Thursday, November 8, 2012

County-Wide Gasoline Rationing. Also, Sandy Q+A @ Rec Center, Nov 10

Hello Freeport, and all of Nassau,

I'm just one of many outlets barking this out, but hey.  It's what I do, right?  Or, at least, do for now!

According to a statement by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, we will be switching to an odds-or-evens system for gasoline refueling in order to regain some control over the fuel shortage.  Starting a 5:00 AM on November 9th, gas stations will ONLY sell fuel to certain drivers based on the day it is.  It works like this:  If your license plate ends in an odd number, you can buy on an odd day.  So if it ends with 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, then you can buy on the 9th, 11th, 13th, etc.  If it ends with 2, 4, 6, 8, then you buy on even days.

Out of state or vanity plates (NOT ending in a number) count as odd.

Gas cans and other special circumstances like commercial/emergency vehicles are not necessarily under these restrictions.  You can read about it in the actual announcement.  The duration is for however long it takes for Nassau County to decide we don't need this anymore.

Why are they implementing this?  Aside from lingering concerns over Sandy (when I filled up I honestly only ad a 45 minute wait, but I filled up on Tuesday), yesterday's Nor'Easter Athena apparently knocked out a fuel pumping station for some time, revitalizing the shortages we're facing.  My general impression, I could be wrong, is that the problem was working itself out until this new storm came and blanketed us with, like, just a nightmare of snow.  Then more power outages hit and we found ourselves right back at square one.

Hurricane Sandy Q and A w/Mayor Hardwick and More; Freeport Rec Center, Nov 10, 5:00 PM

Long subtitle, eh?

So here's the deal with this.  On a lark, I checked the Village webpage to see if maybe they had said anything about the Nor'Easter we're facing.  Nope!  Nothing there.  It's only a major winter storm a week and a half after a Hurricane, but why bother acknowledging it now when it already hit us without our local government's notice, right?

Anyway, our local government wants to make it up to us by hosting a two hour Q&A session on the situation!  Mayor Hardwick, the Police, Fire, Electric, and other departments, will all be on hand to answer questions.

There was also an update about how the Police Department is glad to report that homes are safe and secure.  No actual statistics have been provided to answer the rampant allegations of looting.  I'm not a believer that a situation is ever as bad as it seems, especially in a politically charged environment, but I know for a fact there have been some incidents of crime.  I know of one story where an old lady was using a hand-truck to remove her ruined belongings from her basement; she went inside for a break, and when she came back her hand-truck had been stolen off of her property.

So questions?  Take them to the Rec, because they probably aren't getting answered until then.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nor'Easter Athena Hitting Freeport

Hello, hello, Freeport,

Who's tired of bad weather?  Everyone!  Yet here's a picture of the corner of Atlantic and South Long Beach about half an hour ago!

Yep.  Nice and snowy.  Just the way post-hurricane areas are, right?

In all seriousness, Freeport Schools had to let out two hours early in order to evacuate their buildings in the event of a sudden recurrence of flood-waters.  From what I saw in Freeport, it hadn't - YET - begun to flood badly.  Then again, I didn't go that far south because I was already having difficulty driving - or, rather, others were, as I'd already been hit once.  No damage to my vehicle, fortunately!

Plenty of people have talked about the schools closing tomorrow, but I have heard absolutely nothing to confirm that.  Chances are a decision won't be made for a few hours, but The Weekly Freeporter will try (if possible) to bring you the latest.  Until they're closed, assume they're open - except, that is, for Giblyn, which is still closed.

At this point, I am obligated to remind you all of a few quick facts...

1:  The Weekly Freeporter is not a weather service, but an information service.  A free one.
2:  The Village Webpage is also not a weather service, but an information service.  Paid-for by taxes.
3:  Weather updates are a form of information; severe weather updates are an important sub-category of information.
4:  The populace needs to know about important information.  Promptly.

Draw your own conclusions, because to be honest, it's starting to verge on negligence.  And, no, a "weather" tab does not count.  Especially one sending clickees to East Meadow Public Library.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Freeport Schools - except Giblyn! - to re-open Weds, November 7th

Hey Freeport,

This is the latest, straight from  I'm sure we're all busy watching the election results, so I'm cut/pasting because it's easier:

From Dr. Kuncham, Superintendent of Schools
All Freeport Schools, EXCEPT FOR GIBLYN SCHOOL, will be open on Wednesday, November 7th.
All afterschool activities for the rest of the week are cancelled.
Giblyn school will be closed for the remainder of the week.  Giblyn students will not be reporting to the school on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Due to on-going clean-up efforts that are necessary for the health and safety of our students and staff, we will have to relocate temporarily as these clean-up efforts continue.
A meeting for Giblyn parents will be scheduled and a separate communication will be forthcoming.
Giblyn teachers and staff should report to the Atkinson Auditorium tomorrow morning, Wednesday, November 7th at 9:00am.

