2006-02-24 / Community

We’re Not Prepared For Hurricanes: Representatives

Congressmen Anthony Weiner, left, Gregory Meeks, center, and Jerrold Nadler held a press conference to release the study.Congressmen Anthony Weiner, left, Gregory Meeks, center, and Jerrold Nadler held a press conference to release the study. New York residents in coastal communities like Rockaway and Broad Channel are sitting ducks for devastating hurricanes and other storms, according to a study released this week by three representatives in Congress.

“Six months after Katrina, there are still major gaps in our hurricane preparedness,” said Congressman Anthony Weiner, who along with Congressmen Gregory Meeks and Jerrold Nadler, released the study.

“While New York City has taken steps to protect our shorelines, not enough has been done. Mother Nature can be unpredictable, and our city and our residents have to be prepared for the worst,” Weiner continued.

The study takes aim at President George W. Bush, the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Allstate Insurance.

The Democrat congressmen say the president’s budget slashed funding for jetties, groins and shoreline protection from nearly $4 million to zero today, with no funding allocated for 2007 either. They also blame the federal government for failing to fund an Army Corps of Engineers program that anticipates hurricanes.

While the study credits OEM with having “a detailed plan for evaluation of low lying areas” it is critical of the agency because, they say, it relies heavily on its website, www.NYC. gov/OEM, to disseminate information, which they say disadvantages the elderly and poor.

OEM, which has done three major presentations in Rockaway since 2003, distributes information to local libraries and via 311.

The study also took a swipe at Allstate, which announced in January that it would not issue new homeowner policies in places like Rockaway and Broad Channel. “Allstate is trying to pressure the Federal government into creating a catastrophic fund that would indemnify them from costs of natural disasters, like hurricanes,” it says.

Allstate says it had to suspend writing policies because they were running the risk of insuring too many homes in at-risk areas. Local agent John Lepore said he wasn’t happy about it either: Homeowner policies were a big part of his bottom line, he told us in January.

Meeks, who represents the eastern end of the peninsula, said people there could be among the hardest hit. “We are still not prepared to assist the economically impoverished and those physically unable to evacuate themselves,” he said.

“We can do two things to help prevent a Katrina-like disaster from befalling the Big Apple in the event of a hurricane,” the study suggests. “First, we can invest in early warning systems to identify how best to shield ourselves from the ravages of a severe storm. Second, we can ensure that our shorelines are properly maintained to withstand the storm surge that accompanies the hurricane.”

If history is an accurate predictor, New York could be in for a category 3 hurricane within the decade and the time to act, Weiner said, is now. “It’s time we learn from our mistakes and steel ourselves for the future,” he said.

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