Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in Downtown Manhattan Thursday that he is launching a comprehensive, long-term initiative to help the city fully recover from Hurricane Sandy and protect the five boroughs from eventual climate change.
In a speech to the Regional Plan Association Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed that New York City should not avoid developing its waterfront following the devastation of Sandy, but said that future development should take account of rising sea levels and potential storms.
"We're not going to abandon the waterfront," the mayor said, "We're not going to abandon the Rockaways or Coney Island or Staten Island's South Shore. But we can't just rebuild what was there and hope for the best. We have to build smarter and stronger and more sustainably."
The city's initiative, led by New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, will make sure building codes and evacuation zone maps are updated and city agencies can provide services in extreme periods of weather like hurricanes, snow storms and heat waves.
Power and transportation networks will also be strengthened so they can withstand a Category 2 hurricane.
Bloomberg also noted that noted that flood maps are in desperate need of updating, as nearly two-thirds of houses affected by Sandy were located outside FEMA's current 100-year flood zone. Surges from Sandy also expanded far beyond the current borders of low-lying Zone A.
"Sea levels are expected to rise by another two-and-a-half feet by the time a child born today reaches 40 years old, and that's going to make surges even more powerful and dangerous," said Bloomberg.
The mayor did express some openness to building dunes, jetties and levees to protect the coastline, but he did not go further than that.
But he didn't unveil plans for a seawall or floodgates to stop a future storm surge.
Bloomberg said it would be nice to stop the tides from coming in, but it cannot be done.
Deputy Mayor of Operations Cas Holloway and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs will prepare a full report on necessary changes, which will be made public by the end of February.
Bloomberg praised other organizations' self-improvements following Sandy, such Consolidated Edison pledging $250 million to improve infrastructure.
Leading environmentalist and former Vice President Al Gore introduced Bloomberg at today's event and called the mayor a leader in climate change.
The mayor's speech comes a day after published reports said that President Barack Obama is going to request between $45 billion to $50 billion from Congress for multiple states that were affected by Sandy.
Local lawmakers have expressed concern, as Governor Andrew Cuomo estimated that $42 billion would be needed for New York State alone, including more than $9 billion for infrastructure improvements.
Cuomo, however, refused to speculate on how much Washington will offer the state, saying he is waiting for an official proposal.