As Tropical Storm Fay dropped a deluge on the city, a coalition of environmental groups launched a new campaign to push New York and surrounding cities to prepare for more severe and frequent storms.
Led by the Waterfront Alliance, 80 organizations demanded that lawmakers spend money now on resilience measures against storm surges.
What You Need To Know:
- Campaign to raise alarm needed for resiliency measures launches on same day Tropical Storm Fay hit
- The “Rise to Resilience” Coalition says pandemic and protests highlight need to prepare in advance for crises
- Call for action in NY includes recommendation to leverage the $3 billion environmental bond passed by state legislature
- Climate change activists worry resilience work will take a beat seat to flood of needs arising from the pandemic
"What we saw with Covid-19, what we saw with many other crises before Sandy, is that the same people -- low income people, communities of color -- are hit again and again with crises," said Kate Boicourt, Director of Resilience for the Waterfront Alliance, which led the coalition of 80 environmental groups to formulate recommendations for lawmakers and policymakers to act on to fight climate change.
Boicourt joined other Water Alliance board members and more than a hundred other participants on the coalition's campaign-launching press conference on Zoom Friday morning. Boicourt says 17 percent of the city's public housing buildings are located in flood plains.
Elected officials, including City Comptroller Scott Stringer, urged city council and state and federal officials to take climate change action seriously.
Dozens attended the conference remotely.
"COVID taught us that you cannot manage a health crisis, and climate change is a health crisis," said Comptroller Stringer.
"Just like we failed to prepare for COVID because we never invested in the health care system, or invested in an affordable housing plan, or an education system, and we never invested in black and brown communities, we are making the same mistake with climate change."
"We've waited too long to make necessary long term infrastructure upgrades," said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera. "And with Fay being that sixth storm? It is the earliest that milestone has been reached in a season."
Rivera's district includes the Lower East Side, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The "Rise to Resilience" coalition is calling for reform of flood insurance policies, more projects to protect against rising sea levels, and new laws requiring the disclosure of flood risks.
State Senator Brad Hoylman says New York State has some particularly bad legal loopholes that allow sellers to keep quiet about flooding risks of properties they're trying to unload.
"I recently introduced legislation to close this loophole that allows the seller of residential property to opt out of disclosing flood risk by giving the buyer a 500 dollar credit," said Senator Hoylman. "[It's] seen by sellers as just the cost of doing business."
And the cost of not enacting at least some of the measures outlined by the coalition is too high, according to those who survived Sandy's wrath eight years ago.
Trever Holland is with Tenants United Fighting for the LES, or Tuff L.E.S and is haunted by the "hellish situation" he endured when his Lower East Side building was disabled by the storm. It lost power, working toilets, and water pressure as it flooded.
Holland doesn't want the pandemic to get in the way of what he says is a half-billion-dollar pot of money already approved for resiliency projects.
"There is federal money, and a lot of this money was targeted to protect HUD-financed and affordable housing," said Holland. "But the city must continue with its commitment to build flood protection plans."
Some of that money slated for Sandy recovery is set to expire in 2022.
A mayoral spokesman says the city joined 12 other states and municipalities in asking Congress to pass a three-year extension. Meanwhile, the state legislature authorized a ballot measure in November that would raise $3 billion for resiliency work. The question is whether voters will approve the spending with the flood of other needs that have arisen because of the pandemic. The "Rise to Resilience" Coalition says resiliency must be a priority, too.