Bloomberg: NYC to Rebuild Smarter After Sandy, Must Face Climate Change

Friday, 07 Dec 2012 11:29 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg says New York City will be rebuilt “smarter and stronger and more sustainably” following Superstorm Sandy.

Although he was flanked at his Thursday press conference by former Vice President Al Gore and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, the mayor stopped short of blaming Sandy on climate change, as did the other two who told reporters the city must prepare for future storms due to global warming.

“You don’t have to be a believer in climate change to understand the dangers from extreme weather are already here,” said Bloomberg. “Whether or not one storm is related to climate change or is not, we have to manage for risks, and we have to be able to better defend ourselves against extreme weather and natural disasters.”

“We may or may not see another storm like Sandy in our lifetimes, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that we should leave it to our children to prepare for the possibility,” the mayor added. “Sea levels are expected to rise by another two and a half feet (in forty years), and that’s going to make surges even more powerful and dangerous. And intense storms are likely to increase as the ocean’s temperatures continue to rise.”

In order to better prepare the city for future storms, the mayor said he planned to revise the city’s building codes and change zoning requirement in low-lying areas to ensure future structures can withstand Category 2 hurricanes and extreme heat.

After acknowledging the city had to examine how it could provide social services “more quickly and effectively,” the mayor reassured coastal residents of his commitment to their reconstruction effort.

“Let me be clear: We are not going to abandon the waterfront,” said the mayor. “We are not going to leave the Rockaways or Coney Island or Staten Island’s South Shore.”

In addition to building code revisions, Bloomberg told reporters that he was considering having dunes, berms, levees and jetties built to minimize future damage along the city’s 520-mile shoreline from surging seawater during severe storms.

Though he didn’t estimate the costs associated with such improvements, the mayor acknowledged that funds are limited.

“We have to live in the real world and make tough decisions based on the costs and benefits of risk-avoidance investments,” said Bloomberg. “Saying we're going to spend whatever it takes just is not realistic,”

Storms, however, are not the city’s only environmental concerns in future years.

Bloomberg also warned of “record rainfalls” over the past three summers and “record heat in 2011 (that) led to the highest energy-use ever recorded in our city.”

“As I said before, the electric grid held up, but massive voltage reductions were required throughout our power network to keep the lights on,” the mayor said.

Sandy swept across the Northeast shoreline on Oct. 29, killing 182 people in the process. Of those, 43 were in New York City.

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