Courtesy of Comptroller Stringer’s Office
Comptroller Stringer’s report noted that the New York Panel on Climate Change estimates that under certain extreme but conceivable scenarios “sea level rise by the end of this century could raise daily tidal flooding to levels even more severe than that which occurred during [Superstorm] Sandy.”
By Michael V. Cusenza
As of March 31 of this year, the City had spent only 54 percent of a combined $14.7 billion in federal Superstorm Sandy funding, including money allocated to repair infrastructure, help homeowners recover, and implement large-scale resiliency projects, according to a searing new report released on Thursday by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
In “Safeguarding our Shores: Protecting New York City’s Coastal Communities from Climate Change,” NYC’s fiscal watchdog details what he has characterized as the imminent threat posed by rising sea levels and the City’s slow pace of investment on essential resiliency projects. Of $10.3 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds designated towards repairing and improving components of the public infrastructure of the five boroughs, the City has spent only 44 percent of available funds, including just 20 percent of funds allocated to NYC Health + Hospitals. Additionally, just 41 percent of funds allocated to the New York City Housing Authority, and 57 percent of funds allocated to the School Construction Authority, have been spent.
And of the $4.2 million in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development dollars allocated for programs like “Build It Back,” business recovery, and resiliency projects, 79 percent of funds have been spent. However, Stringer pointed out that the City has spent only 14 percent of funding allocated for urgent, substantial resiliency undertakings such as the East Side Coastal Resiliency Plan and the Hunts Point Lifelines Plan, in addition to raised shorelines in Breezy Point, Coney Island, and Sheepshead Bay.
“After seeing the devastation left behind by Superstorm Sandy, with some residents still not in their homes more than six years later, it is baffling that the City has only spent 54 percent of the $14.7 billion in federal funding for repairs due to the storm, according to NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer’s recent report,” said State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach).
Stringer said he’s calling on the federal government to cut red tape and streamline the flow of disaster aid dollars and is urging the City to accelerate the pace of spending on resiliency infrastructure and implement new strategies to protect all coastal communities. For example, just one program covered by FEMA-Public Assistance reimbursement—the City’s Rapid Repair program—required the City to produce 100 million pages of documentation to the federal government. The City also has been obligated to initiate as many as 12,841 environmental reviews to access Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funding, each of which take time and help slow down the pace of City spending of federal dollars, according to the comptroller.
“It’s not a question of whether New York will be hit by another superstorm like Sandy, but when. Yet six years after Sandy hit, we still haven’t fully recovered and many of the City’s homes, businesses, schools and hospitals remain dangerously exposed to the next storm. We have to do more, and we have to do it now,” Stringer added. “Safeguarding our shorefront is not a priority we can kick down the road – it’s an emergency. Lives are at stake, homes and businesses are on the line, and futures hang in the balance. We need to act with the urgency that our climate crisis demands because time is not on our side.”