the company had already restored four times as many customers as it has ever had to restore after a storm.

“The 800,000 or so we’ve restored is equivalent to four Hurricane Irenes,’’ said John Miksad, senior vice president for electric operations at Con Edison.


Despite the efforts of Con Edison crews, 19 schools remained shut in New York City and without power Monday afternoon, down from 29 Sunday evening.

Others had power, but lacked Internet connections and working phone lines. Another 48 schools were closed on Monday because of storm damage.