NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In an afternoon address Saturday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg reminded New Yorkers about the need to evacuate low-lying coastal areas of the City, and expressed confidence in residents’ responses to Hurricane Irene.
“I want to assure you that our city is safe. We will get through this. We are New Yorkers. We’ve always risen to the challenge, and by sticking together we’re going to be able to do that again,” the mayor said.
Bloomberg ordered the mandatory evacuation of all residents in the coastal areas dubbed “Zone A” and also extended the mandatory evacuation zone to include all of the Rockaways.
“Since this morning, we have seen a marked increase in the number of people evacuating. Most are getting the message, but for some reason, some people have yet to leave. So let me just one more time, I hate to sound like a broken record, but it is exactly what we are trying to do. If you haven’t left, you should leave now. Not later this evening, not later this afternoon, but immediately,” Bloomberg said at a press conference Saturday afternoon.
Zone A includes Battery Park City and parts of Lower Manhattan, the Rockaways and Coney Island.
“This is a storm where if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, it can be fatal. There will be very high winds, no matter whether they’re categorized as a tropical storm, of a category one, two, three, 37 hurricane, whatever it is. There’s a lot of blowing debris, tree limbs come down, and water gets into places that can cause electrical shorts. It is dangerous out there,” he said.
“If you are in Zone A or anywhere in the Rockaways, we need you to evacuate immediately, for your own safety and municipal workers’ safety,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “We’ve seen that go very well in my district in Zone A. We need to replicate that city-wide.”
“Staying behind is dangerous, staying behind is foolish, and it’s against the law, and we urge everyone in the evacuation zones not to wait until gale-force winds. The time to leave is right now,” he said.
According to the mayor, the Rockaways are a special case. “If the bridges get closed, there are now ways off the island and it would be very difficult for us to get emergency service to the island,” he said.
Nearly 270,000 New Yorkers live in the low-lying areas most susceptible to flooding and wind damage.
“The danger for to us here is from the storm surge,” Bloomberg said Saturday. “There’s no evidence that the forecast for that is changing. It’s going to be a very serious thing as far as we can tell now.”
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The mayor decided to get them out of their houses before buses, subways and commuter trains shut down at noon Saturday. Bridges may close as well, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, if sustained winds clock in at 60 mph or greater.
“This is not a common occurrence for New York,” Cuomo said Saturday at a news conference. “Other parts of the country, they live through hurricanes, they live through storms and the citizens frankly have more experience and familiarity with their responsibility.”
Bloomberg said the city is calling for everyone in the affected areas out by 5 p.m. Saturday. To see if your home is in part of the evacuation zone, click here.
“We’re not going to be able to move them out. They’re going to have to get out on their own,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told 1010 WINS. “We’re going to have police vehicles with loud speakers putting the message out, but we’re looking for everyone’s cooperation.”
Many New Yorkers have already evacuated.
Park West High school is a home away from home for some who are finding shelter from the storm. Gary Waters says that his landlord has told him he won’t be able to return to his Chelsea apartment until Monday morning.
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“Well I’m not betting, so I brought all my medication, my insulin,” said Waters. “Brought a few snacks.”
His neighbor Adelle Holmes says he doesn’t understand how this place between 10th and 11th Avenues is any safer than his own apartment, also between 10th and 11th.
“So what’s the difference between my place on the third floor and me being here where we’re on the second floor,” said Holmes. “No much.”
Breezy Point resident Jim Benedetto says he is staying point.
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“I’m not going anywhere,” said Benedetto. “Because I own a house. I’m not leaving it. I’ll stay in a three-story house, it ain’t coming down.”
But he is the exception.
Carol Healy has lived here 31 years but says she’s not worried about her home.
“If we all get out unscathed. that’s what its all about,” said Healy.
The eye of Irene is expected to pass over Suffolk County, Long Island. New York City is still expected to get significantly walloped.
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