Photo Courtesy of the MTA
Storm barriers are just one of dozens of suggestions in a draft report after Sandy.
Photo Courtesy of the MTA

A draft report commissioned by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in response to Superstorm Sandy reads like a catalogue of every wish list item on every infrastructure advocate's agenda—from flood-specific recommendations for building storm surge barriers around New York to broader ones like improving freight infrastructure and transit connections.

The draft highlights four sectors: energy, transportation, insurance and finance. It offers many suggestions that have been put forth in the past—installing inflatable plugs for tunnels, relocating equipment to higher ground and diversifying sources of electricity. The infrastructure finance section reiterates ideas such as a state infrastructure bank, public-private partnerships and performance-based approaches to projects.

The 30 members of the NYS 2100 commission, appointed in November, include industry stalwarts such as architect Guy Nordenson, New York Building Congress President Richard Anderson and former U.S. Dept. of Transportation deputy secretary Mortimer Downey.

Bolstered by resources from the Rockefeller Center, whose president is the commission's co-chairperson, Judith Rodin, "everybody that should have been involved was involved," says Anderson. "Everybody worked around the clock. Everyone was exceptionally open to suggestions. I raised issues of regional cooperation between New York and New Jersey in order to support the world's largest metropolitan economy."

The draft report does not, however, offer much in the way of cost estimates. "This is a guidance, but not a blueprint," says Anderson. "The U.S. has been deferring infrastructure investment for decades. We weren't keeping up before, and some of the destruction was a consequence of that. Hopefully this will galvanize public effort. The age of deferrals is hopefully behind us."

Most members of the commission declined to comment, citing deference to Cuomo's press office, which did not return a call to ENR by press time.

Malcolm Bowman, head of the Storm Surge Research Group at Long Island's Stony Brook University and a proponent of a barrier system across the 5-mile-wide mouth of New York Harbor, also favors a new building standard based on a 250-year weather event—rather than a 100-year event, as dictated by current codes.

Bowman also advocates creating barrier systems that would double as transportation infrastructure. This approach, he points out, would facilitate construction and maintenance through public-private partnerships.