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from The Great Debate:

Keeping a city-by-the-sea from becoming a city in it

skyline1908

Virtually every big rainstorm in New York now seems to be accompanied by a flash-flood alert sent to cellphones. And scientists recently reported that a vast section of Antarctica’s ice sheet, now melting, might bring on as much as a 10-foot rise in the world’s sea levels in the coming decades.

While the nation debates the appropriate response, the coastal cities threatened most by climate change -- particularly New York -- must somehow address the problem themselves.

New York, at least, has begun. After Hurricane Sandy’s catastrophic impact in late 2012, it became obvious that the city must be able to minimize the serious damage caused by future climate “events” and bounce back.

People take pictures of the flooded Plaza Shops under One New York Plaza in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New YorkThe first step has been to ensure that the city’s existing infrastructure can survive severe storm surges and subsequent flooding. But planning is now moving forward on a far more ambitious program, in which the city’s very shape adapts to the new realities.

from David Rohde:

A year after Sandy, New York’s inequality grows

When Hurricane Sandy engulfed New York a year ago, David Del Valle helped me instead of his mother. Del Valle’s choice was not voluntary.

For the last 10 years, the 48-year-old New Yorker has worked as a doorman at the hotel where my wife, daughter and I stayed after being ordered to evacuate our apartment in lower Manhattan. Eager to hold on to his job, Del Valle stayed at work but worried about his mother -- who lives on the city’s Lower East Side, which lost electricity and flooded.

from The Great Debate:

A year after Sandy, food and fuel supplies are as vulnerable as ever

A year ago, Hurricane Sandy revealed harrowing realities about the basic systems New Yorkers rely on every day. We now know, for example, what happens when fuel supply lines get cut and electricity goes down: mob battles at gas stations and, more terrifying, empty shelves at food stores. Worse, such breakdowns tend to cascade. No power means whatever food is left will rot. No gasoline means delivery trucks can’t restock stores.

It’s a domino effect, one that last year brought New York to the edge of real disaster. According to numerous resiliency experts I interviewed, at the moment Sandy hit, New Yorkers had only about three days of food on hand.

from The Great Debate:

Sandy +1: Preparing for the storms ahead

One year ago Tuesday, Hurricane Sandy, perhaps the largest Atlantic storm ever, began its path of destruction in New York City. It ultimately killed almost 300 people across seven countries. In the United States alone, the fierce storm left an estimated $70 billion in damage in its wake, the second-costliest storm in U.S. history.

Substantial money and effort has now gone into rebuilding the areas most devastated by the storm. The truth is, however, that many other areas of the world, including in the United States, are just as vulnerable to intense flooding.

from MuniLand:

The ‘unintended consequences’ of flood insurance reform

Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy left about $220 billion in total property damages in their wake. Katrina caused approximately $16 billion in flood damages and required the flood insurance program overseer, FEMA, to borrow from the U.S. Treasury to cover insured losses. Losses from Sandy could push FEMA borrowing from the U.S. Treasury to $28 billion when all claims are paid.

Congress acted in July, 2012 to restore the program to solvency with the passage of the Biggert-Waters Act. Now, as the new flood insurance premiums take effect, an outcry against FEMA and Congress has grown in force.

from Photographers' Blog:

Ghost town of Superstorm Sandy

Breezy Point, New York

By Shannon Stapleton

Driving into the city I was listening to NPR talking about it being the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.

At first I couldn't believe it had been six months already, and then I thought more about it and it seemed like years ago. The last time I was in Breezy Point and the Rockaways not much had changed.

from The Great Debate:

A politics of ‘unreliable narrators’

An unreliable narrator cannot be trusted.

He comes in many guises. There is the delusional unreliable narrator, like Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, unaware of how the reader and the other characters perceive him. There is the mad narrator, as in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There are the unreliable narrators who lie to themselves to make the unreality appear real. Middle-aged professor Humbert Humbert in Lolita famously lies to the jury and to himself,  believing his sexual affair with the drastically under-aged Lolita is not criminal. Yet Vladimir Nabokov, the author, gives a wink to  the reader: We know the protagonist is not being honest with himself.

These characters are coming undone — the reader slowly notices fissures in their thinking, which clue us in that  these narrators  are  living in an alternative universe. Then there is the more subtle unreliable. Nick Carraway, who narrates The Great Gatsby, is not to be trusted because of the way he chooses to tell his story. From the first word he is hiding the real story from the reader.

from The Edgy Optimist:

Climate change doesn’t have to be all bad

This week the National Climate Data Center confirmed what most had long believed: 2012 was the warmest year on record for the United States. Ever. And not just a bit warmer: a full Fahrenheit degree warmer than in 1998, the previous high. In the land of climatology statistics, that is immense. In the understatement of one climate scientist, these findings are “a big deal.”

Almost every news story reporting on this juxtaposed the record with a series of disruptive climate events, ranging from the drought that covered much of the United States farmland and punctuated by Hurricane Sandy in its tens of billions of dollars of devastation. Many also pointed out that eight of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1990 (though it should be noted that official records only extend to 1895). Not surprisingly, these observations were almost always followed by warnings of more warming and substantially worse consequences to come.

from The Great Debate:

Rebuilding post-Sandy: Whole greater than parts

President Barack Obama asked Congress for more than $60 billion to help repair and rebuild infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast. The House of Representatives finally voted Friday on a small down payment, roughly 10 percent.

As in the past, engineering experts will likely seek to build in added protections for the specific pieces of the infrastructure that failed in the storm - for example, flooded subway lines or power substations. What they don’t usually address, however, is how to protect networks as a whole.

from MuniLand:

The epic Senate battle over relief funding for Sandy


New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently berated Congress for its lack of progress on funding recovery monies for Hurricane Sandy. He made the argument that New Jersey and New York are net contributors to the federal treasury and they therefore deserve the funds that they requested. Yet, it is members of Christie’s own party who are slow-walking the legislation that would authorize spending. Republicans have raised some concerns – among them the amount of the original request and the need to budget for it.

The Republicans are right. More study should be performed into how states and communities are reimbursed for hurricane damage. Senator Charles Schumer of New York and others who are pushing for the funding cite the speed and largess of the federal government toward the affected Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina. But a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York determined that the economic costs of Katrina were over-compensated to a level of 125%:

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