City invests to bolster city infrastructure post Sandy
While Mayor Michael Bloomberg's exhaustive plan to fortify the Big Apple for future superstorms is years -- and billions of dollars -- away, in the year since Sandy struck New York, city agencies and utilities companies have made progress in strengthening their systems.
From stronger flood protections at Con Edison facilities to new building regulations that entice coastal homeowners to elevate their houses, several infrastructure holes were filled over the last year and more plans are in place to defend the city from lethal weather.
Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway, who oversees several city agencies including the Office of Emergency Management, said he was confident that the measures would protect New York in the near future.
"Is the city prepared for another storm? The short answer is yes," Holloway said at a news conference last week. "In fact, we are better prepared than before Sandy."
Electricity was a high priority following the storm, after 2 million New Yorkers were left in the dark. Con Edison said it will invest $1 billion over the next few years to storm proof its systems.
So far, the company has built more than a mile of concrete walls around the perimeter of its facilities, including the 13th Street substation where a relay was destroyed during the storm. It also has installed 38 "smart" switches, which isolate damaged equipment, and installed hundreds of new transformers.
"We are responding to Sandy by building a tougher system," Con Ed president Craig Ivey said in a statement.
The utility said its performance during the summer, where it reached record levels of usage without any major power outages, is a testament to its post-Sandy investment.
The city's plans when it comes to roads, coasts and buildings are slowly churning along as it waits for more money from the federal government. New York has received $1.77 billion of the $60.2 billion federal aid (for all states) that was approved in January. More than $6 billion will come next year, according to Sen. Charles Schumer.
Most of the money has been usedfor rebuilding, and in neighborhoods like Breezy Point and Coney Island, homes are well under way to completion.
In termsof infrastructure, the city has made some initial steps to repair and mitigate the damage done to coastal communities, including sand restoration in the Rockaways, setting up Baffle Walls and berms in Staten Island to protect flooding, and a stronger pier in Coney Island.
Despite the financial barriers, Holloway stressed that policy changes implemented over the last year fortified thousands of buildings throughout the five boroughs.
In addition to updating the city's flood maps, which will help homeowners with insurance policies infuture storms and improve evacuations, new building codes also were put in place.
"Legislation was passed with the idea to identify ways to create more resiliency," Holloway said.
New properties in flood zone A must have higher ground level, and older properties must have their heating systems elevated.Other building code updates include flood vents in basements.
Holloway saidad city changing how itit handes gas during major emergencies. Due to power outages at hundreds of gas stations and problems at refineries throughout the East Coast, the city had to resort to gas rationing in the weeks following the storm.
Holloway said the city is exploring ways to expedite the process to get more gas and execute another rationing system earlier to alleviate the stress at the pump.
On Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a pilot program that creates a fuel reserve in Long Island that would hold 3 million gallons of gas for drivers.
As effective as the early infrastructure work has been, Mayor Bloomberg has said the recommendations from his 350-page report released in June is the best way to improve the city's infrastructure.
Among the proposals, which will cost $19.5 billion, are levees in Staten Island; flood walls in Red Hook, Harlem, the financial district and the Rockaways; and bulkheads.
The largest plan involves the creation of a man-made island in the East River off the Financial District called Seaport City, which will protect downtown Manhattan from storm surges.
Holloway admitted that these ideas will take several years -- and a whole lot of money -- to become reality, but he was optimistic that they will begin in some form or another.
"Our plan is to run a well functioning machine for our successors," the deputy mayor said.