June 10, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Hurricane Sandy’s historic storm surge wreaked absolute havoc on New York City and its environs last fall, but are the billions of dollars in federal aid now flowing into the area enough to repair all the damage done? Well, no, according to Leecia Eve, deputy secretary for Economic Development under Governor Andrew Cuomo. They're not. (Watch Video)
“It’s not enough,” Eve told a recent meeting of the NY Building Congress. “But, it’s a lot.”
After a lot of hemming and hawing, the United States Congress cut a $60 billion disaster relief pie to be split between New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode island and Maryland. The Empire State is expected to consume half of that amount alone.
According to the NY Building Congress, New York City can expect to utilize about $9 billion from both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. But that’s well short of what’s actually needed.
Hurricane Sandy took the lives of almost 50 people and left New York City with $33 billion in damages when it struck last October. The Category 2-3 storm forced the MTA to shut down the subway system from October 28 to November 2, while damage to most of the region’s petroleum terminals caused pumps at local gas stations to suddenly dry up.
“We are going to continue to need to leverage those resources with public/private partnerships,” Eve warned. “Public/private partnerships are going to be more important than ever in the context of Sandy rebuilding.”
Eve called federal funding “an enormous amount of resources,” but conceded that “It is not going to make every citizen whole, [and] it’s not going to necessarily put every business back to where it was.”
“But at the same time, we hope that many communities, homeowners and business owners will be better than ever,” Eve said.
The deputy secretary’s comments coincided with last week’s announcement that Governor Cuomo is backing a 10-year, $174 million plan to rebuild the state’s decaying infrastructure and boost the economy.
According to Eve, the initiative involving 47 state agencies and authorities, is Cuomo’s attempt to get the state’s “act together” by prioritizing and coordinating diverse and sometimes competing capital projects.
“These are resources that we know we are going to have to spend on these capital projects because they are commitments from federal and state government,” Eve said. “That’s $174 billion in existing resources – imagine if those resources are just leveraged by 25 percent. Or 50 percent. Or even 1-to-1. And creating $350 to $400 billion in infrastructure access that can be utilized to make our infrastructure stronger and more resilient.”
Interestingly, Eve – who worked for then Senator Hilary Clinton when 9/11 happened – suggested that the same efforts to make structures more resilient to natural disasters like storm surges, will also make them more resistant to terrorist attacks.
In any event, the deputy secretary said that New York State has the “intellectual firepower” necessary to help figure out creative ways of addressing both future storms and terrorist attacks – as well as any other presently unforeseen disaster.
Referring to allocating the limited amount of federal dollars aimed at coping with Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, Eve said, “We will get [it] right because we have to get [it] right.”