We Will Not Retreat
Soon after the Storm, Mayor Bloomberg announced the formation of the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR). He selected a team to devise a plan to rebuild communities and improve citywide systems and infrastructure. The SIRR team went to work gathering information, consulting with experts across fields, and meeting with community groups. The work went on for months and the group produced a 438 page plan which they revealed on Tuesday. In coming weeks, The Wave will go through the plan and dispense information and weigh in on the pros and cons. No matter how we ultimately feel, we must first acknowledge the hard work by the SIRR team some of whom left private industry to help. It was a burdensome, challenging task and they are to be saluted for their efforts.
At the press conference on Tuesday, the Mayor gave an overview of the plan. We know the devil will be in the details but our initial response was positive. The Mayor was emphatic on two issues absolutely critical to Rockaway. He said the city would not abandon or retreat from the waterfront. This is no small point. There are scientists and politicians and others who regularly preach that retreating from the coast is precisely what should be done. Wisely, the Mayor thinks otherwise. He acknowledges rising sea levels and climate change and urges city planning to follow those realities by building smarter and sometimes higher. It so happens, the greatest city in the world is surrounded by water. It will only stay the greatest if we take steps to accommodate the sea (not surrender to it).
The second point that struck us as crucial was his clear understanding of flood insurance premiums being a threat to communities across New York. We were told that the flood insurance issue was the surprise challenge faced by the SIRR team and that once they appreciated its importance they devoted a full-time person to the matter. We left the conference thinking, the Mayor gets it.
Our other impression was a less glowing one. We worry if Rockaway (and other areas) will be studied to death. As the mayor spoke about studying this and studying that, we had some flashbacks about the Army Corps study that has just been revived after years and years of on-again off-again status.
But it’s too early to declare us dead by study. We look forward to combing through the plan.
Oh, and we hope our mayoral hopefuls are doing the same.