NYC Paying $1 Million for Empty Hotel Rooms After Sandy

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NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03:  Personel from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office deliver food to the Red Hook public housing project on November 3, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The low-income apartment complex remains without power or water 5 days after Superstorm Sandy.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Photo: Lindsay Kassof

The housing mess caused by Hurricane Sandy continues a month later, with more than 1,000 people still homeless and the city's plan to take care of them racking up a big bill, The Wall Street Journal reports today. Following the closing of temporary shelters, victims have been spread out at 29 hotels across the city, where "they can't afford restaurant meals and don't have cooking facilities." Some places haven't been touched at all, like the 120 rooms reserved at Midtown's Milford Plaza Hotel, which have sat unoccupied for weeks at $295-a-night, for a total of nearly $1 million.

"What we worry about is people freezing to death in unheated apartments and we need to make sure that we have a buffer, that when people come to us and we need a place to put them immediately," said Department of Homeless Services commissioner Seth Diamond. "We're always looking to add more capacity because we can't be in a position of not having rooms for people who need them."

The situation is complicated by New York City's crazy rental market. "We generally have other options than hotels," said Michael Byrne, a coordinator for FEMA, which will likely be on the hook to reimburse the city for its hotel costs. "The best solution to a housing challenge is to get the people back into their homes," he added, "and that's how we've pivoted all of our heavy effort that we've got."