ALBANY, NY — Vice President Joe Biden joined Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for the unveiling of “Reimagining New York for a New Reality,” a $17 billion strategy to transform New York’s infrastructure, transportation networks, energy supply, coastal protection, weather warning system, and emergency management to better protect New Yorkers from future extreme weather.
“The new reality in New York is we are getting hit by 100-year storms every couple of years. We have to wake up to that new reality by completely reimagining our state to be ready for any future disaster,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Our plan completely transforms the way we build and protect our infrastructure, safeguard our energy supply, prepare our citizens and first responders, and provide fuel and electricity. I want to thank Vice President Biden for being here today to support our efforts to reimagine New York and for supporting our state throughout the Sandy recovery process.”
New York has suffered nine presidentially declared disasters in the three years since Governor Cuomo took office. A key theme of the state’s rebuilding program is that extreme weather is a new reality.
New York presents special challenges in protecting its critical systems and infrastructure. Much of the critical infrastructure in New York City — transit and electric systems in particular — is built underground and is susceptible to seawater. On Long Island, communities, power systems, wastewater systems, and fuel terminals are built along the coastline. In Upstate New York, communities and infrastructure are often built along waterways vulnerable to increasingly severe flooding.
The state is using its share of federal funds appropriated for Sandy, Irene, and Lee (along with state funds) to implement this program, which includes:
• 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 distributions 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
Weather detection system
Governor Cuomo proposes the creation of 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, and identify threats to roads, bridges, and the electric system. This statewide weather-reporting network will provide data that the state can use for predictive modeling and early warnings for use by emergency management staff and first responders to prevent loss of life and property.
The NY Advanced Weather Detection System will consist of 125 sophisticated stations that will provide localized, accurate, real time data on air, wind, soil, and radiation conditions. The information will be reported to a network that includes the NYS Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, the State University of Albany, and the National Weather Service; these agencies in turn will communicate conditions and warnings to the public. Stations will be placed less than 25 miles apart and are able to generate reports every 1 to 15 minutes. New York is currently only covered by 27 less sophisticated stations operated by the National Weather Service.
College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, Cybersecurity
Governor Cuomo proposes creating the nation’s first College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity under the State University of New York system to maintain New York’s position as a leader in state and national security. The SUNY College will be the first of its kind to integrate emergency preparedness, security and counterterrorism studies through interdisciplinary programs that involve law, public and international affairs, information technology, cyber engineering and critical infrastructure protection, and science. The College will create the world’s most comprehensive academic programs, research, and training opportunities for aspiring professionals, policy leaders, emergency managers and first responders.
Expand NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program
New York will launch Phase II of the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program and will designate an additional 22 communities to develop their own plans and apply for $80 million of federal funds to implement approved projects. Under the current program, 102 communities across the state are already creating their own individualized storm resiliency plans and will share almost $570 million in federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funding to put approved plans to action.
Harden existing electrical grid
New York will utilize federal funds to harden the state’s existing electrical grid, including the move of approximately 500 miles of overhead primary wire underground, elevating vulnerable substations, expanded tree-trimming and raised power lines for newly elevated homes, and creating a new outage response system. With the new PSEG-Long Island in place in 2014, the State can take its ongoing fixes even further to protect Long Island against future storms.
Create 10 microgrids
Under a program to create at least 10 “microgrids” (independent community-based electric distributions systems) statewide, the state will launch NY Prize, a $40 million competition, to help build community-scale power grids for areas with approximately 40,000 residents. Microgrids can operate in tandem with existing power supply during normal conditions, but will disconnect and operate as an independent power system to keep the lights on during an emergency.
The US Army Corps of Engineers, in concert with NYS Department of Environmental Protection, and the NYS Department of Parks and Historic Preservation, is embarking on a long-term program to protect 83 miles of exposed coastline.
New York will commence a series of projects across the state, including inland waterways, to provide flood control for communities and critical infrastructure. Among the projects are:
• Jamaica Bay/Southeast Queens Flood Protection — The state plans to build a self-sustaining system of natural barriers along 150 acres that will reduce storm damage and protect Southeast Queens residents.