Private and parochial transportation will be available provided those schools are open.
We thank you for your patience and understanding.

So, let's assess...

 - NO after-school activities.
 - NO Giblyn; it needs to get fixed up.
 - Giblyn staff reports to Atkinson.
 - An apology for the late notice of the schools' official status.

I also want to note that the weather tomorrow is going to be...Bad.  We're maybe going to get snow, maybe rain, all from a Nor'Easter that could cause some more flooding.  How exactly it will develop is yet to be determined, The Weather Channel has predicted it going a bit out to the east and not hitting us as badly as we feared, but whenever they give numbers (in this case, a 3-4 foot storm surge), bear this in mind:  We don't have many barrier islands or beach dunes left to block any storm surge.

One resident in particular offered me this undeniably cynical (therefore, hilarious) gem:  If the Mayor had decided, instead of going to China or Germany, to head to Denmark and learn something about flood prevention, this might not have happened.

I say this manly because I remember Bloomberg's plan for NYC involving sea walls, dykes, and the like.  Suddenly, it looks like the massive investment in a sea-wall might well be worth it, indeed.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sandy Election Update - No changes? Really? It seems so.

Hey, Freeport,

So, in a fit of futility I decided to check the Nassau County Board of Elections website.  Forgive me for not linking to it, but honestly you can't trust it.  Why not?  Because when I checked it, surprise, there were no updates!  And yet here we are, with an update from the New York State Board of Elections!  Weird, huh?  No, more like "totally incompetent."  This is only a Presidential election, never mind the senatorial/house/local elections that are going on.  It's not like you should have your act together, even in the face of a disaster such as Sandy, by the day before the election.

Sorry, but my tax dollars go to support this lunacy, which is clearly not money well spent.  (Small update:  As I wrote this very article, NC BoE's website updated to include this list.  In other words, 12 hours before polls are supposed to open, they're just now acting on over a week of painful realities).

Anyhow, as you look through the NYS BoE list you'll be surprised not to find any locations in Freeport; not even Giblyn School.  That means that as of 6:00 PM EST the day before the election (12 hours before it starts), we should expect to find that people who normally vote at Giblyn are going to vote at Giblyn.  In fact, as far as I can tell, any and all election expectations in Freeport are for them to be exactly the same as they always have been - go to your usual place between 6:00 AM and 9:00 PM on November 6th, 2012.

There is a caveat:  According to the NYS BoE website, in the absence of sensible decision-making on behalf of the various counties in New York State, Governor Cuomo seized the reins of this situation and issued an executive order regarding provisional (affidavit) ballots...

Executive Order – Voting by Affidavit Ballot
Governor Cuomo has signed an Executive Order which provides for a voter who is a resident in the federally-declared disaster counties of Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk, Westchester and of New York City (which includes Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens and Richmond) who have been displaced by Hurricane Sandy:
  1. To vote an affidavit ballot at any poll site in New York State, other than their regular poll site;
  2. Every Board of Elections in the State shall transmit the completed affidavit ballot of any voter who resides in one of the above counties to the Board of Elections where such voter is registered to vote to be canvassed;
  3. The affidavit ballot can only be canvassed for such contests for which the person was entitled to vote at such election.

So basically, as long as you are in a federally-declared disaster area, you can go to any polling place to cast a vote for the election, and it'll be counted.  That's a huge relief, because it means that in the case of confusion or any further changes, you can still cast your vote!  Just make sure to know who is running for the offices that you are voting for - or, at least, who you want to win.  As always, we stress that you vote not based on who you don't want to lead, but who you do want to lead.  Fortunately, as long as you know your preferred candidate's name, you should have no trouble in the event that there are more changes made at the last minute.

Because relying on Nassau County's Board of Elections to give you up-to-date, efficient information is a clearly mistake of cataclysmic proportions, since they can't get their act together.

Oh.  And do I even need to stress that not one scrap of information on this, y'know, ever-so-slightly-important issue appears on the Village webpage?  Nope.  Not that I expect them to have the latest news that even Nassau County couldn't get (From itself), but not even a question or statement about the election.  Not as of publication, anyway.  Just in case you were wondering.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Sandy Monday: School Updates, Rec Center Showers, Elections, Weather and much more!

Hey Freeport,

There's still a long way to go for us to recover from the Hurricane.  For starters, some Jets fans forgot they have a bye-week today (so they can't possibly lose!), while the Giants are up 14-10 and driving down the field!  Check that; they're up 17-10 and just picked Big Ben off!  And now they're up 20-10!  But then Pittsburg struck back, 20-17.

