NYC Mayor Bloomberg Proposes $20B Flood Plan After Sandy

June 11, 2013

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for a $20 billion system of flood barriers to protect low-lying areas from storms almost eight months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the region.

In a report released today, the mayor made 250 recommendations, including installing bulkheads and dune systems on beach areas of Staten Island and the Rockaways in Queens, and bolstering building codes to protect hospitals. He cited environmental scientists who predict sea levels rising as much as 31 inches by 2050, accompanied by severe storms and prolonged spells of extreme heat and cold.

Bloomberg last year appointed a task force to assess the city’s vulnerability after Sandy brought a record 14-foot (4.3- meter) storm surge to Lower Manhattan in October. It flooded seven subway tunnels, immersed electrical substations, shut down the financial district and killed power south of 35th Street. All five boroughs bore its brunt in the city of 8 million.

“Hurricane Sandy made it all too clear that, no matter how far we’ve come, we still face real, immediate threats,” Bloomberg said in remarks prepared for a speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “Much of the work will extend far beyond the next 200 days — but we refuse to pass the responsibility for creating a plan onto the next administration. This is urgent work, and it must begin now.”

The mayor, 71, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, is scheduled to complete his third and final mayoral term Dec. 31.

Funding Plan

The cost assumes each proposal gets implemented along the suggested timeline. The city can rely on $10 billion in city capital funding and federal aid, and another $5 billion in U.S. disaster relief, the mayor said. Additional federal funding and capital raised through the sale of municipal bonds would be needed to cover the remaining $4.5 billion, the mayor said.

By mid-century, as much as one-quarter of New York’s land area, where 800,000 residents live, will be in a flood plain, the mayor said. The city has about 520 miles of coastline, more than Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco combined, he said.

Fifty-three percent of New York’s power plants are in the 100-year flood plain now, and 97 percent will be in the 2050s, the mayor said. Fuel suppliers remain at risk of flooding or power blackouts, and significant gaps in telecommunications regulations have left cable TV, broadband, wireless and wired voice networks exposed, Bloomberg said.

Staten Island

His plan calls for $1.2 billion to be made available for building owners to institute flood-resiliency measures, including elevating or protecting equipment, upgrading foundations and reinforcing exterior walls.

The plan calls for a system of levees, floodwalls and other protections along the eastern shore of Staten Island from Fort Wadsworth to Tottenville, which would rise 15 feet to 20 feet to protect neighborhoods devastated by Sandy that have seen coastal flooding from nor’easters for years.

Restoration of beaches requires 1 million cubic yards of sand to be added at Coney Island; 3.6 million cubic yards at Rockaway Peninsula; and similar measures at damaged shore line of Staten Island, the mayor said.

Bulkheads of stone or concrete to hold shorelines in place and protect against rising sea levels and erosion would be built throughout the city, including in west Midtown in Manhattan; the Rockaway Peninsula, Broad Channel and Howard Beach in Queens; Greenpoint in Brooklyn; the North Shore in Staten Island; and West and Locust Point in the Bronx. The city would also repair bulkheads on the Belt Parkway along the south shore of Brooklyn and Queens, which failed during Hurricane Sandy, the mayor said.

Building Code

Billions more would be spent on such protections as a system of floodwalls and levees adaptable for recreation and waterfront transportation, the mayor said. Similar devices could be installed near Hunts Point in the Bronx, the site of the city’s largest food-distribution center; the East River Drive, where the United Nations sits; and near hospitals on the city’s east side, where Sandy’s floods forced patient evacuations and facility shut-downs.

The city’s building code must be amended to require low- lying hospitals, nursing and adult-care homes to make sure their electrical equipment, emergency power systems and water pumps are flood-proof by 2030, the mayor said.
“We have to make sure the facilities we depend on in emergencies are there for us when we need them most,” the mayor said.

Rising Temperatures

The mayor’s task force predicted city temperatures could reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius), 57 days a year by mid- century, up from 18 days a year now, and equal to the weather now experienced in Birmingham, Alabama, 960 miles to the south.

The $20 billion cost assumes each proposal gets implemented along the suggested timeline. The city can rely on $10 billion in city capital funding and federal aid, and another $5 billion in federal disaster relief, the mayor said. Additional federal funding and capital raised through the sale of municipal bonds would be needed to cover the remaining $4.5 billion, the mayor said.

With assistance from Freeman Klopott in Albany, New York. Editors: Mark Schoifet, William Glasgall

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