Gotham Gazette

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City Says It Is Mostly Prepared For Next Major Storm

Nearly a year after Superstorm Sandy, a top deputy to Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that New York City is better prepared for the next major hurricane — albeit with a lot of caveats.

Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway said earlier today at a press conference that the city has stocked up on supplies, drawn up better evacuation zone maps and improved how it would communicate with New Yorkers in an emergency. “We are better prepared than we were for Sandy,” he said.

He continued, “We would be able to implement the plan, and if we had extended disruptions like we did during Sandy — food, power, need for generators — while you can never have every single thing covered, with a lot of these recommendations put in place a lot of resources have been purchases and ready to be put out.”  

The city still needs to contend with a number of issues, Holloway added. The administration is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on how to best address the needs of evacuated residents still without homes, and that insurance issues for homeowners are still cropping up.

The city has been working with $1.7 billion of the $16 billion block grant disbursed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development  for disaster recovery, he said. Holloway expects HUD to approve a new allocation soon.

Surrounded by fellow members of the Bloomberg administration at City Hall, Holloway ran through key points in its post-Sandy action plan based on a report released in June. The 438-page plan addressed how the city can better respond to, recover from and prepare for climate-related events like Sandy.

Those efforts include anticipating demand for food, gas shortages and adaptable solutions to longer-term shelter for evacuees. Holloway also reported that the city had updated building codes across the city and replenished sands eroded by the storm along the most affected waterfronts — including the Rockaways, Coney Island and Staten Island.

Part of the recovery plan also includes the city’s buyout program. Unlike the state or federal buyout program, the city’s plan allows for redevelopment on the purchased property. Earlier this month, the city announced its first , and so far only acquisition — that of Staten Island resident Patricia Dresch, who lost her husband and a daughter during Sandy.

Holloway also said buildings erected during the Bloomberg administration had the best track record of resiliency, including those along the water, giving credence to the mayor’s long-held argument that the city should not retreat from its coasts.

“This analysis showed that it is possible to build by the waterfront,” he said. “But you have to do so sensibly and responsibly.”

Alongside the report released this summer, the city also put out 59 recommendations meant to improve a range of issues that include integration of city data between agencies, development of a housing plan for displaced New Yorkers and improved evacuation coordination.

Director of Resiliency Daniel Zarrilli indicated that 20 of those recommendations have already been implemented, nine of which went through the City Council and were signed by the mayor in mid-August. Zarrilli said the rest are underway, with plans to complete them before Bloomberg leaves office at the end of the year.

The Council has also passed six other Sandy-related bills resulting from the Building Resiliency Task Force. Those measures were signed by the mayor in early October.

Come January 1, the next mayor will inherit the plan laid out by the Bloomberg administration. Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, who has been credited for his work as the subway chief during Sandy, applauded the administration in June.

“The plan contains several ambitious capital projects that will be started under this administration, and I will continue to implement as the next mayor.” Lhota wrote at the time.

Democratic candidate and outgoing Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has commended Bloomberg for the plan. De Blasio’s campaign website promises to “make those plans a reality through a process that includes every neighborhood in planning a more resilient future.”

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