Long Island lawmakers called on President Barack Obama to send more federal resources to help end the blackouts and gas crisis continuing into the 12th day after Superstorm Sandy devastated the region in what one local leader called “our Katrina.”
Democratic and Republican elected officials representing federal, New York State, county and town levels from both Nassau and Suffolk counties joined in making the plea Friday afternoon while the newly re-elected president was simultaneously addressing the nation on policy plans for his second term. They called for James Lee Witt, Former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to lead the Long Island Power Authority out of the mess—same as he did after prior hurricane disaster areas.
“LIPA management has become a disaster managing a disaster,” Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) told reporters during the news conference at Nassau’s Office of Emerency Management headquarters in Bethpage. “We have no more time for excuses.”
More than 166,00o homes and businesses LIPA serves remained without electricity as of 2 p.m. Friday, although some customers previsouly had their power restored but lost it again after a nor’easter named Athena hit this week. Nearly all LIPA’s 1.1 million customers lost power in Sandy. Many homes on Fire Island, Long Beach and the Rockaways ae incapable of repowering, LIPA has said.
The announcement also came the same day LI leaders joined New York City in ordering an odd/even gas rationing policy. Drivers with license plate numbers ending in an odd number could fuel up Friday, Nov. 9. Even number plates can gas up Saturday. It is unclear how long the alternating fuel rationing will coninue, but it did shorten the gas lines.
“Please, President Obama, this is our Katrina,” said state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Center), referring the the 2005 hurricane ranked the nation’s deadliest, costliest and most destructive. “Get the troops here, get the resources here, get the knowlkedge here, so we can start an imediate recovery.”
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto joined in the criticism of LIPA’s sometimes contraditory communication with residents and government amid the aftermath, specifically when it comes to home and business inspection requirements before structures can be repowered.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who has blasted LIPA after residents in blacked-out homes have died of carbon monoxide poisoning while improperly using portable generaors to power their homes, added: “The people of Long Island have suffered enough.”
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), head of he homeland security committee, noted that calling out Obama on the issue is not politically motivated but is simply sparked by desperation as residents on storm-ravaged blacked out homes across the South Shore struggle to keep warm as tempratures drop after sundown.
“LIPA has failed and failed miserably,” King said. “The time has come…the federal government must play a more active role.”
He and Rep. Israel said FEMA, the Department of Defense the Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers should also send additional resources to LI to help in the repowering. Israel cautioned that they are not calling for a federal or military takeover of LIPA, just the military’s temporary help because it’s experienced in repowering blacked out war-torn regions.
A LIPA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Obama will reportedly visit New York on Thursday to tour Sandy impacted areas.