But in all seriousness, these are some of the latest updates we have on the state of our recovery.

Gas lines

Sadly, there are still substantial lines to get fuel, and it's a big problem.  As we try to return to work, we need gas to, y'know, feed our cars.  It's also wise, at this time, not to assume all stations will accept credit cards.  To that end, The Weekly Freeporter wants your help!

Help us confirm what gas stations are open; when they are open; whether they are accepting credit cards; and whether or not they have a separate line for walk-ups as opposed to cars.

Additionally, as a news item; a Federal gas service opened up at the Freeport Armory (You know, that blighted property nobody could possibly want for anything good?).  What escaped the original announcement was that this gas is for First Responders Only!!!!  I can't stress that enough - if you aren't a first responder, you will be denied a fill-up.  I 100% agree with this principle - if you're helping to save lives, you don't wait on a gas line and you don't pay for it, period.  I just wish the original news article I'd seen had mentioned this little caveat.

Our video-sensei Jason Bass and Michael Suchan, a long-time friend of The Weekly Freeporter, visited a gas station and recorded not just how long the lines were, but interviewed actual gas seekers!  This is a new and powerful clip, so check it out!  Many props to Jay and Mike - thank you!

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that this should be a "short term" problem, but even that means a few more days of difficulty.  As power is restored and more stations can be opened, and as roads are cleared so more trucks can arrive, we'll see the problem slowly peel off.  Until then, don't be like one fool we saw at a gas station - a lady who bought six dollars worth of gas, after waiting on line for hours, because she just had to have a full tank.  Don't be that guy who gets on the line and, due to impatience, starts a fight.  Go with a friend if you can, so you have someone to talk to and pass the time.  Hell, bring a bottle of water and some candy and make it a trip!

But be civil.

Freeport Schools Closed till Tuesday

Last night I was getting ready to return to the schools.  All buildings but Giblyn were supposed to open tomorrow, but when I sought to verify the operational status of the district, I was stunned - truly stunned - to find that the Freeport Public Schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday, Nov 5+6, with an anticipated re-opening on Wednesday.

According to the school's webpage, Dr.  Kishore Kuncham, Superintendent of schools based his decision...  "upon information received from local and County agencies regarding shortages of fuel, continuing infrastructure concerns, and advice regarding communication, emergency services and hospital capacity"

In other words, Dr.  Kuncham did the wise thing in permitting the situation to dictate his decisions, and not sticking to a firm deadline when it didn't make sense.  Kudos.

Rec Center Showers and Food

According to all information I've seen, the Freeport Recreation Center will be open on Monday from 11:30 AM to 10:00 PM to let residents take hot showers and to allow other relief agencies a place to set up shop. What's that mean?  It means that if, say, an agency is offering hot food to victims, then you know where to find that agency.  I don't have a full list of who will be there and what they'll be offering, but hopefully it will be considerable!

Note that the pools, sauna, and steam room will not be open.  Many residents have asked why the Rec wasn't open beforehand, and that's because it suffered serious damage during the storm and would not have been safe.

Weather:  A(nother) Nor'Easter Inbound?!

My old man told me this, and I checked it much to my chagrin; The Weather Channel reports that this week, Wednesday or so, we're going to get hit by a Nor'Easter.  This won't be nearly as bad as the Hurricane itself, but the sad truth is that we don't need any more damage than we've already taken.  We're lucky in that we are not likely to get snow (that's reserved for further north and west), but the winds can still get pretty severe.

It's the last thing we need, but at least we have a few days to prepare for it.

2012 Presidential and Other Elections

I just checked the Nassau County Board of Elections webpage.  At this time it does not reflect any shifts in polling locations.  I am stunned that there haven't been any prevalent announcements in this vein, as it's becoming rather late to let people know not to go to their usual polling places - especially if that place will require a long drive from a shelter, and therefore requires a stay on one of those long gas lines.

Speaking of gas...

Gas Main Problems South of Freeport

My house still doesn't have natural gas.  This is because there is at least one damaged main in the area.  I've already given up all hope of National Grid having a clue what it's doing (last we heard, we were told we had it and we didn't, and the guy up and bounced), so go figure.

Electrical Restoration

As reported by the Village website, at what I have to say is just an unnecessarily complicated URL (the script-kiddie in me is grumbling), 95% of the Village lying north of Atlantic has been restored; 23% of it south was.  I can only imagine, since that was yesterday's report, that the number has improved.

First of all, I wanna tip my hat to the Electric department for all of the incredible work they've done.  There's really nowhere else in the region that's getting online so fast.  We're, what, maybe 75%-80% restored over-all?  LIPA is hovering at 66%.  We have an amazing department here, and we should - we pay for it!  And that's great, that's why it's there!

