Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 13, 2013

NYC recovery — and resilience — plan

Filed under: Recovery — by Philip J. Palin on June 13, 2013

Tuesday afternoon Mayor Bloomberg unveiled New York’s multi-year strategy and plan to recover from Hurricane Sandy and be better prepared for the next — potentially worse — climate-related event.

You can read the complete document here:  A Stronger More Resilient New York.

I found the press release from the Mayor’s office an informative quick read.  You can see the press release here:  Mayor Proposes How to Protect City from Climate Change.

It strikes me as an entirely reasonable mainstream effort.  It is a mix of several different strategies customized to particular sectors, specific geographies, and — I’m guessing — what it is perceived most citizens are willing to accept.

It is “just” a plan.  Funding, sequencing, and execution of individual pieces will determine what is really achieved.  If you’re a resilience nerd (like me) you’ll probably find it lacking imagination.  But if you’re in favor of “git’ur done” recovery, you’ll probably see it as a whole series of non-market-based complications.   There are surely some New York property developers who see a whole host of new opportunities, and maybe that’s the implicit answer to my critiques below.

The report is organized (mostly) by threat, sector, and geography.  There is a section on community preparedness, but it is probably the weakest in the entire document.  The report is further evidence that governments are willing to build stuff and regulate more stuff.  But there is very little attention to politics: the purposeful practice of living together in a city.

(I can just hear my NY buddies laughing that there is not enough politics in something Mayor Bloomberg is pushing.  But this report — and the news conference at which it was released — sounds/reads more like a systems engineering study than anything involving people.)

This political anemia may contribute to my second impression: Significant elements of the plan depend on working with private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure, but I don’t see anything outlined to suggest how this shared public-private responsibility will be effectively advanced.

I recommend reading the Utilities section.  This is especially well written systems engineering.  When you come to the “Initiatives for Increasing Resiliency in Utilities”, notice the how involves private-public collaboration and creativity.  But there is no rhetorical or systemic case made for why tomorrow will be different than the day before Sandy hit in regards to these crucial relationships.   I have been involved in private-public dialogue related to electric power.  It can be tough even when everyone is operating in good faith.

I assume it’s just a digital glitch.  But on Wednesday when I was reviewing the plan the Telecommunications section was missing… just as wireless was “missing” across large areas during much of Sandy.  The wireless communications industry is currently expending significant resources to resist new efforts at government regulation.  This has seriously complicated private-public collaboration on emergency preparedness involving the wireless sector. I would love to read that Mayor Bloomberg — with his personal background in the private sector working in an area closely related to telecommunications — has cracked the code for engaging the telecom companies.  For the moment, I find the report’s missing piece richly ironic.

In any case, at least read the news release.

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Comment by HGRATTAN

June 13, 2013 @ 6:54 am

NY here and for the record I am neutral on Bloomberg writ large. He is a politician with many good ideas. IMHO, history will be kind to him.

The NY documents are on my reading list and will be read mostly because they may find their way into my courses (preparedness & resilience).

NYC is a place that test those that want to make it anywhere (Sinatra analogy is deliberate).

Superstorm Sandy was a catastrophe. Many people died, were injured, lost their homes, lost their jobs, and were otherwise injured.

In other ways, Sandy was the application of lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and other disasters for many reasons especially preparedness and collaboration (Pres. Obama and Gov Christie were exemplars).

IMHO, Bloomberg’s aggressive (emphasis on positive) approach and response planning is an exemplar of visionary leadership (so much for my Bloomberg neutrality).

Unfortunately, as was the recent case of Chris B’s lamentations about the lack of interest in the 2013 National Preparedness Report, Bloomberg’s message will be largely unheard (I hope I am wrong on this.
See http://www.hlswatch.com/2013/06/04/thirty-questions-about-the-2013-national-preparedness-report/

Semper Paratus

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 13, 2013 @ 7:17 am

Well IMO NOPE! I confess almost complete ignorance of the below surface infrastructure of NYC. But given that here is the Cumming Plan for the five boroughs of NYC. And just so people no the great building out of the five (5) boroughs of NYC has gone with many iterations until the day before SANDY struck. Walkups dominated before the elevator. Now with that technology largely ready ro go!

And the Cumming Plan covers the next two hundred years for NYC and counts on the financial and FIRE sectors, and rentiers dominating the next 200 years for that city. This assumes that NYC will become again a place to live so you can work. That may not be possible for those below the top 10% economically.

My plan also counts on the transportation dependent population continuing to grow daily for NYC for the next 200 years. Thus, evacuation as a PAR grows more limited day by day. So vertical evacuation of the population the solution.

I also assume that the almost guaranteed one meter rise of sea level this century is a given and also recognize that an 11 meter rise next two hundred years possible.


Comment by William R. Cumming

June 13, 2013 @ 7:27 am


So here is what is needed to be done. First examine all multilevel existing buildings above ground in NYC and determine if any may be immediately retrofited to make the first floor [remember the one meter!] protected from a one meter sea level rise and if possible storm surge beyond that.

This would be a formal survey done by NYC independent of the developer/building and landlord community. Then the next verticle flood examined for conversion in any appropriate emergency as a shelter.

And new construction all to be elevated with what most consider a first floor largely empty but useful for walking or street vendors and the floor above for evacuation of some number of people. Remember DCPA and FEMA ran a shelter survey program for fall out for years that provided summer salary for almost 1/2 of the civil engineering profession and its students.

Essentially over the next two hundred years you would create an elevated city with appropriate changes to underground infrastructure where possible.

Forget the $20B plan and forget the Sandy relief from accomplishing anything but just making it worse for the CAT 5 storm bound to hit in the next 200 years.

And appropriate signing and marking could allow almost immediate risk analysis however primitive as those occupying the city conduct their normal intercourse and moves over the next two hundred years.

And of course if sea level rise is 39 meters as some suggest then the Cumming Plan may well need revision.

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 13, 2013 @ 8:41 am


Comment by William R. Cumming

June 14, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

A National Preparedness Framework has been issued by DHS in May 2013 and may be found on the FAS/FEMA page or the Vacation Lane Blog historical docs section.

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