After the storm: Move or rebuild?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg don't always see eye to eye on things. In fact, they seldom do. Gun control was an exception. Climate change seemed to be, with both recognizing the seriousness of the threat after Superstorm Sandy. But now they are disagreeing over what should be done about people living in flood-prone areas.
Cuomo last week proposed the state buying out those who want to relocate, using some of the $50 billion expected from Congress to do so, and letting the land remain fallow. Bloomberg , looking at the taxes and economic value of properties near the water (which he has made it a policy to develop), favors rebuilding.
While Cuomo 's seems the more prudent strategy, it's only a partial answer -- i.e. unless relocation becomes mandatory. As long as people have the option, many will choose to stay.
But they shouldn't be able to get federally subsidized flood insurance if they can't find ways to make their home less vulnerable, such as putting it on stilts, building storm barriers, relocating mechanical equipment to upper floors.
In existing structures, these measures may be impractical or prohibitively expensive, and owners may simply take their chances. But in new developments, residential as well as commercial, they can be done, and in fact are already being put into new or revised plans.
Then there's the city's infrastructure, which also needs to be protected by moving it to higher ground, waterproofing, erecting floodgates, etc. .
Utilities and gas companies have some of the same types of equipment, and it would make sense if they did the work at the same time as the city and share the costs.
Those costs will be high, but we already know the cost of doing nothing. And there's no time to waste. The draft of the Third National Climate Assessment, released last week, warned of rapidly rising sea levels, disappearing coastlines and more severe weather, and said the experts have been underestimating the kind and amount of problems we will face.