Tapped In: Sandy Election Woes, Gas Rations, NYU Hospital Reopens

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SANDY CAUSES ELECTION DAY WOES New Yorkers helped re-elect President Barack Obama last week, but not without some technical difficulties. The damages wrought on the city by Hurricane Sandy prompted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue an order that residents who had evacuated their homes could vote at any poll site in the state by using affidavit ballots. Many sites failed to get word of the order, which went out only the day before the election, however, and some city polls quickly ran out of the 250 affidavits that the city printed for each election district. Jammed ballot scanners added to the confusion of relocated polling sites and affidavits, which together resulted in lines that stretched blocks. At some sites, voters waited three hours or more to cast their votes. The city's Upper East and Upper West sides were particularly burdened with delays. Many storm-struck New York residents fled to friends' and relatives' homes in the city's less-damaged neighborhoods last week, so these polling sites were disproportionately crowded. Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized the Board of Elections for failing to be organized. The Board of Elections, in turn, argued that it did not have enough time to train poll workers following Cuomo's order. LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER REOPENS OUTPATIENT FACILITIES After a backup generator failure and subsequent full evacuation during Hurricane Sandy, New York University's Langone Medical Center made progress last week toward fully reopening by resuming outpatient care on Friday. The award-winning medical center, which includes the NYU School of Medicine and three hospitals, re-launched its ambulatory care centers and faculty group practices earlier in the week, and by Friday was fully equipped to take on short-term (non-overnight) patients. The medical center's First Avenue location near East 32nd Street made it particularly susceptible to East River flooding, which knocked out the backup generator and caused extensive damage to the buildings' lower levels. The medical center predicts that it was hit by a storm surge of close to 14 feet. Hospital workers spent hours on Oct. 29 moving patients out of the buildings during the storm, some down many flights of stairs. Patients were moved to other hospitals in the city, including St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, Mount Sinai and Lenox Hill. As of Monday, the Langone Medical Center's inpatient (long-term) services, labs, pharmacy and emergency department remained closed. NYU was still assessing the extent of the damage to the building and its facilities caused by the storm, and no official full reopening date for the medical center had been set. CITY RATIONS GASOLINE In its second week of fuel shortage following Hurricane Sandy, New York City began rationing gasoline last Friday in an attempt to restock its dwindling supply. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Thursday, Nov. 9, that gas stations would begin restricting sales to vehicles with even-numbered license plates on even days of the month and odd-numbered plates on odd days. (Taxis, buses and emergency vehicles were exempted.) The rationing came despite Bloomberg's and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's earlier assurances that fuel supplies would return to normal shortly after the storm. Hurricane Sandy jeopardized supplies by cutting power to gas stations across the city, damaging refineries and crippling the fuel distribution network of ports and terminals. Last week's nor'easter delayed replenishment efforts by interrupting petroleum terminal repairs and further slowing fuel shipments. In his announcement, Bloomberg noted that the shortage could last another week or more. He also said that only a fourth of the city's roughly 800 gas stations were in operation at any given time. The NYPD assigned police officers to all open stations last week to keep order. At some stations, waits in line stretched beyond three hours.

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