It poured rain and the wind howled – but the ocean mercifully stayed in its place last night.
It was a far stronger beast that slouched towards New York five years ago, with a storm surge fueled by Hurricane Sandy swamping our coastline, killing 44 city residents, uprooting thousands of homeowners, and causing billions of dollars in damage.
In the wake of the disaster, promises were made, money was pledged and platitudes were uttered. After all, we’re living in America where – in the words of Bruce Springsteen – we take care of our own.
But do we?
All last week, NY1’s Josh Robin meticulously picked apart a long post-Sandy to-do list assembled by the Bloomberg administration five years ago – and later largely embraced by Mayor de Blasio and his team.
One of Josh’s most disturbing findings was that five multimillion dollar “flood protection systems” that were supposed to be completed by last year are all largely stuck on the drawing board. The areas that are still unprotected would be small cities in their own right: Lower Manhattan, Manhattan’s “Hospital Row”, East Harlem, Red Hook in Brooklyn, and the Hunts Point section of the Bronx.
Rockaway has a gorgeous new boardwalk but the beach abutting it and protecting it is badly eroded. Stone jetties – known as groins – which can keep sand in place are being built in neighboring Long Beach on Long Island but they aren’t in the plans for the beaches in Queens.
Housing projects which got “temporary” boilers after the destruction of Sandy aren’t scheduled to get them for another four years. Homeowners enrolled in the city’s “Build It Back” program got treatment from a bumbling government agency that would have made Franz Kafka or a French bureaucrat blush with envy.
And then there’s the L Train which will be shut down for a year starting in the spring of 2019 because of Sandy.
In the end, there’s still much to be done with time and forgetfulness being our twin enemies. The storm made many of us smarter but it also made us a little more skeptical when we hear promises. It’s our job to keep pushing while the ocean stays in its place – for now.