By Joshua Dawsey
January 7, 2014
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, detailing on Tuesday how New York will spend $17 billion in superstorm Sandy recovery money, vows to fix bridges, buttress the coastline, protect the city’s subway system and open a new college.
The governor—appearing with Vice President Joseph Biden at the state capitol—outlined a diverse mix of proposals ranging from helping struggling communities to training thousands of New Yorkers on how to handle emergencies. It was the governor’s broadest remarks on his plans to spend federal dollars given to Albany, part of a $60 billion package awarded to Sandy-devastated areas by the federal government.
“The new reality in New York is we are getting hit by 100-year storms every couple of years,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We have to wake up to that new reality by completely reimagining our state to be ready for any future disaster.”
Mr. Cuomo said the state would build 125 weather detectors across the state to provide accurate, timely information on minute-by-minute conditions. Large, inflatable plugs could cover entrances to the city’s subway system, costing about $5 billion. New York will replace or repair 104 bridges across the state, and another $257 million will bring tide gates and emergency generators to the city’s airports, including a flood wall at La Guardia. The state is proposing to spend $47 million on backup power for gas stations.
Mr. Cuomo’s most unorthodox idea may be the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and a new college, part of the SUNY system, to train students on responding to natural disasters and learning counterterrorism strategies. His administration says the college will involve law, public and international affairs, cyber-engineering and more. The governor also wants to train 100,000 New Yorkers on emergency response, providing them with kits.
Mr. Cuomo’s plan comes months after former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed spending $20 billion to make the city more resilient, ideas widely supported by new Mayor Bill de Blasio. Mr. Biden heaped praise on the governor, as Mr. Cuomo sat smiling.
“One of the things that impressed me the most, governor, is your foresight here and your ingenuity,” Mr. Biden said. “That is the kind of thinking we need from other governors. That is the kind of thinking we need around the country.”
Not everyone was thrilled at the plan. Some advocates of marginalized communities, like the Rockaways and poorer stretches of Staten Island, said they wanted a firmer commitment to rebuilding affordable housing and helping poor New Yorkers.
“All the ideas are great, but we can’t only discuss resiliency,” said Nathalie Alegre, a coordinator for the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding. “We’re eager to see and hear more from the Cuomo administration what it will do specifically to help the most vulnerable.”
“What is the maintenance costs of these things once we build them? The maintenance money won’t come from the federal government,” she said. “…There is nothing particularly wrong with the things he announced today, but it doesn’t solve the whole problem.”
Many of the plan’s parts won initial praise. Eric Goldstein, an attorney with the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said using tidal wetlands to protect flood-prone coastal communities was a great strategy.
“These are exactly the kinds of safeguards we need as our primary lines of defense to protect lives and property in an era of increasingly unpredictable weather,” he said.
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