Velázquez, Schumer Demand FEMA to Step Up Disaster Response
Yesterday, Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-LES, Brooklyn, Queens) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D) sent an open letter to Pete Gaynor, the Acting Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), demanding him to step up his disaster response following the earthquake in Puerto Rico.
On Jan. 7, shortly after the earthquake hit, FEMA declared a state of emergency at the Island. The letter acknowledges the action as a valuable first step, but stresses that the disaster demands an ongoing, comprehensive response.
“Without power, the 300,000 Puerto Ricans who rely on electric water pumps are now also without water, which has obvious serious public health implications,” reads the letter. “Horrendously, there are reports that thousands of Puerto Ricans slept outside under tarps, in tents, or on mattresses because they feared their homes would collapse on their heads.
“Clearly, more must be done, and fast. The uneven and inadequate disaster response by FEMA, and other federal agencies, in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria make it even more crucial that Puerto Rico receives a swift, adequately resourced, and effectively coordinated response to this disaster. These earthquakes make it even more unconscionable the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) inaction in disbursing the $8.3 billion in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding appropriated for mitigation projects in Puerto Rico. There is not substantive reason to withhold this congressionally-mandated disaster aid for our fellow Americans on the island; this money must be made available to Puerto Rico now.”
Johnson, De Blasio Announce 100,000 New Yorkers Enrolled in Fair Fares
Yesterday, Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen) and Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) proudly announced that they had enrolled 100,000 New Yorkers in their “Fair Fares” subway initiative.
The Fair Fares initiative allows New Yorkers who are at or below the poverty level to purchase half-fare MetroCards. Last month, the City launched a multi-million dollar ad campaign to make New Yorkers aware of the initiative. Open enrollment in the plan will begin on Jan. 27.
“This 100,000 landmark enrollment news shows we are heading in the right direction and closer to assisting all low-income New Yorkers in need,” said Johnson. “We could not have made it here without the partnership with advocates like Community Service Society and Riders Alliance, and I thank them for all their efforts. Together, we look forward to building on this progress as we approach the launch of open enrollment on January 27th so we can assist as many New Yorkers in poverty as possible.”
Rivera Releases Statement Following Puerto Rico Disaster
Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-East Village, Gramercy Park) released a statement yesterday urging New Yorkers to show their support for Puerto Rico.
Earlier this week, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico, causing one fatality and triggering blackouts across the Island. Since then, Puerto Rican electeds and local volunteers have taken action to help the population recover. However, according to Rivera, New York has their part to play as well.
“Already Governor Cuomo has ordered the deployment of personnel from the New York Power Authority to Puerto Rico to assist in emergency response efforts,” said Rivera. “And following a request from me and my fellow Council Members of Puerto Rican descent, Mayor de Blasio will be sending senior personnel from our Dept. of Buildings, NYC Emergency Management, and NYPD to assist in coordinating recovery and public safety efforts.
“I am also calling on the City to ensure its plans for handling any Puerto Rican evacuees are up-to-date and reflective of lessons learned from the months after Hurricane Maria.”
Stringer: “Bombardier Sold Us Lemons”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer (D) released a statement on Tuesday scolding Bombardier for delivering defective subway cars to the MTA.
Last year, the Canadian manufacturer Bombardier signed a $600 million contract with the MTA to provide them with new, state-of-the-art subway cars. Thus far, all of the cars they delivered have shown critical defects; there were several incidents of doors opening while the trains were in motion. As a result, the MTA had to recall them.
“The New York City subway riders who foot the bill for the MTA’s $600 million contract with Bombardier were promised new, state-of-the-art train cars to help modernize our ailing transit system,” said Stringer. Now, all the cars that were delivered so far have been pulled from service due to critical defects. It is completely unacceptable.
“Last month my office released an audit that exposed how this contract became three years behind schedule and cost taxpayers millions of additional dollars. Our investigation revealed layers of mismanagement in the MTA’s oversight of the contract — repeated failures to meet contract deadlines and requirements, poor project management and technical breakdowns, structural defects that delayed cars being put into service, and several earlier structural problems that caused some of these trains to be pulled from service.
“Bombardier sold us lemons. Straphangers need the MTA to manage these contracts from the beginning — before the trains go off the rails.”