Councilmembers propose bills to beef up storm infrastructure

December 31, 2012 Denise Romano
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City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmembers Leroy Comrie, Sara Gonzalez, Eric Ulrich, Jimmy Oddo and Maria del Carmen Arroyo last month introduced a package of bills that aim to strengthen the city’s infrastructure so it will be properly prepared for severe storms.

There are currently four bills on the table. The first would “study the feasibility of relocating power lines underground.” The Council Committee on Consumer Affairs will look over this bill that would require the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability to conduct a study over the next six months to evaluate the feasibility of putting utility lines underground.

The second bill would “strengthen flood proofing requirements for buildings in vulnerable areas.” This legislation, proposed by Gonzalez, would put the city’s building code in line with national and state flood construction requirements. It would also establish more restrictive flood construction standards for buildings in Zone A, which not only are prone to flooding but flooding due to a storm surge.

The third would “adopt FEMA’s advisory base flood elevation maps,” to replace the city’s existing maps which are out of date, as we learned from Sandy. Proposed by Ulrich and Oddo, the legislation would adopt the new maps and expand the area’s the must follow flood proofing requirements in the city’s building code.

The last would “strengthen flood proofing requirements for health care facilities.” This bill, sponsored by Arroyo, would bring elevation requirements for health care facilities and their boilers and other critical equipment in line with national and state flood construction requirements.

The council will hold a seven-week-long series of oversight hearings in over 20 committees to assess the city’s response to Hurricane Sandy starting in January.

The hearings will evaluate the following categories: disaster management; NYCHA emergency planning and response; assessing and improving public utility risk mitigation measures; how 911, 311 and emergency alerts performed; emergency preparedness and response at the city’s healthcare facilities shelter management; the MTA’s response and the long-term impact on the city’s public transportation system; impact on our roads, bridges, tunnels and airports; managing the city’s housing needs in the wake of Hurricane Sandy; restoring and growing small businesses; post-storm cleanup and the effects on the city’s health and infrastructure; storm-related impact on schools and students; and rebuilding the city’s infrastructure.

            “Climate change is an irrefutable reality, and New York City must be better prepared when the next storm strikes,” said Quinn. “If we want to protect our neighborhoods and prevent future devastation, we must act now. Our bills will expand flood protections and examine placing certain infrastructure underground to keep New Yorkers and our city safe during weather emergencies.

“If we are going to be thorough and truly forward-looking, the city’s recovery must include an examination of what did and did not work in the days and hours leading up to Sandy’s landfall, and in its aftermath – from the Rockaways to Red Hook; from Midland Beach to the South Street Seaport,” Quinn went on. “The more lessons we take away from this storm, the better prepared we will be for the next one.”

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