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Sen. Schumer To Spearhead Initiative To Hurricane-Proof NYC Housing Projects

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s been more than a year since Hurricane Sandy hit the Tri-State Area. The hard lessons learned have prompted a call for action to improve public housing in flood-prone areas.

LaGuardia Houses near the East River was without power for nearly a week. Victor Melendez remembers.

“It was bad. No water, no power, couldn’t do anything, nothing to do,” Melendez told CBS 2’s John Slattery on Friday.

And up on the 16th floor, with no electricity and no elevator, Jessica Thomas was stranded.

“We didn’t have any heat or hot water. The only water I had was in the bathtub,” Thomas said.

Sandy blasted 80,000 Housing Authority residents with outages, like in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and Coney Island. Those projects, like most large buildings, had boiler rooms in the basements.

“When boilers are on the ground and flood waters come in, it’s basically gone,” Sen. Charles Schumer said.

Schumer is requesting $175 million from a federal hazard mitigation fund to help 21 vulnerable housing authority complexes, by installing back-up generators at 15 projects and raising boilers off the floor at five developments.

“We’re going to take what we learned from Sandy and build back stronger,” Schumer said.

Among most of the new construction, the louvers are visible. The mechanical rooms have been raised to upper floors. It’s impossible on existing public housing, but elevating boilers and adding back-up power can be done.

“I like that idea. It’s better for people. We’ve never had a hurricane like that before,” Thomas said.

Residents said either pay now for improvements or pay much more for repairs after it is too late.

Schumer said he expects to have federal approval for the plan in the next few months.

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