• Red Hook Flood Protection — To protect the low-lying neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn, the state is developing a $200 million partnership with New York City to construct a comprehensive flood management system — the first of its kind in the nation — in the community.
• Staten Island South Shore Flood Protection — On the South Shore of Staten Island, New York State is buying out 321 homes in a vulnerable area subject to repeated flooding (Oakwood Beach). To act as a buffer, the state will build replace the neighborhood with a network of natural infrastructure protections, including tide gates, a maritime forest, a breakwater reef, tidal wetlands and earthen levees. This project will also include two miles of walks and wildlife observation points, creating new recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.
• Troy Flood Protection — The state will reinforce parts of the 7,750-foot-long Troy Seawall. The wall, which was constructed in 1916 and completed circa 1920, includes a sanitation outflow pipe and protects the foundations of a number of buildings. The wall has substantially deteriorated throughout due to ice flows, high velocity flooding and impact damage due to debris traveling downstream. If the wall becomes compromised during a heavy storm event it will likely fail in three different places and the area behind it will erode.
• Amsterdam Flood Protection — New York will also reinforce parts of the Dove Creek Wall in Amsterdam. The 20-foot-wide creek runs alongside St. Mary’s Hospital, and floods almost every year. The flooding in the last several years has resulted in at least $4.5 million of documented damage. Total failure of the wall, which is currently eroding at many points, could result in substantial flood damage to the hospital and other infrastructure.
• Canal Corridor Flood Warning System — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved an $8.5 million flood mitigation warning system that will consist of a series of existing and new networked stream and precipitation gages, development and implementation of advanced hydrologic models, and a mechanism for disseminating information to the National Weather Service, state, emergency managers and the general public through various media on a real-time basis. The new system would provide advanced flood warning for 27 of New York State’s most flood prone counties with a population in excess of 2.6 million people in these basins, covering more than 13,000 square miles.
• Schoharie Flood Protection System — $1 million to install a flood monitoring system in Schoharie. This system will consist of a series of existing and new networked stream and precipitation gages, development and implementation of advanced hydrologic models, and a mechanism for disseminating information to the National Weather Service, state, emergency managers and the general public through various media on a real-time basis.
Reconstruct the subway system
The MTA is undertaking a $5 billion overhaul of New York’s mass transit systems — the largest reconstruction of the subway system in 110 years. Every facet of the system’s infrastructure will be improved to withstand extreme weather. The state will invest in technologies to seal hundreds of subway and tunnel entrances, seal station stairways and increase pump capacity in stations and tunnels and projects to protect bus and train yards and the vital infrastructure that makes them run. The state will also explore permanent and temporary technologies to seal automobile and subway tunnels and prevent future flooding. Six under river tubes used by 1 million people a day will be rebuilt.
To make New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports more resilient, the Port Authority will use $257 million to install tide gates and drainage, new emergency generation capabilities and elevated fuel facilities, a new signage communications system, and build a flood wall at LaGuardia airport.
Replace vulnerable bridges
Governor Cuomo will invest $486 million to replace 100 at-risk bridges not designed to withstand the new reality of extreme weather. The state will seek to use federal funds to replace or retrofit these bridges to ensure that they are fully protected against future threats. A full list of the bridges appears here.
Protect and improve wastewater systems
Counties and municipalities will use federal funds to improve wastewater systems. There are 610 municipal wastewater treatment plants in New York, 1,060 sewage collection systems, and 22,000 miles of sewers — more than 30 percent of which are over 60 years old and beyond their expected useful life. During Superstorm Sandy, 200 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into waterways and salt water destroyed vital electrical systems and engines at plants on Long Island and in New York City. The Governor will distribute funds to allow communities to protect against future storms through the construction of dikes, levees, and movable floodwalls, including the Bergen Point Wastewater Treatment Facility in Suffolk County and the Bay Park plant in Nassau County.
Housing reconstruction programs include $967 million for homeowner rehab and reconstruction, $368 million for home buyouts in areas vulnerable to repeated flooding, $99 million for multifamily reconstruction, and $35 million for mortgage assistance.