NEW YORK – The city will work on upgrading building codes and evacuation-zone maps, hardening power and transportation networks and making sure hospitals are better prepared for extreme weather after Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.
As a start, utility Consolidated Edison has agreed to spend $250 million to get its electrical, steam and gas systems in shape to withstand a Category 2 hurricane, Bloomberg said. City officials, meanwhile, will work on more comprehensive plans to help Sandy-ravaged areas recover and prepare the city for future weather disasters. That will include examining the pros and cons of building berms, dunes, levees and other coast-protection structures, Bloomberg said, though he remains cool to the idea of massive sea walls.
"Let me be clear: We are not going to abandon the waterfront," the mayor said in a speech Thursday at a meeting sponsored by the Regional Plan Association and the League of Conservation Voters. But "we have to build smarter and stronger and more sustainable."
The city is still focused on recovering from the Oct. 29 storm, but officials have started to think about preparing for natural disasters, in light of the prospect of more extreme weather and higher seas because of global warming, Bloomberg said. He has long been outspoken about the risks of climate change, teaming up at times on environmental and anti-global-warming initiatives with former Vice President Al Gore, who praised Bloomberg's efforts before his speech Thursday.
While Gore said Sandy "was related to climate change," Bloomberg was less explicit in drawing a connection.
"Whether or not one storm is related to climate change or is not, we have to manage for risks," he said, noting that severe storms, rainfalls and heat waves in recent years show "that the dangers from extreme weather are already here."
Before Sandy, the city had already made and touted its efforts to prepare for climate change and storms, through measures ranging from studying coast-protection strategies to changing construction laws. But Sandy's storm surge, a modern record, flooded beyond the area officials had expected and made it clear that utilities, hospitals, and transit systems need to be prepared for worse inundation than they were.
Bloomberg says officials also will revisit its construction laws, particularly height restrictions that could discourage people from elevating their homes.
And he has instructed economic development and planning officials to assess what it will take to make power grids, transportation networks and hospitals able to handle a Category 2 hurricane, record-breaking heat wave or other natural disaster.
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