Opinions & Editorials

How New York is Improving Two Years After Sandy

The East coast was changed forever when it was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in the fall of 2012. Boardwalks were ripped apart, houses were destroyed and there were record-breaking flood levels. Miles of shoreline beaches were damaged up the coast. The storm resulted in 117 deaths, 53 in New York State. Two years later, New York City is one of the areas still recovering from the storm and looking forward to prepare for future storms.

On October 26 2012, Hurricane Sandy barreled up the East coast as a category one storm with 80 mph winds. New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Maryland declared states of emergency. Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts declared it a day later. On Oct. 28, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) suspended all services. Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the closing of NYC public schools and evacuations in low-lying areas. Sandy hit land on Oct. 29 as a category two storm.

Eleven million commuters were left with no service. About 6,700 National Guard were in active duty in the affected states. By the time the storm made landfall in New Jersey, it had downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone. Still strong, it caused almost eight million businesses and households to lose power across 15 states and 9,000 people spent the night in Red Cross shelters in 13 states.

Two years later, plans and proposals have been made to improve the coastline of New York City in preparation of the next big storm. The Department of Housing and Urban Development started an international design competition to elicit innovative plans. The winning proposal is called Big U and it would contain an eight-mile construction around the Manhattan coastline. It would start at West 57th Street south to Battery Park and up to East 42nd Street.

The project will contain 10-foot-tall beams that will guard the edges of the island. They will be barriers to the water while also blending into and becoming a part of a newly imagined set of waterfront parks along the bottom coast of New York City. However, the plan is designed in so-called compartments and the first one is set to start in 2017 with construction on the East Side lasting three years and a $335 million price tag. It is like a trial to see if it helps enough to spread to the rest of the coastline. The project is still unfunded for the West Side and Lower Manhattan.

More projects have been chosen in the federal government’s Rebuild by Design campaign. These will add natural protections in the waters off of the Staten Island shore, the New York Harbor and the South Bronx shoreline. These projects, on the other hand, need additional funding and political support in order to be completed. The problem is that we need significant changes now. With the rate of climate change and dangerous storms, something needs to be done now to protect this area from future trouble.

As the two-year anniversary has approached, there are still many aspects and areas that need to be fixed. For one, New York City’s “Build It Back” program has stalled. It was launched after the storm to rebuild damaged or destroyed homes and cover out-of-pocket expenses for the homeowners and businesses. It was revealed by the city’s Department of Investigation that 90 percent of applicants have yet to receive any assistance – that is 14,000 homeowners.

In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency originally gave $1.4 billion for disaster relief in five different states. However, they are asking for some of its money back. The Associated Press learned in September that FEMA asked about 850 households to return $5.8 million. The agency mismanaged the amount of money they could give and now about $53 million is under review.

As the hurricane season of 2014 is coming to a close, we can only look forward to the city’s proposed protection of the coastlines and hope that the area is not hit hard by another storm before the construction can be finished in the coming years.