Glaser: State Nudged Utilities To Work Harder

The Cuomo administration pushed utility companies to get the lights back on for the nearly 1 million or so households who lost power during Tropical Storm Irene, State Director of Operations Howard Glaser said.

Speaking on Talk-1300 AM this morning, Glaser told Fred Dicker that in addition to the nearly 88 percent of customers with restored power in the last four days, the number will climb later today.

Glaser also said mobile phone companies were asked to bring in cell towers to help with lost reception in the rural pockets of the Catskills and the North Country who lost service.

The town of Prattsville, he added, “is literally underwater.”

“Until you see it firsthand you can’t appreciate the explosive power and destructive force of water,” Glaser said.

And he insisted that the administration prepared all parts of the state for the storm, explaining: “The media tended to focus on downstate before storm. Anything east of I-81 we fully deployed to.”

Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Darrel Aubertine was sent to Essex County on Friday to warn residents and officials there that the storm would impact them.

He added that the storm would have been far more catastrophic had the state not taken the steps it did for upstate, which included drawing down water levels in some reservoirs and evacuating camp grounds.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo toured the Greene County town again with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, saying the damage would cost at least $1 billion to repair.

Power Making Its Way Back On

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office provided another update this morning showing that about 88 percent of customers have had their power restored since Sunday’s brutal storm.

Here are the figures:

Total customers without power (statewide): 181,598

LIPA: 99,000 (81% restored to date)
Con Edison: 7,133 (97% restored to date)
National Grid: 5,306 (97% restored to date)
NYSEG: 38,300 (88% restored to date)
Central Hudson: 25,389 (85% restored to date)
Orange & Rockland: 6,470 (92% restored to date)

At one point, nearly 1 million customers had lost power in the wake of the storm. Cuomo also announced this morning the schedule for his cabinet-level Upstate Storm and Flooding Recovery Task Force , which is charged with recovery and repair operations in the wake of the storm.

Meetings are being held today in Schoharie, Delhi, Lake George, Middleburgh and Hague to help local officials and residents coordinate the storm response.

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and Westchester counties today with no public schedule.

Reps. Kirsten Gillibrand and Paul Tonko are touring Irene damage this morning with state Farm Service Agency Director Jim Barber and local farmer and business owner Richard Ball in Middleburgh. (This started at 7:30 a.m.)

Mayor Bloomberg is meeting with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate at City Hall at noon.

The abrupt resignation of Bloomberg’s top deputy, Stephen Goldsmith, was not caused by the botched December blizzard response, as was widely believed, but by a domestic violence arrest in D.C.

Prattsville residents are hopeful Cuomo’s visit yesterday wasn’t just a photo-op and that he intends to keep his pledge to help them rebuild, post-Irene.

Cuomo insisted NYSEG President Mark Lynch make public appearances in areas that are still without power. The administration has been frustrated with the power industry’s response to Irene.

Even the Clintons had trouble getting their power restored (at a Hamptons rental) after Irene.

Agricultural losses alone are estimated to total more than $45 million. Cuomo’s price-tag on storm clean-up: $1 billion, of which $415 million is damage reported by utility companies.

At least one Prattsville resident is looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding.

Covered bridge enthusiasts are mourning the loss of some landmark spans.

Fugate insisted FEMA’s own money woes won’t hinder its ability to provide relief to Irene-ravaged eastern seaboard states.

More >

Extras

President Obama’s big jobs speech before a joint session of Congress next Wednesday conflicts with a GOP presidential debate.

House Speaker John Boehner wants Obama to reschedule for the following night. So far, no dice.

Obama will head to Paterson, NJ Sunday to survey storm damage there. It does not appear he’ll come to NY.

Add Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz to the list of electeds pissed off about being left off Obama’s disaster declaration list.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo returned to Margaretville today to survey storm damage.

Alec Baldwin would rather spend time traveling the world with his hot 27-year-old girlfriend than “handcuffed to the emergency command center in Maspeth during a hurricane” as mayor of NYC.

The Watertown Daily Times praises Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his prosecution of local public corruption.

The Jewish Voice endorsed (Catholic) Bob Turner in NY-9 over (Jewish) David Weprin, citing Weprin’s “yes” vote on same-sex marriage. (No link).

More endorsements in the downstate Sept. 13 special election races.

Laurence O’Donnell challenges the “America’s Mayor” myth.

Rudy Giuliani is keeping the 2012 flame alive, telling the AP: “‘I’m going to sit down and talk it over with Judith, wake up one morning and have a decision.”

Sarah Palin will attend a Tea Party event in Iowa after all. Christine O’Donnell will not.

