When Mayor Bloomberg last month unveiled a comprehensive plan for defending New York City against the sea, he received broad praise. The mayor's Special Initiative for Resiliency and Recovery (that’s “SIRR” to you) got more kudos yesterday from a coalition of labor and community groups called the Sandy Regional Assembly.
But the assembly also identified shortcomings in the plan, which it hopes a federal task force—due to report to the president in early August—will incorporate.
The group (which includes SEIU 32BJ, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, Good Old Lower East Side and the Pratt Center for Community Development) praised SIRR (which can be read here) for building on plans already laid as part of PlaNYC2030, for advocating improvement and planning at public housing developments to strengthen them against storms and for addressing the way hazardous materials are stored in flood-prone areas.
What's more, the assembly likes the sheer number and variety of infrastructure fixes the mayor proposed. “A combination of different strategies acknowledges that there is no one single solution to protect NYC against future coastal storms,” said the assembly report. “SIRR’s combination of hard engineering projects with green infrastructure interventions will increase open space recreation amenities, and can provide diverse employment opportunities.”
But the report (which, like the mayor's, goes into significant detail) suggests Bloomberg's team could have done more to address the unique risks associated with waterfront industry in New York—by looking at risks other than flooding (e.g. winds) and considering hazardous-materials practices other than just storage (e.g. manufacturing). The opportunity for resiliency-related jobs programs isn't sufficiently addressed, and the risks to the Hunts Point food distribution center are, according to the assembly, not sufficiently addressed.
Finally, on the process side, the assembly report says the SIRR doesn't provide for a real community role in the infrastructure planning process.
The federal task force, led by current federal (and former city) housing chief Shaun Donovan, is supposed to hand its report to President Obama on August 2nd. The assembly is pushing for that report to include a “WPA-style public works/jobs program for NYCHA residents” and a program that would “eliminate displacement by certifying that any project or program initiated as part of the recovery process will not lead to a reduction of the supply of housing affordable to low and moderate-income residents in any neighborhood.”