With Vice President Joe Biden by his side, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a sweeping plan Tuesday to “re-imagine” New York, a complex blueprint to rebuild the state’s infrastructure in response to damaging storms such as Sandy.
Cuomo unveiled his plan, which has been in the works for more than a year, one day before the governor’s annual State of the State address. The governor said the plan was too complex and intricate, so it “deserves a presentation and time of its own.” He detailed major projects as Biden viewed the presentation, which the vice president said should be a blueprint for the rest of America.
“We’ve gotta get back on our game,” Biden said of the United States’ infrastructure.
After Sandy, the governor called on his administration and state leaders to “literally re-imagine the state,” he said, after Sandy wreaked havoc on shore lines, power grids and paralyzed nearly every major transportation system in the state, including the Long Island Rail Road.
The result was a comprehensive—and expensive—plan to create more than 1,000 projects at a cost of nearly $17 billion. Some are as complex as retrofitting the entire New York City subway system and undergoing the most fundamental redesign since the system was created. Others are small, community-based experiments, such as creating a “Citizen First Responder Corp,” which would train 100,000 New Yorkers in emergency preparedness.
The plan will be funded by a portion of the $60 billion the federal government appropriated for the state after Sandy.
“Extreme weather is the new reality, like it or not,” Cuomo said. “What caused it is a separate discussion for another day.”
Many of the projects Cuomo outlined for LI have already been announced, such as building dikes, levees and flood walls around the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, creating two “micro grids” in both Nassau and Suffolk counties so communities could operate their own electric grid when the main network goes down and adding strategic fuel reserves on LI and across the state.
The plan will also expand the existing New York Rising program to include 22 other communities statewide, including Bay Shore.
“What we went through was horrendous,” Cuomo said, “but at least we want to learn from it.”
Keeping with the theme of Mother Nature’s destructive force, Cuomo also noted that the current weather detection system is “inadequate” and “dangerous.” He called for the state to more than quadruple the number of weather station sites to 125 from the current number of 27. More sophisticated weather stations could report real-time information regarding extreme weather and flood conditions to emergency management officials, which would help streamline response efforts, according to the plan.
The $5 billion plan for New York City’s subway system includes an effort to close all 540 openings in the subway system before it can be flooded, and to retrofit all stair openings that go into the subway system.
The state will also allocate $257 million to strengthen John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, and to build a flood wall around LaGuardia.
The state additionally intends to launch the first College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, Cuomo said.
The presentation at times felt like a history lesson on Cuomo’s part, noting New York’s desire to expand out to sea for more than two centuries. That logic doesn’t work anymore, he said.
“We have to think in different terms…about our relationship with the coast,” he said. “The ocean is still moving in” Cuomo added, “and it’s reclaiming the shore line.”
Biden’s presence appeared to be a mostly symbolic gesture to demonstrate how the federal government and states can work together to help rebuild.
“We have to re-imagine America,” Biden said. “We have to do what you’re doing,” he added, turning to Cuomo.