2014-06-13 / Columnists


Hurricane season is here. Are we ready?
By Marcia Bystryn,
President, New York League of Conservation Voters

Hurricane season has begun and Rockaway residents could be forgiven for glancing up uneasily when rain clouds appear on the horizon.

Superstorm Sandy devastated coastal communities like ours and the effects of climate change mean it’s only a matter of time before New York’s shorefront neighborhoods again face the threat of extreme weather.

Rockaway residents deserve to know Mayor Bill de Blasio has a plan for when the next big storm comes over the horizon.

So far, Mayor de Blasio has focused mainly on helping the city recover from Superstorm Sandy. More than most, Rockaway residents understand the urgent need for these efforts. The Office of Recovery and Resiliency, the Build it Back program, the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency — the Mayor has done good and necessary work creating or extending these programs and he and his administration deserve praise for it. But unless the city has a solid plan for the future, the next storm could wash all that hard work away.

The de Blasio administration has already begun to touch on pieces of a potential resiliency plan. Mayor de Blasio has launched a prominent “Know Your Zone” flooding awareness campaign and put out a request for proposals to study the resiliency of the city’s food supply. But the mayor must fold these individual initiatives into a larger, comprehensive strategy for climate preparedness.

The mayor has delivered an affordable housing plan, a plan for pre-kindergarten education and a traffic safety plan. Surely the impacts of climate change warrant at least as much effort.

Such a plan could put the city’s $9.5 billion capital budget to work, ensuring that every dollar spent on New York’s infrastructure does double-duty by ensuring our roads, bridges, schools, parks and environmental facilities can stand up to future superstorms. The plan could expand on the Know Your Zone campaign’s investment in the city’s social resiliency by seeking even more opportunities to foster a culture of awareness and preparedness.

Mayor de Blasio was elected on a promise to build a city that works for all of us, but he won’t be able to build that more equitable city on a shifting pile of sand. Our mayor must begin to lay a resilient foundation for New York City in face of the climate crisis and deliver a plan to protect coastal communities from the supercharged storms on the horizon.

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