New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled his long-awaited proposal today, June 11, on how to improve the city's resiliency in extreme weather events, like Superstorm Sandy, and better guard against the effects of climate change. The plan would require a hefty long-term investment of $19.5 billion, although, about $10 billion of this is already covered via Sandy-related federal relief funds and the city's ongoing capital program, Bloomberg says.
"Because of the scale of the challenge posed by climate change, even a tailored plan scaled to available resources brings with it a significant price tag that will need to be borne by the public," the report says.
Using PlaNYC as a basis, the 437-page report covers coastal protection, buildings, transportation, utilities and other key infrastructure, and it addresses topics including economic recovery and insurance. It also provides in-depth coverage of the east and south shores of Staten Island and other regions that Sandy heavily damaged. Seth Pinsky, president of the city's Economic Development Corp., headed the team that worked on "A Stronger More Resilient New York" report.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for amending the city's zoning rules to allow owners of existing buildings more flexibility, without penalization, in areas such as building heights and mechanical equipment elevation. It also recommends retrofitting existing buildings to improve resiliency. Most of the buildings constructed in the city's 100-year floodplain are more than 50 years old and built to standards that did not incorporate flood resistance, the report says.
Some industry groups including the New York Building Congress (NYBC) recently published their own post-Sandy rebuilding recommendations and welcomed the mayor's report. "One of the things that stood out for me, however, was what the [city's report] was missing," says Richard Anderson, president of NYBC, whose representatives offered suggestions to Pinsky's team as it was developing the report.
"The mayor emphasized the importance of reliable electricity and hardening the power grid, but he didn't talk about any public funding to make that happen," Anderson says. The NYBC report supports public-private partnerships for such work.
Meanwhile, the mayor acknowledged that the city's report is "incredibly ambitious" and said that "much of the work will extend far beyond the next 203 days" that he will be in office. However, "as bad as Sandy was, future storms could be even worse," he added.
The report comes on the heels of PlaNYC's Panel on Climate Change study that updated its prior analysis and projections concerning the city's specific climate change risks. It also provided future coastal flood risk maps, which show that by 2050 one-fourth of NYC's land area will be within the floodplain.
The 100-year flood map of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was in effect when Sandy hit. The agency has since released a new version of the map that contains more than 500 million sq ft of city buildings, the equivalent of the entire city of Minneapolis, Bloomberg says.
"But these maps don't take into account potential changes going forward, like rising sea levels, which our panel forecasts could increase by more than two and half feet by mid-century," Bloomberg says. "If we do nothing, more than 40 miles of our waterfront could see flooding on a regular basis, just during normal high tides.'