NY Gov. Cuomo Likens Sandy To Katrina As Damage Total Soars
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared Superstorm Sandy in some ways worse than 2005's Hurricane Katrina as he said his state would need $42 billion to recover from the damage wreaked in late October and prevent future catastrophe.
The figure includes more than $32 billion for damage and restoration and an additional $9 billion to head off damage in future storms, including steps to protect the power grid and cellphone network.
This Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 aerial file photo shows the Breezy Point neighborhood, in New York, where more than 50 homes were burned to the ground as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Sandy ran up a $42 billion bill on New York and the state and New York City are making big requests for disaster aid from the federal government, according to one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration officials. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
As he and other political leaders in his state conferred on how much federal aid to seek, he said New York taxpayers can't foot the bill.
"It would incapacitate the state," he said at a news conference Monday. "Tax increases are always a last, last, last resort."
Comparisons of Sandy to Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, put the East Coast's recovery "in focus," he declared, saying Sandy hit a more densely populated region and caused more costly damage than Katrina.
Katrina killed more than 1,800 people, flooded nearly the entire city of New Orleans and caused some $108 billion in damage. Sandy killed more than 100 as it swamped coastal areas, toppled trees and dumped snow inland, and the most recent estimates indicate damage totaling more than $62 billion in several Eastern states, with New York and New Jersey accounting for the lion's share.
Previous estimates, which often fluctuated, had put Sandy's damage at around $50 billion. That already made it the second most destructive U.S. storm in history, after Katrina.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who announced Monday that he couldn't abandon the state during its recovery and would seek re-election next year, has put the preliminary damage estimate in his state at $29.5 billion.
"It would be wrong for me to leave now," said Christie, a Republican who controversially lauded President Barack Obama for his attentiveness after the storm. "I don't want to leave now. We have a job to do. That job won't be finished by next year."
States typically get 75 percent reimbursement for the cost of governments to restore mass transit and other services after a disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid out nearly $248 million already in New Jersey.
In New York, Cuomo, a Democrat, met with his state's congressional delegation to discuss the new figures and present "less than a wish list." The delegation, Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will now draw up a request for federal disaster aid.
Bloomberg had announced earlier in the day that Sandy caused $19 billion in losses in New York City — part of the $32 billion estimate Cuomo used.
Most basic recovery costs for roads, water systems, schools, parks, individual assistance and more total $15 billion in New York City; $7 billion for state agencies; $6.6 billion in Nassau County and $1.7 billion in Suffolk County, both on suburban Long Island; and $527 million in Westchester County and $143 million in Rockland County, both north of New York City, according to a state document used in the private briefing of the delegation and obtained by The Associated Press.
Hard times were already facing the state and city governments that were staring at deficits of more than $1 billion before Sandy hit in late October. State tax receipts have also missed projections, showing a continued slow recovery from a recession that could hit taxpayers in the governments' budgets this spring. And there's the looming fiscal cliff, the combination of expiring federal tax cuts and major spending cuts that could rattle the economy.
"Make no mistake, this will not be an easy task, particularly given the impending fiscal cliff, and a Congress that has been much less friendly to disaster relief than in the past," said Sen. Charles Schumer, a powerful New York Democrat.
"We will work with the (Obama) administration on supplemental legislation, to be introduced in the upcoming December session of Congress, that will set us on the road to meeting New York's needs," he said. "This will be an effort that lasts not weeks, but many months, and we will not rest until the federal response meets New York's deep and extensive needs."
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz and Meghan Barr in New York City and Angela Delli Santi in Trenton, N.J.