Mayor de Blasio released a new report on Monday focusing on how the city’s plans to upgrade communications strategies and infrastructure to prepare for future extreme weather events in the wake of Hurricane Ida.
The report, titled “The New Normal: Combatting Storm-Related Extreme Weather in New York City,” comes nearly a month after the remnants of Hurricane Ida inundated the city with record-breaking levels of single-hour rainfall, which resulted in the death of 13 deaths New Yorkers, and 4,000 reports of damage to single-family homes.
In his morning press event, De Blasio described the report as his response to “a whole different kind of weather than we’ve ever known before.” It was put together by the Extreme Weather Response Task Force, a combination of city agencies and climate change experts tasked with creating a new set of protocols and policies.
“This is a brand new world and so we can’t have business as usual,” de Blasio said.
The first part of the report details new communication strategies that de Blasio plans to implement aimed at educating New Yorkers about incoming extreme weather. According to the report, the city is developing a plan to enforce mandatory evacuations and travel bans in which the NYC Emergency Management will work with the Mayor’s Office to preemptively declare a State of Emergency and issue a mandatory evacuation of basement apartments, with a goal of acting at least six hours in advance of a storm.
The report promised to create a citywide survey of all basement dwellers citywide that will proceed like the Census through door-to-door canvassing as well as expanding on the city’s basement conversion pilot plan to “aggressively build a program that expands basement conversions to additional New York City neighborhoods, working with homeowners to make basements safer.”
Another part of the communications strategies involves roadways. The Department of Transportation will add signage to warn drivers that an upcoming stretch of road is prone to flooding.
In addition to new storm response, the report calls for new forms of data collection. It outlines a plan for the Mayor's Office of Climate Resiliency to expand the city’s flood sensor network to provide depth data in high-risk locations.
“There is significant potential in integrating this data into real-time situational awareness, alerts, future forecasting, and long-term planning,” the report reads.
In terms of infrastructure, the report is more focused on long-term planning than launching immediate projects. It argues that the complete renovation of the city's sewer system for storms like Ida would take decades and potentially involve a $100 billion investment dependent on federal funding.
In the short-term, it calls for accelerating “high-level” storm sewer upgrades, including projects in College Point and Southeast Queens.
Other drainage solutions include increasing catch basin inspection frequency in commercial areas, funding efforts for seven NYCHA Green Infrastructure program sites prioritized by Ida’s impact and offering residents barriers like quick-dam flood control buckets and sand bags to control water flow in homes that experience chronic flooding.
In the fall, the Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency will conduct a study to find the neighborhoods that can benefit most from backwater valve installations, which could serve to stop overburdened sewer systems from overflowing into residents’ homes through their sink and toilets.
Other long-term infrastructure goals include incorporating future rainfalls into the Department of Environmental Protection’s drainage planning by 2025 and providing support for “cloudburst” neighborhoods — those most at risk when a sudden, heavy downpour creates a high volume of rainfall in a short amount of time. By the end of 2021, the DEP will select 10 at-risk neighborhoods to focus on, which will likely cover areas in Southeast and Central Queens.
In addition, the report raises a number of pieces of legislation like the state-level Green Roof tax abatements and federal bills like the Ida relief Package and the American Family Plan that would propose increased storm relief and climate resilience funding. It also calls on FEMA to increase funding for mitigation programs broadly.