Ida forces city to confront a long to-do list to prepare for extreme climate

NY1: The City Council has a “crown jewel” piece of legislation it is ready to pass to help the city adapt urban infrastructure to the new reality of climate change, according to council member Justin Brannan.

The bill, which Brannan and Costa Constantinides introduced in 2019, would create a five-borough resiliency plan, going neighborhood by neighborhood to identify problems and solutions to prevent flooding and mitigate heat. 

It would represent perhaps the council’s most significant legislative contribution to infrastructure resilience. Brannan said he hopes to pass it before the end of the year, if not sooner.

It’s not nearly enough. 

“Even that is just calling for a study. It doesn't actually do the thing,” Brannan, chair of the committee on resiliency and waterfronts, said in an interview. “We’re so far behind that we don't even have that yet.”

The city has won some key accomplishments in addressing sustainability and fossil fuel use, such as passing a set of 2019 laws that will cap building emissions, committing to an electrified municipal fleet and divesting city pension funds from fossil fuel industries. 

Those initiatives have earned the city top marks in national rankings of carbon reduction plans, and spurred both the council and the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to declare their efforts the country’s best in addressing climate change. 

Yet in the wake of Hurricane Ida, which caused 13 city deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to subways, businesses and homes, the city is confronting a long to-do list in making the kind of expensive, inconspicuous overhauls and improvements to infrastructure that will help adapt the urban environment to flooding and intense heat that scientists say are already locked in.

“I don't believe there’s one program that makes New York unique on the resilience front,” said Amy Chester, the managing director of Rebuild By Design and who was an aide to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Read more>>