Governor Cuomo's Latest Post-Sandy Initiatives Include Focus on "Natural Infrastructure"

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a boatload of new initiatives to make New York better prepared for future storms that are certain to hit the region’s shores in the wake of our changing climate.

In a presentation at the State Capitol, in which he was joined by Vice President Joe Biden, Governor Cuomo outlined new programs that his Administration intends to advance in order to safeguard airports, roads, bridges, gasoline supplies, energy systems and sewage treatment plants from future flooding and other emergencies. These and other projects – 17 billion dollars in total -- will be paid for out of the $60 billion federal supplemental funding pot that was provided by President Obama and Congress in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.    

Although we do not yet have many specifics -- and the devil as always is in the details -- what we heard today in Governor Cuomo’s remarks was encouraging.

We particularly liked the Governor’s continuing linkage of storms like Sandy, Irene and Lee to our changing climate; his acknowledgement that in filling in shoreline wetlands “we built where we shouldn’t have” and his statement that we need to “think in fundamentally different terms” about coastal protection issues.

Specifically, on the coastal protection front, the Governor highlighted for the first time plans to:

  • restore 150 acres of tidal wetlands in Jamaica Bay -- the City’s single largest and most valuable wetlands area;
  • construct a “natural greenway” along the waterfront in Brooklyn’s Red Hook;
  • recreate wetlands along the Staten Island shorefront community of Oakwood Beach, where the state has acquired 321 flood zone properties through voluntary purchases, thus enabling affected residents to relocate to higher ground; and
  • initiate dozens of other natural flood zone protection projects across the state.

These are exactly the kinds of projects that New York needs as its primary lines of defense to protect lives and property in an era of increasingly unpredictable weather. And as these and other programs are rolled out, NRDC staff will continue to closely monitor the implementation details.