Christine Quinn: City must act now before next storm comes

5A disaster-cleanup worker looks for environmentally dangerous waste at a mass 
dump of household possessions in Midland Beach on Staten Island.
John Moore/Getty Images

Hurricane Sandy has thrust climate change back into the spotlight, with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn proposing yesterday that around $20 billion be spent on bolstering New York’s defenses against sea-level rise and flooding.

In order to counter the effects of climate change, the city needs hard infrastructure, which could include sea walls and floodgates, plus restored sand dunes, salt marshes and other natural protectors of coastal areas, Quinn said in a speech.

Her announcement came less than two weeks after Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Barack Obama for re-election, saying he was the only candidate who saw climate change as an “urgent problem that threatens our planet.”

“This has really catapulted to the top of the city’s agenda,” New York League of Conservation Voters spokesman Dan Hendrick told Metro. “I think there has been, pardon the pun, a real sea change around climate change and adaptation.”

Others agreed that Hurricane Sandy had forced the conversation.

“It’s the silver lining of the tragedy of Sandy,” said Glenn Phillips, executive director of New York City Audubon.

Under Quinn’s proposals, Con Ed would erect structures around at-risk power plants and substations, overhead power lines would be replaced by underground ones and raised buffers would be installed around certain subway grates. Also, the region’s gasoline distribution network would be overhauled, building codes might be changed and sewer system upgrades would be expedited.

Quinn called on the federal government to supply the bulk of the roughly $20 billion necessary for those changes.

Just a day earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo likewise asked the federal government for $30 billion to help with recovery efforts related to Hurricane Sandy.

How other low-lying cities prepare for storms

New York City is not the only place trying to stop storm surges. The Netherlands, for example, has spent billions of dollars on dams, dikes, walls, levees and other barriers, whereas London installed steel gates to protect itself from tides moving up the River Thames, according to Quinn. Louisiana, meanwhile, has been refurbishing wetlands and rebuilding small islands since Hurricane Katrina.


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