Expert: Bloomberg’s post-Sandy redevelopment plan ignores climate change, still

Breezy Point after Hurricane Sandy. (CSondi via Flickr)
Tweet Share on Facebook Share on Tumblr Print

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a post-Hurricane Sandy buyout proposal for New York City, and to the consternation of one particularly prescient climate change expert, it doesn't look much like Governor Andrew Cuomo's.

"This is fine for maybe the next few years and maybe another decade or two," said Columbia University professor Klaus Jacob, who warned of the dangers that rising sea levels and storm surges posed to the city's mass transit system since long before Hurricane Sandy hit. "But if you look at anything beyond the year 2050 and certainly by the year 2100, that is just setting yourself up for another problem."

Unlike Governor Andrew Cuomo's version of the plan, which offers buyouts to homeowners in flood-prone areas at pre-storm real estate values and then renders the resulting property fallow in perpetuity, Bloomberg's proposal calls for that land to be redeveloped.

Here's how the administration's "Partial Action Plan A," which it will submit to the feds for approval following a public comment period, puts it: "The City will consider funding to acquire properties for the redevelopment of a home or cluster of homes in ways that mitigate future risks. For example, the City could acquire homes or empty lots in an area where other homeowners have damaged properties but want to stay, then support a broader redevelopment effort there. Different from buyouts, these acquisitions would be made at prices based on post-Sandy fair market values."

MORE ON CAPITAL

ADVERTISEMENT

Its details were first reported by Matthew Schuerman at WNYC.

Jacob thinks the Bloomberg proposal is shortsighted, even if the redevelopment is done in a flood-sensitive way. His argument: even if the new development is done according to FEMA's new advisory base flood elevation maps, those maps don't take rising sea levels into account.

"FEMA only has an obligation to make, at this point, maps of the current situation for the national flood insurance program and it is always a fallacy to use the flood insurance program maps ... as planning tools," he explained.

"You don’t want to, in the long run at least, invest new assets into areas that ultimately will be doomed," Jacob added.

From his first major infrastructure speech after Hurricane Sandy to his state of the city address, Bloomberg has made it clear that, to him, retreat from the waterfront in the face of rising sea levels amounts to defeat.

"We will build back stronger," he said in February. "We will build back safer. We will build back more sustainably. But we will build back here."