Second of all, in a previous update I wondered about what was going on with the restoration effort.  I pointed out how the Mayor had been interviewed by Fios 1, where he'd claimed that all but 600 residents (or even households) were restored.  I think it's obvious by now that this was a flat-out lie.  There's no other way for me to say it, it was false information distributed to a media outlet.  I'd pointed out how chaotic the brand new "if you don't have an electrician's note, we pull your meter" plan had been executed.  People were told to get their own electricians, and shelled out $90 (if they got a good price!) only to later be told that it would be provided for them.  Fortunately, after many nights in the dark, the Pohlman residence finally has juice back.  Just in time for us to start arranging for a dumpster so we can toss our basement.

Then, in order to find out about what the status of the repairs were, we called the Office of Emergency Management and were given multiple phone numbers to try - and not all of them worked.  We're frankly lucky that this was a minor issue, and not a matter of life-and-death that the OEM pulled out the wrong number on.

Communication Breakdowns Continue

Welcome to the critique, and it isn't pleasant.

All in all, and I can't say this enough, communication is key.  I have gotten literally dozens of people thanking me and The Weekly Freeporter for keeping them informed about what's going on in the Village.  They don't just mean that this publication is more plugged-in to the Village than any other media presence.  They also mean, quite frankly, that the Village itself has done a sub-par job of keeping residents updated.  I respect the "point of contact" idea that the Village has - that you call OEM and they direct you wherever you need to go.  That's good emergency-management, even if the practice of providing contact ends up with hiccups.  But that's only for direct inquiries, not press releases.

It's not good that the Village webpage is rarely updated (maybe 2x a day; unlike us, they get paid for this, they have no excuse), and there is incomplete information escaping.  There is/was (I can no longer find it!  That could just be me, though) a Facebook page with updates, but I could not pin down who was responsible for updating it ("A volunteer" under the direction of the head of "Social Media" or something, I don't know), and quite frankly it was giving a lot of old or random news.  So information wasn't really flowing very well to residents.  As for the Mayor's own Facebook page?

Most of the information on his page isn't coming from him, but is being posted on it by concerned citizens.  On the other hand, if you were wondering, why, yes, he made it a point to invite me to the FB event for the fund-raiser he's having on December 28th, 2012 at the Coral House!

For his re-election campaign.

Now, I did dig into this a touch; it turns out that this event was created a short time before the storm really hit us.  That means the Mayor wasn't really spending time that should have been reserved for helping people on conjuring up something for his re-election campaign, just to deflect that little rumor.  But - and this is why he (or any other campaign, perhaps?) could really benefit from hiring a certain private consulting contractor with a sense of honor as well as a sense of public relations skill:  Do we really need to know about $75/plate events?

Instead, maybe Mayor Hardwick should schedule and host a "Relief for Freeport" fund-raiser, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross or something.  We could host it at the Rec Center if it is operations-worthy, or at a school if we can get access.  Make it a buffet-style event, make it $20 or so per plate, and the Mayor and whoever else can be there to glad-hand and praise residents for the strength they have shown.  Suddenly, not only do the people have more respect for you, but you're generating revenue for those who are effected by a natural disaster.

Alternatively, he could throw his support behind a "Freeport Marketplace" day, where merchants effected by the storm gather up and sell their wares - and local eateries that suffered damage can send food for a small food bar.  A small ($5) cover fee - all donated, of course! - would let people in, and as long as the businesses inside offered their wares for generous prices they could pocket the proceeds.

In effect, this would generate economic recovery within Freeport, boosting our businesses while allowing residents access both to political leaders (again, the Mayor would be there!) as well as relatively inexpensive goods that will be cheaper than going to the mall or whatever.  I mean, for all I know it can be stuff that was damaged, but not ruined by the storm - a little water damage on a brand new desk, let's say, could easily be masked after purchase.

Or there's the StayStrong project, now with Sandy sweaters!

These are just ideas I'm throwing out at the spur of the moment, ideas on ways that a little fore-thought in the communications department could easily improve upon.  Instead of a campaign fundraiser, campaign by doing the right thing and helping people in need.  That goes for any and all candidates, by the way, not just the Mayor.  He's just the unfortunate impetus for this kind of thing, as he so often - through his own actions - is.

Continue taking care of yourselves and each other, Freeport, and thank you all for reading and supporting The Weekly Freeporter.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gas Madness in Freeport - Video by Jason Bass

Hey Freeport.

Oh yeah, Gas is a mess.  Our correspondent and videographer Jason Bass just swung through Freeport for a bit, checking out how the gas crisis is turning out in the Village.  Trust me, you should see these clips.

That's pretty severe.  Here's the second spot!

Next, Jay's third stop...

And the last!