Bloomberg lays out plans to combat climate change

December 6, 2012 Denise Romano
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented long-term plans for the city’s recovery after Sandy, as well as precautions that can be taken to combat climate change, at a breakfast held at the New York Downtown Marriott in Lower Manhattan on Thursday, December 6.

Former Vice President Al Gore spoke at the event, sponsored by the Regional Plan Association and the New York League of Conservation Voters, praising the mayor for his efforts to fight climate change. “I don’t know anyone who has done more,” he said.

According to Gore, there is four percent more water vapor in the atmosphere than there was 30 years ago. “Dirty energy causes dirty weather,” he said.

Gore contended that, “Democracy has been blocked. Government does not serve the interest of the people. We need leadership [especially in] the executive branch.”

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Gore said that while President Obama has done more to tackle climate change than any other president, “We can’t have four more years of ‘We can’t do anything unless Congress acts.’

“We are the only nation that can provide global leadership,” he went on. “It all comes back to us; we have to send the message that it is time to act.”

Bloomberg agreed, announcing multi-faceted strategies to improve the city’s infrastructure and the way it operates during severe weather, starting with re-examining evacuation zone maps, just like after Hurricane Irene.

Deputy Mayors Cas Holloway and Linda Gibbs were directed to “conduct a comprehensive after-action overview of our preparedness measures and recovery operations,” the mayor said. “They will focus on how we can improve the way we mobilize and deploy resources and essential services before, during and after a major disaster,” consulting with both outside experts and locals impacted by the storm.

Bloomberg also directed Seth Pinsky, president of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), to “develop concrete recovery plans for the communities Sandy hit hardest as well as a specific and comprehensive action plan to prepare our city for the climate risks we face.”

Pinsky will be working with Holloway and Deputy Mayor Bob Steele, as well as Marc Ricks, a former member of the mayor’s administration who now works for Goldman Sachs.

“Seth and our team will work with local leaders to develop and implement comprehensive community recovery and rebuilding plans…[covering] everything from public and private housing, to hospitals and schools, to transportation and parks, to businesses and nonprofits, including cultural institutions like the New York Aquarium,” the mayor explained.

While FEMA is currently updating flood zone maps, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and councilmembers will work to “increase height restrictions [on homes] so that people can elevate their homes and still build back what they lost,” Bloomberg said. This includes adding structural requirements to homes living in flood zones and making sure that homeowners who do this are not penalized by zoning regulations.

Although Bloomberg is not in favor of building a new seawall to hug the city’s 520 miles of coast, the Army Corps of Engineers will begin a full study of ways to reduce the impact of future storms. Normally studies such as this take three to five years to complete.

“We can’t wait that long,” the mayor said. “We’ll launch an expedited engineering analysis of coastal protection strategies to ensure we pursue the ones that are right for our city.”

Pinsky will also be working with the administration’s sustainability team to “assess what it will take to make every essential network that supports our city capable of withstanding a Category 2 hurricane…or other natural disaster,” Bloomberg said. This includes scrutinizing the city’s transportation, power, gas, telecommunications and hospital networks.

Also in the works is an effort to modernize city infrastructure as a whole, including replacing the copper wires used for telephone lines with fiber optics.

“We’ll work with Governor Cuomo to explore how we can accelerate investments in distributed energy, micro-grids, energy storage and smart grid technologies,” Bloomberg said.

The mayor praised ConEd for investing $250 million in its infrastructure to make sure that electric, gas and steam systems can withstand a Category 2 hurricane.

“These measures would include raising electrical relay houses in substations, and installing stronger barriers and flood pumps,” said a spokesperson from ConEd. “Putting major overhead power lines underground is also a consideration and will be examined in greater detail.” Neighborhoods such as Dyker Heights, which has above-ground power lines, have experienced frequent power outages related to weather.

Bloomberg said that he was hopeful that they city would come out on top – just like it has in the past. “There is no storm, no fire, no terrorist act that can destroy the spirit of this city and keep us from looking forward envisioning a better tomorrow and bringing it to life,” he concluded.


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