Dueling reporters on the NYS economy. Here and here.

More press for Rachel Figueroa-Levin, the woman behind @ElBloombito.

A Karner Blue goes ballistic over the thought of potential extinction.

Snooki the anchorwoman? This is oddly mesmerizing.

Hayworth’s Dual Ask: More Aid + More Cuts

Rep. Nan Hayworth sent a letter to President Obama today, asking for Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties to be included in the disaster declaration issued earlier today.

At the same time, the NY-19 Republican voiced support for the call by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that any additional disaster funding be offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budgt.

So, to recap: The congresswoman is seeking more spending by the federal government here in New York to help with the post-Irene recovery – a move that would, if she and Cantor had their way, require additional cuts at a time when Washington is already polarized over reductions mandated by the debt ceiling deal passed early this month.

Hayworth’s letter comes the same day FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate visited the storm-ravaged Catskill town of Prattsville with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and acknowledged his cash-strapped agency (with just $800 million in its coffers) won’t be able to foot the entire clean-up bill for the multi-state disaster.

And for the first time today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo put a pricetag on the New York recovery effort: At least $1 billion.

Cuomo had asked for expedited federal disaster designation for 26 counties, and Obama this morning heeded that call for eight of them: Albany, Essex, Greene, Schoharie, Schenectady, Delaware, Dutchess and Ulster.

The counties left out so far (although Fugate intimated today it would likely not be long before at least some of them are added to the list) include: Bronx, Clinton, Columbia, Kings, Montgomery, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Rensselaer, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Warren, Washington and Westchester.

2011-08-31 Letter to POTUS Disaster Declaration

House Delegation: Add Six Counties To Disaster Relief (Updated)

Twenty members of New York’s House delegation are calling on President Obama to name seven six additional counties as disaster areas in order for them to be eligible for federal aid.

Though Obama did name eight counties to the list earlier today, the lawmakers say Columbia, Kings, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan and Washington counties need to be declared major disaster areas soon.

Update — The office of Rep. Maurice Hinchey initially sent out an incorrect release on the letter, including Suffolk County erroneously.

From their letter:

Given the scope of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene, we appreciate that you approved several of the requested counties for Individual and Public Assistance, and ask that you approve all counties requested by Governor Cuomo. The assistance of FEMA and other federal agencies is urgently needed to prevent further infrastructure damage, ensure public health and safety, restore public utilities and transportation systems, and recover from tremendous public and private property damage.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had originally called for 26 of New York’s 62 counties be declared disaster areas in the wake of the storm. The governor said today that the cost of the damage was likely $1 billion and growing. The total cost of the damage nationwide is believed to be $6 billion.

Speaking in Prattsville, Greene County, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said it was likely more counties would be named disaster areas, but the initial eight counties were named in order to speed up the aid process.

Lawmakers who signed the letter include: Reps. Maurice Hinchey (NY-22), Nita Lowey (NY-18) and Paul Tonko (NY-21) and also include Reps. Chris Gibson (NY-20), Eliot Engel (NY-17), Pete King (NY-3), Steve Israel (NY-2), Timothy Bishop (NY-1), Gary Ackerman (NY-5), Gregory Meeks (NY-6), Joseph Crowley (NY-7), Jerrold Nadler (NY-8), Charles Rangel (NY-15), Edolphus Towns (NY-10), Yvette Clarke (NY-11), Michael Grimm (NY-13), Carolyn Maloney (NY-14), José Serrano (NY-16), Bill Owens (NY-23) and Nan Hayworth (NY-19).

The full letter is after the jump. More >

MoveOn For Schneiderman

AG Eric Schneiderman’s battle with the Obama administration over his refusal to agree to a $20 billion mortgage crisis settlement with big banks has become a rallying point for the disaffected left.

Schneiderman, who has long been a darling of the progressive set, has picked up support from a wide variety of liberal stalwarts – from labor unions to the New York Times editorial board to Rep. Jerry Nadler et al – since he was kicked off a multistate settlment panel after balking at a deal that would, among other things, prohibit future inquiries on fraud by lenders.

(I should also note that Schneiderman does have some support on this one from moderates, too. All 21 Democratic members of New York’s congressional delegation – including upstaters Bill Owens, Kathy Hochul, Paul Tonko, Brian Higgins and Louise Slaughter – signed a letter in support of the AG).

Now add to that list the powerhouse lefty organization MoveOn.org, which sent an email to its 5 million members today, urging them to sign a petition informing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner that they oppose “sweetheart deals for Wall Street” and support letting AGs like Schneiderman continue with their investigations.

