Vice President Joe Biden and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that New York and the nation’s other coastal states have to rebuild against severe storms and flooding that are likely in the future.
“Extreme weather is the new reality,” Cuomo said, before describing an estimated $16 billion in projects he proposes launching this year. “And we have to deal with it.”
Biden, who also cited rising sea levels, said coastal areas have to rebuild smarter if people are to continue living there. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 caused $32 billion in damage to New York, which so far received half of an initial $12 billion in federal supplemental funding for storm relief and reconstruction, he said.
“We have to rebuild in a way you will not be victimized by a similar storm again,” said Biden, who comes from Delaware. “Manhattan is like my state. It’s essentially at sea level.”
The Oct. 29, 2012, storm was one of the most expensive storms in history and one of the worst to strike the Northeast. Most of its fury was aimed at New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. It is blamed for more than 150 deaths and $50 billion in damage.
Sandy’s surge was so damaging that New York officials are essentially “re-imagining” the state’s infrastructure to withstand severe weather with federal money making it possible, Cuomo said Tuesday. The hurricane flooded several parts of New York City and Long Island, destroying homes and businesses and shutting down public transportation, sewer plants and power stations.
The governor, also citing damage in upstate New York from the storms Irene and Lee in 2011, proposed specific prevention and rebuilding measures. He called for expanding the total weather forecasting stations statewide from 27 to 125; redesigning New York City’s subway system, which flooded during Sandy, with plugs for all its 540 openings; and redesigning 100 upstate bridges to make them more resilient.
Cuomo also proposed installing tide gates and drainage systems at New York City’s Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, elevating all electrical substations on Long Island and protecting Nassau County’s main treatment plant that he said flooded and spilled 200 million gallons of raw sewage during Sandy. He mentioned new dikes, levees and flood walls, redesigning coastal homes atop stilts and piers and establishing a college in the state university system dedicated to emergency preparedness and homeland and cyber security.
“Ninety percent of New Yorkers live within five miles of the shoreline,” Cuomo said. “The ocean’s still moving in and reclaiming the shoreline.”
Other administration plans include establishing more wetlands and forests as natural flood buffers and designating 22 more communities that can apply for $80 million in federal reconstruction funds.
New York has an estimated $5.1 billion of federal disaster aid in its current budget, following almost $600 million last year. The numbers don’t reflect the federal aid that is going directly to some businesses and individuals, the Port Authority, Metropolitan Transit Authority and New York City, according to budget officials.
State budget estimates of federal disaster funds expected in the coming fiscal year were unavailable Tuesday.