This morning Mayor Bloomberg outlined his plans to address the long-term logistical challenges that Hurricane Sandy and climate change present to the city, and had a warm-up act befitting the stature of the most august office in the country: former Vice President Al Gore. "This storm was related to climate change…Our democracy has been hijacked by large carbon polluters and their ideological allies," the former Vice President said to the audience, which included the two of the country's largest utilities and one of the world's largest construction companies. Gore reminded us that we are "extremely fortunate to have the leadership of mayor Mike Bloomberg."
While some residents of the Rockaways may dispute that assertion, Bloomberg laid out a series of steps to assess the city's progress in responding to Sandy's devastation and combat the threat of future storms caused by global warming:
- Given that Sandy's floodwaters subsumed a larger area than the city or the federal government anticipated, the evacuation zones will be updated "to reflect the reality we face." New zoning will also impact development: "we'll add new structural requirements to ensure that buildings can withstand intense waves and wind."
- A "comprehensive after-action review" of the city's response to Sandy will be conducted by two deputy mayors, who will "consult widely with outside experts and with local community stakeholders" to assess the city's response. The report is due by the end of February.
- The city will distribute a $70 million "assistance package for small businesses and nonprofits to help them begin the work of recovery" with money donated from the private sector and the Mayor's Fund.
- Bloomberg also announced the creation of a new committee that includes the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, two deputy mayors and Marc Ricks, a former member of the administration who "now works for Goldman Sachs on infrastructure issues" to "develop concrete recovery plans for the communities Sandy hit hardest as well as specific a specific and comprehensive action plan to prepare our city for the climate risks we face." It's unclear when members of this committee will have time to sleep.
Notably, Bloomberg dismissed the idea of building expensive sea walls and stressed that "We're not going to abandon the waterfront," which must have been welcome news to the construction and development companies who purchased tables for the breakfast at the Downtown Marriott. "We have to build smarter and stronger and more sustainable," the mayor said, echoing the language found on the companies' websites.
ConEd, whose table sat to the right of the mayor, have pledged a $250 million investment (representing barely a quarter of their profits in 2011) to "significantly harden its electric, gas and steam systems." There was no mention of LIPA (perhaps their table was in the parking garage?) and though Bloomberg used the phrase "climate change" nine times, he didn't mention "global warming" or "Gowanus" or "fracking" once.