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Hearing Held On How Well City Ran Evacuation Shelters During Sandy

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TWC News: Hearing Held On How Well City Ran Evacuation Shelters During Sandy
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Nearly 7,000 New Yorkers were housed in emergency shelters during Hurricane Sandy, and even now, nearly 2,000 households remain in government-provided housing. How well city officials were prepared to deal with those evacuees was a matter of debate Tuesday at the City Council. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

How well the city did in running evacuation shelters during Hurricane Sandy depends on whom you ask.

On Tuesday, officials from the city's Department of Homeless Services testified that they were well prepared, while City Council members painted a picture of mismanagement and shortages of everything from cribs to clothing to food.

"Why do I have to get phone calls from the shelters calling me as a councilmember, and they can’t get a response from the agency that oversees the shelters?" said Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield.

"I don’t think that that's fair," said Seth Diamond, commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services, in response to Greenfield's question. "I think we did have food. We had adequate food."

Whether evacuees should have access to showers was also debated at length.

"After a couple days, everyone had access to a shower, either in the facility or in a mobile arrangement that we made," Diamond said.

Three months after the storm, many evacuees are still without homes. About 900 households are being housed by the city, mostly in hotels, plus another 800 being housed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Some took to the steps of City Hall to protest their conditions.

"The city is spending so much money to house us in hotels, and people look at us, like, you know, you’re living in a hotel," said Alaster Williams, who is living in a Manhattan hotel. "We’re living in one room. One room. You tell me what man and woman can stay in one room, 24 hours a day."

The long-term housing solution for many families is still unclear, as is who will ultimately foot the bill for hotel rooms.

"Ultimately, the city is hoping that FEMA will pay for both systems," Diamond said. "They're already paying for one. We intend to submit a claim to FEMA for the city hotel system."

Tuesday’s hearing was just the latest in a series of about a dozen Hurricane Sandy oversight hearings the City Council began holding last month. The next hearing, scheduled for next Tuesday, will focus on the MTA.

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