USA: Seven years after Sandy, slow moves toward resiliency in high-risk nabes

Source(s)
City Limits

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Two years after Hurricane Sandy, the City Council of New York formed the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency. It was chaired by Mark Treyger, the Councilmember for Brooklyn’s district 47, which is comprised of Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend and Sea Gate.

The resiliency committee was phased out at the end of the 2014-2017 term, but Treyger (who now chairs the Committee on Education) says he still keeps track of the city’s resiliency efforts. “I have sat through a number of PowerPoint presentations, a number of hearings with an array of government officials about resilience studies, ideas, plans, initiatives,” he says. “But we don’t have the resources to actualize these items then these are just ideas, and time is of the essence.”

Treyger believes vulnerable neighborhoods in the outer boroughs have not received as much attention as they should. “The city has invested more of its own resources in Manhattan than it has in other parts of the city,” he said. “The city of New York is investing hundreds of millions of dollars of its capital budget for Manhattan,” he says. “In Southern Brooklyn, they are giving us some resources but nothing on the grand scale of comprehensive approaches that you’ve seen in other parts of the city.”

He says that even the Corps is aware of the boroughs that are most vulnerable. “Even in their analysis, Brooklyn and Queens are the most vulnerable coastal areas in the city of New York to the rising threat of climate change and to the frequency of storms,” says Treyger. “There is no funded plan in place to better protect the most vulnerable parts of New York City and that to me is a very serious issue.”

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The city’s online map of resiliency projects shows dozens of efforts all over the five boroughs. None of the planned infrastucture projects in the outer boroughs, however, rival the East Side and Lower Manhattan projects in terms of scale or cost. That could simply reflect the fact that while all of the city’s coastline is at increased risk, the nature of the threat varies from one neighborhood to another.

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The problem, according to Council Member Treyger, is that while changes to zoning laws and other regulations can can make retrofitting technically feasible, they don’t significantly improve the math facing homeowners. This is a barrier City Planning recognized. “Even if you change zoning laws there’s still an equity issue because working-class people cannot afford to make their homes resilient and rich families can,” he says. “That’s where things have kind of left off and they were mindful of that.”

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