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Damage to the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, NY, as of Nov. 6, 2012. Photo: Governor's office via <a href="www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/">Flickr</a>
Damage to the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, NY, as of Nov. 6, 2012. Photo: Governor's office via Flickr

Gov. Cuomo calls cost of Sandy "staggering"

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Governor Cuomo delivered a sobering report on the blow superstorm Sandy has dealt New York state. The loss is "staggering", he said, with tens of billions in property damage and economic losses.

At a briefing at his Manhattan office Thursday, Cuomo also said the storm revealed "severe" vulnerabilities in the state's gasoline distribution system, and Long Island and New York city announced gas rationing would begin Friday.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Governor Cuomo said Sandy's total costs for New York have now reached $33 billion. "That is a staggering number", the governor said, "especially with the financial situation that we've been in."

The state has already had to cut more than $10 billion from its budget over the last two years, and it already has a $1 billion structural deficit for next year's budget. Cuomo said that gap could grow.

Speaking a week and a half after Sandy, and one day after a second storm brought snow and wind to the downstate region, the governor says power outages and gas shortages continue. He railed against the utilities working to restore electricity on Long Island and in Westchester, saying they are "archaic" and "obsolete" monopolies, that need to modernize to be more efficient and accountable when major storms happen.

 "We're going to have to look at a ground-up redesign", Cuomo said.

Cuomo said power companies were "unprepared" for the storm, at one point running out of new poles to replace damaged ones. He said the utilities had "failed" and he warns that they will be held "accountable", through the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.

Concerns continue about gasoline supplies, Cuomo said, adding that the state's gas distribution system is a "severe vulnerability": "Look how fast you can shut down the region just by shutting down the pumps." The governor said power outages, and now a "broken pipe", have shut down gas pumps in recent days.

The Buckeye Pipeline, which the governor's office says pumps approximately 4.5 million gallons of gas per day into the New York City and Long Island area, was sidelined for a time when the second storm caused more power outages.

The governor said he's open to a bill to require gas stations to own generators in case of power outages, but wants to make sure first that it would not further drive up the cost of fuel. Cuomo did not impose state rationing of gasoline—but New York City and Long Island announced odd-even day gas rationing beginning on Friday.

Cuomo said once the power is back on and the gas if flowing norally, the "next chapter" will be coping with "extreme weather"—which the governor says he believe is here to stay: "There is a reality that has existed for a long time that we've been blind to."

The governor said he and other officials will have to decide how and where to rebuild and how to use new technologies to provide better protection from floods in the future.

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