“Thankfully, some state attorneys general are standing up to Geithner and Wall Street,” the email reads. “They refuse to settle with the banks until a full and real investigation exposes the role these banks and their executives played in the crash of our housing market and economy.”

“Eric Schneiderman and Beau Biden, the attorneys general of New York and Delaware, are holding strong despite enormous pressure from the administration to accept the deal. Schneiderman’s insistence that these crimes be investigated and prosecuted has now gotten him kicked off the settlement committee.”

“Owning a home is part of the American Dream, and justice for homeowners is an essential part of the American Dream movement. We have to stand behind Schneiderman, Biden, and other state attorneys general, and not let Geithner and a yes-man settlement committee brush banks’ criminal behavior under the rug.”

Cuomo: $1B In Damages For New York

Standing with federal officials in Prattsville today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo estimated the cost of the damage in New York from Tropical Storm Irene stands at $1 billion, a figure he said was growing.

Cuomo appeared in the small Greene County town that had been devastated by flooding in the aftermath of Sunday’s storm with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.

Though both Napolitano and Fugate pledged to help the stricken communities, money for disaster response will be extremely difficult to come by.

The agency has only $800 million in response aid for all of the states impact by the storm.

“Money is tight all over,” Cuomo said. “We can’t expect the federal government to pay for everything.”

An added complication for finding extra funds came Tuesday, when GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said any increased spending for storm aid should be offset by budget cuts — raising the possibility of a major political fight over aid in Washington.

The governor, who was making his third trip the Prattsville this week, said the total damage for New York included more than 600 roads destroyed, 22 state bridges closed, 150 highways impacted and $45 million of damage for farm lands alone.

And with many of these counties now required to live within a 2 percent cap on local property taxes (along with an already small tax base to begin with), raising revenue for repairs will prove extremely difficult in the weeks and months ahead.

Earlier today, President Obama signed a disaster relief declaration for eight New York counties, with Greene County among them. Already, state lawmakers are calling for more counties to be named to the list, including Orange and Rockland counties.

Cuomo had initially requested that 26 counties be eligible for relief funds.

Fugate, the FEMA chief, said speed was a factor in making sure at least a few of the counties would be named disaster areas. He added that some of the other counties would still be eligible for funds.

Lippman: NY Judges’ Pay Raise ‘Nightmare’ Over

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman took to cyberspace yesterday to formally endorse the three-year pay raise proposal approved last week by the Judicial Compensation Commission.

Lippman acknowledged in a video address to the judiciary that after going without an increase since January 1995, New York’s judges were hoping for something higher than the 27.3 percent bump they would receive by 2014 under the commission’s recommendation.

But he also insisted there is a benefit to establishing a process to end the “nightmare” that unofficially linked judicial and legislative pay raises, effectively taking the issue out of the political arena and into the hands of a quasi-independent commission.

“There can be no doubt that, without the salary commission legislation, judicial salaries would not be on anyone’s agenda in Albany today in the worst economic climate in decades,” Lippman said.

“Clearly, we are fortunate to have this process in place for now and in the future, rather than having to go hat-in-hand to the legislature and the Governor for years on end without a rational or logical way to achieve our ends. The result we have achieved is not perfect by any means, but I believe the nightmare is over.”

Lippman urged jurists to recognize that they cannot live in the past or in a vacuum. So, while they made a strong case while pushing unsuccessfully for a raise when the economy was still strong, their ask now needs to be tempered by the fiscal troubles being experienced at both the state and federal levels.

The governor and Legislature have the ability to overrule the commission’s recommendation.

But Chairman Bill Thompson told me last week during a CapTon interview that the Cuomo administration has been keeping a close watch on the commission’s efforts. Thompson expexcts the proposal approved in a 4-3 vote will likely pass muster despite Budget Director Bob Megna’s warning during a public hearing in July that the state can’t afford raises.

Document

DEC’s Revised Hydrofracking Report Postponed

The revised draft review of the impact of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, due out today, has been postponed because of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s focus on the aftermath of Irene.

“DEC continues to be focused on hurricane response and recovery,” said DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis in an email. “Therefore, we will release the revised draft SGEIS next week.”

The SGEIS, or Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, is a review of potential regulations for hydrofracking, a natural gas extraction process that involves blasting a mixture of chemicals and water underground in order to access the gas underneath.

The agency has been coordinating disaster response in areas hit by the storm, and in recent days have been focusing on debris removal.

Environmentalists had hoped the 1,000-page report would have included an extension of the 60-day public comment period. The DEC has stressed that no permits would be granted for any hydrofracking activities until next year at the earliest.