Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York state is facing "a massive, massive housing problem" for those whose neighborhoods or buildings are in such bad shape that they won't have power for weeks or months.
"I don't know that anybody has ever taken this number of people and found housing for them overnight," Bloomberg said. "We don't have a lot of empty housing in this city," he added. "We're not going to let anybody go sleeping in the streets. ... But it's a challenge, and we're working on it."
The mayor and the governor gave no details of where and how the victims might be housed.
Already, crowding was becoming an issue.
Sue Chadwick, who left her Bayville, Long Island, house ahead of the storm, said Sunday night she and others were told to leave the Extended Stay America hotel room in Melville that she booked through the end of next week to make room for other storm victims.
Chadwick's house is uninhabitable while repairs are made so she's staying in Vermont with family and taking time off from work.
"It just seemed morally wrong that you had people who made reservations and are paying," she said. "We have the need. It's not like I'm there on business and could catch the next plane out. There are people in worse shape, but I just feel like when people are in these dire circumstances, you don't want to make it worse."
The phone rang unanswered at the Melville hotel Sunday night. The corporate offices in Charlotte, N.C., are closed weekends and an operator said to call back Monday.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita smashed the Gulf Coast in 2005, hundreds of thousands of victims were put up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in trailers, hotels, cruise ships and apartments across several states for months and even years.
George W. Contreras, associate director of the emergency and disaster management program at Metropolitan College of New York, speculated that large encampments of trailers might be set up at a stadium, in a park or in some other open space in the city — something he couldn't recall being done in New York ever before.
"The amount of actual units the city might have in buildings is probably very limited, so I think people will be in FEMA shelters for a while," he said.
On a basketball court flanked by powerless apartment buildings in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, volunteers for the city handed out bagels, diapers, water, blankets and other necessities. Genice Josey stuffed a blanket into a garbage bag.
"Nights are the worst because you feel like you're outside when you're inside," said Josey, who sleeps under three blankets and wears longjohns under her pajamas. "You shiver yourself to sleep." She added: "It's like we're going back to barbaric times where we had to go find food and clothing and shelter."
Fearing looters, Nick Veros and his relatives were hoping to hold out in their storm-damaged Staten Island home until power was restored. He figured the indoor temperature would plunge into the 40s.
"If we get two consecutive below-freezing days, I'm probably going to have to drain the water out of the pipes," he said, "and then we'll have to get out of the house."
Associated Press writers Michael Rubinkam, Cara Anna, David B. Caruso, Tom Hays, Michael Hill, Hillel Italie, Christina Rexrode in New York; Jim Fitzgerald in Mount Vernon, N.Y.; and Ben Nuckols in Belmar, N.J., contributed to this story.