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As Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveils his administration's vision for making New York City more resilient to climate change, Gotham Gazette is working to help democratize the public debate on the issues.
Gotham Gazette is partnering with veteran journalists and technology pioneers to bring you AdaptNY, which aims to "curate, document and foster conversation about how New York will adapt to the coming challenges of climate change."
The project is led by veteran journalist A. Adam Glenn, of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
The project will be edited and curated by Glenn, and Gotham Gazette will be providing content and editorial guidance. We'll also be promoting AdaptNY's efforts on Facebook and Twitter, and encourage readers to visit the project site.
We are also proud to be partnering with DocumentCloud to develop an online tool for stimulating public policy discussion around key reports on climate change.
Increased flooding, more rain and storms, and higher temperatures are all predicted in a new report by the Bloomberg Administration. Over 800,000 residents are expected to live in flood plains by 2050, more than double the number currently estimated at risk. By that time, 90 degree days could become as regular as they are in Birmingham, Ala. Heat waves kill more people than storms. Sea levels are anticipated to rise four to eight inches by 2020. Bloomberg will give a speech today about how the city will begin preparing for this new climate.
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Some residents in the Rockaway penninsula of Queens remain literally disconnected after Hurricane Sandy.
The 1,800-unit housing project Ocean Bay Apartments was one of the last two New York City Housing Authority buildings to regain power in late December, but local Councilman Donovan Richards says hundreds of his constituents are still waiting for phone service to return.
Despite the lack of landline service, Richards said that many of the residents have told him they are still receiving bills from Verizon. What they're not getting, he added, is any notice about when they can expect their phone lines to work again.
"This is a communication company," he said. "They should be able to communicate."
Richards said that a few of his constituents have continued to pay for the last five months of nonexistent phone service, including elderly residents who don't have access to wireless technology.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday that the city would rethink evacuation zones, electrical infrastructure, telecommunications networks, hospitals and transportations systems after Superstorm Sandy caused billions of dollars in damage, paralyzed communities and killed dozens of people.
But Bloomberg said that his administration would not abandon the waterfront and dismissed the possibility of building sea walls to hold back the ocean. Instead, he said the city would look at "coastline protections" such as berms, dunes, jetties and levies.
"No matter how much we do to make homes and businesses more resilient, the fact of the matter is we live next to the ocean, and the ocean comes with risks that we just cannot eliminate," the mayor said.
Bloomberg outlined the post-Sandy plan, his first major address since the storm, at a Lower Manhattan event, where former Vice President Al Gore also made an appearance and praised the mayor's previous efforts to respond to the effects of climate change.
In the Press...
Superstorm Sandy left at least 2 million homes and businesses across the state and about 800,000 customers in the city and Westchester remained without power yesterday. More than half of Staten Island is without power, and over a quarter of Manhattan is in the dark. In Manhattan there are no streetlights South of 25th St. on the Westside. The substation in the East Village that exploded was designed to withstand a 12.5 foot surge but was hit with a surge of 14 feet. Customers served by underground lines in Brooklyn and Manhattan are likely to have their power restored within four days. Bloomberg promised "a very heavy police presence" in the darkened neighborhoods. Thirteen people have been arrested for crimes that included looting.
The death toll for the city is now 22. Untreated sewage is flowing into waterways from more than a dozen locations around the city. A crane still dangles from a skyscraper in Midtown and could be there for weeks. The World Trade Center is flooded. Sand is piled up to 2 feet high on the Coney Island boardwalk. At least 111 homes were destroyed by fires in Breezy Point, Queens in a blaze among the worst residential fires in New York since the Fire Department was established in 1865.
Much of the Tristate region has been declared a major disaster area, and FEMA will distribute billions of dollars in aid, which will be a test for the troubled agency. Many homeowners who thought their insurance policies covered floods are likely to have been mistaken - a common error - while others' policies have lapsed or won't cover all the damage.
The MTA is unaware of any permanent damage to the system but is still offering no estimate for when service will be restored. Buses have started running on some routes and could return to full service by sometime today.
Many are hoping the storm will finally push New York to prepare for climate change. â€śThree of the top 10 highest floods at the Battery since 1900 happened in the last two and a half years," Ben Strauss, director of the sea level rise program at the research group Climate Central in Princeton, N.J. "If thatâ€™s not a wake-up call to take this seriously, I donâ€™t know what is." Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state should consider a levee system or storm surge barriers, although Mayor Bloomberg says he is focusing on recovery for the city. Some individual parts of Sandy and its wrath seem to be influenced by climate change, several climate scientists said, but its not clear that can be said for the storm itself. Sandy broke coastal flood records for New York City by more than three feet above the previous record and more than double the range between the previous top ten.
After witnessing historic flooding and coastal surges caused by superstorm Sandy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it is time for New Yorkers to examine how to adapt to more destructive weather events associated with climate change.
â€śGoing forward we are going to have to anticipate these types of extreme weather patterns,â€ť Cuomo said at a news conference earlier today. â€śAnd we have to think about how we redesign the system so that this doesnâ€™t happen again.â€ť
And on Albany's Talk 1300 AM radio show, he said this: "The construction of the city did not anticipate these kinds of situations ... We are only a few feet above sea level. You now have a whole infrastructure under the city that fills. The subway system, the foundations of buildings."
But, as reporter Peter Moskowitz points out in his story for Gotham Gazette this week, there are few public policies creating incentives for public or private developers to invest money in adapting buildings for extreme weather events that could become more frequent with climate change.
Of course, it's unclear how much climate change can be blamed for Sandy or even Irene, or any particular extreme weather event â€” as The New York Times' Andrew Revkin says on his Dot Earth blog: