Recent severe weather in New York City has reignited discussions about the city’s ability to contend with and plan for future climatic challenges, especially considering the criticism directed towards Mayor Eric Adams for his seemingly delayed communication about flood risks.
However, discussions extend beyond immediate responses to long-term strategies designed to fortify the city against persistent weather threats.
In a Wednesday council oversight hearing, City Council Member Shekar Krishnan underlined the escalating importance of readiness for the city, stating, “We are a city surrounded by water … The necessity for New York to be ever-prepared for these increasingly harsh storms is growing more and more important.”
Despite ongoing works like installing storm sewers in Southeast Queens and tree canopy expansion, city officials concede that establishing genuine resilience will be financially burdensome and constrained by time.
Rohit Aggarwala, the city’s Chief Climate Officer, communicated at the hearing, “The climate is changing faster than our infrastructure can keep up.”
Moreover, areas like Southeast Queens continue to face flooding issues despite active investments in such locales.
When queried regarding plans to expedite investments in storm sewer expansion, particularly considering the increasing frequency of extreme weather incidents, Aggarwala acknowledged the absence of specific plans to accelerate the initiatives.
Aggarwala outlined several active projects, including the investment in green infrastructure, the development of the FloodNet monitoring system, and the progressing East Side Coastal Resiliency project, which, according to him, is closer to completion.
However, there is a parallel narrative of concern relating to city budgets and resource allocation. While stormwater resilience escapes the claws of anticipated budget reductions, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is constrained by a recent hiring freeze, posing potential challenges to forward momentum in climate resiliency projects.
Marit Larson, Assistant Commissioner of the Parks Department, said that while budget reductions will impact her department, the specific implications of these cuts on operations and projects remain to be detailed in the forthcoming November budget modification.
Shekar Krishnan, underscored the criticality of investments in park infrastructures for achieving climate resilience and aligned with environmental advocates, promoting an allocation of at least 1% of the city’s budget towards park development and maintenance.