Updated 12/19/2012 04:44 PM
Task Force Begins Discussion On How To Strengthen Homes After Sandy
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The city's Building Resiliency Task Force held its first meeting Wednesday to work on recommendations due by the summer on how individual properties in the five boroughs should be built to better withstand extreme weather events.
The dozens of task force members who met in the council's chambers in City Hall, including building experts, must create their guidelines by spring.
These recommendations are intended to help homeowners who are recovering from Sandy, as well as prevent another major storm from being as devastating.
"We have a group of people who are better than any in the world who are worrying about that for you, and that gives New Yorkers an ability to sleep a little bit easier at night," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Big-ticket items like zoning and sand dunes are the subjects of other task forces. The Building Resiliency Task Force faces the smaller but no less significant quandaries of how to build or rebuild individual properties.
"There's everything from the grid to how you build, how high you build and what construction methods you can use to build safely and sustainably," said Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway.
It is still unknown whether this task force's recommendations will become mandates outside of buildings that are not critical places like hospitals.
"Abstractly, sure, let's move everything up a couple floors. But if that seems like totally unfeasible costs, we can't do that," said Russell Unger, a member of the Building Resiliency Task Force.
The law may only kick in for new construction or become "best practices" standards.
Other outstanding questions may be more difficult to address, such as whether properties in Sandy-damaged areas should be rebuilt at all.
Homeowners on a block in the Oakwood Beach section of Staten Island joined their representatives at City Hall on Wednesday to try to arrange a government buy-back of their land.
"I think it's high time that we looked into hazard mitigation, because the city spends an enormous amount of resources in protecting them from fires and ultimately flood mitigation," said City Councilman Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island. "If we can come in and reach an agreement with the homeowners who want to be a part of this program — it's voluntary — I think it's good for them and I think it's good for the overall city."
Sandy was also a topic of another Wednesday meeting involving Mayor Michael Bloomberg's top advisors. They were studying larger questions of citywide rebuilding and readiness for the next storm, and their results are not expected for a few months.