The recent superstorm, Sandy, has devastated large parts of our city, and while we must continue to help those neighborhoods still in need, we also must begin to figure out how we move forward to avoid this large-scale suffering again.
First of all, our power grid is extremely fragile and in need of serious upgrade. Too many of New York’s electrical lines are above ground, which will always leave us at the mercy of Mother Nature, who seems to be more mercurial these days, probably because we are not treating her planet as well as we should.
We need to look at how the electrical and energy grid can be upgraded, safeguarded and backed up. This includes investing in new power plants in safe areas (why was a Con Edison plant near a hurricane zone?), figuring out how to move as many power lines as we can underground, and developing a gasoline back-up strategy (New York City reserves?) so we do not have a crippling shortage in future emergencies.
Beyond developing an energy and electricity policy for New York City that protects us going forward, we need to develop plans to rebuild in our precious waterfront communities that are safe and cost-effective. Do we need to set back our communities from the waterfront and put up walls or levees to protect them?
With our crucial subway system, there is one relatively inexpensive quick fix. Like Singapore has done, we should build elevated entrances at subway stations that are vulnerable to flooding. Just imagine walking up a few steps before you then head underground so that our subway stations are protected in the future.
On a more macro level, how do we now protect our citizens in places like Queens, lower Manhattan and waterfront sections of Brooklyn and Staten Island in a cost-effective way? Perhaps we need to look at private-public partnerships that allow private investment dollars in our waterfront to help fund the necessary investments like large river gates.
How can we turn areas of our city’s waterfront into thriving marinas which bring in private investment dollars, while at the same time funding our necessary safety precautions like sea gates or protective walls?
Imagine a New York waterfront that attracts boats — large and small — from along the eastern seaboard and where our citizens can go to enjoy a day at the shore and eat and shop along the waterfront.
We see small pockets of this at our piers on the West Side of Manhattan or near Battery Park City, but we can do more to develop our waterfront in such a way that will create new jobs, new tax revenue and new ways to fund our necessary infrastructure improvements.
We must heal our communities while we also learn the necessary lessons from our recent superstorm devastation. We must not let ourselves be lulled into stasis as we were after Hurricane Irene. We can rebuild and make New York a better, safer place. Let that process begin now.
Tom Allon is Republican and Liberal Party-backed candidate for mayor in 2013