Council hearing explored emergency sheltering process and conditions and services in evacuation and transitional shelters during and after Hurricane Sandy

City Hall, NY — Today, the Council Committees on General Welfare, Oversight and Investigations, Aging, Health and Mental Health held an oversight hearing to examine the City’s use of evacuation shelters and hotels to temporarily house those displaced by Hurricane Sandy.

“Thousands of New Yorkers were displaced when Hurricane Sandy made landfall in our City,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Today’s hearing is an opportunity to examine how the City’s emergency evacuation and transitional shelters performed during and after the storm and how we can better prepare for the next emergency.”

“Hurricane Sandy displaced thousands of New Yorkers and left billions of dollars in damages in its wake,” said General Welfare Committee Chair Annabel Palma. “Today’s oversight hearing will evaluate the City’s use of evacuation shelters and hotels to temporarily house storm evacuees and is an opportunity to determine what went right and what can the City can do better to best prepare for future emergencies.”

At today’s hearing, Council Members raised concerns about inadequate supplies and food in evacuation shelters following the storm. The Council also examined the treatment of populations with special medical needs at evacuation shelters, as well as FEMA’s and the City’s use of hotels as transitional shelters for evacuees in the weeks and months since Hurricane Sandy.

Specifically, the Council focused on:
• Shelter Conditions, Supplies and Staffing
Some evacuation shelters were reportedly overcrowded and did not have adequate supplies and basic necessities such as cribs, food, and blankets. Additionally, it is unclear how the City coordinated the distribution of supplies to shelters, or who from the City was managing certain shelters.

• Challenges Facing Populations with Special Needs
The Council explored the preparations the City took to prepare evacuation shelters for populations such as the elderly, medically frail, or people with disabilities. Council Members heard from shelter volunteers and advocates who testified that some shelters were inaccessible and medical records did not transfer properly, making appropriate medical treatment difficult.

• Difficulties with Using Hotels as Transitional Shelters
Approximately 2,200 households are currently being temporarily housed in hotels through the FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program. Additionally, over a thousand storm evacuees have been housed in hotels through the Department of Homeless Services. The Council examined the use of hotels as transitional housing for storm evacuees and explored the challenges New Yorkers have faced in City-run shelters, including unsafe housing conditions and inadequate access to food.
The Council also heard from advocates for the homeless, legal service organizations and shelter volunteers who shared their experiences in evacuation shelters and hotels in the weeks following the storm.
Today’s hearing was the fifth in a series of oversight hearings the Council will hold in the coming weeks to examine the City’s response to Hurricane Sandy.