Hammered by an unprecedented nine federally declared disasters since he took office three years ago and with much of the state now frozen solid as a result of the southward drifting polar vortex, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled details of a far reaching rebuilding plan that aims to enhance New York state's resiliency to climate change and its emergency preparedness.
Dubbed “Reimagining New York for a New Reality,” the $17 billion plan will see the state invest a wide range of projects “that will transform New York's infrastructure, transportation networks, energy supply, coastal protection, weather warning system and emergency management system to better protect New Yorkers from future extreme weather,” the governor's office explained in a press release.
Extreme weather is “The New Reality”
Along with its own funds, the state government is putting federal disaster funds granted in response to 2012's Superstorm Sandy and 2011's Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee to work to implement the far reaching plan to enhance New York's climate change resiliency and emergency preparedness. Its key aspects include:
- Building the most advanced weather detection system in the nation, with 125 interconnected weather stations to provide real-time warnings of local extreme weather and flood conditions;
- Launching the nation’s first College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity;
- Replacing and repairing 104 older bridges at risk due to increasing flooding;
- Implementing the largest reconstruction of the state’s transit system in 110 years with $5 billion of federal funds;
- Creating a statewide Strategic Fuel Reserve, and statewide gas station back-up power on critical routes throughout the state;
- Hardening the state’s electric grid and creating 10 “microgrids” (independent community-based electric distribution systems);
- Building new natural infrastructure to protect the New York’s coastline, and provide advanced flood control for inland waterways;
- Training a new Citizen First Responder Corps to make New York residents the best prepared in the nation to deal with emergencies and disasters; and
- Expanding the $650 million NY Rising Community Reconstruction program to allow 124 communities around the state to create their own individualized storm resilience plans.
- Issuing special license plates for first responders
Avoiding climate change catastrophe
Besides enhancing New York's emergency preparedness and climate change resiliency, carrying out the $17 billion plan is sure to provide the state economy with a big, much needed, economic boost.
Unveiling the strategic plan at a press conference in Albany, the state capitol, Governor Cuomo highlighted the new reality of more frequent extreme weather events and recounted the unprecedented disruption and devastation that resulted, both downstate, in and around New York City, as well as across the length and breadth of upstate New York.
Of the one-year process that resulted in creation of the plan, the governor stated,
“This was a special challenge for us, because it called for us to literally reimagine the state in light of what we went through with Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm Sandy, storms Irene and Lee, and taking those lessons, and taking really that trauma, and reshaping our vision of New York through that experience. We call it 'Reimagining New York' because we are now facing a new reality after what we went through.”
“Extreme weather is the new reality, like it or not. What caused it is a separate discussion for a separate day, but the reality is extreme weather and we have to deal with it.”
The governor also acknowledged that the plan couldn't have come to fruition without extraordinary support and assistance from the Obama Administration and federal government, as well as local leaders throughout New York State.
Joining Governor Cuomo at the press conference, Vice President Joe Biden praised the plan and Governor Cuomo. "Governor, I am delighted to be able to be here with you today,” the vice president began.
“I think you rebuilding New York, reimagining a future is exactly what we have to do in this country. And once again, in the tradition of this state and the tradition of Andrew Cuomo, you’re leading. You’re not just leading in New York, you’re leading the country. And I think a lot of governors and a lot of folks can learn an awful lot from what they see and what you do here."
For more on this, check out the Office of the Governor's press release or watch the press conference below:
Image credit: New York State Office of the Governor