With all the angst and frustration over Hurricane Irene, the city actually got off pretty good. At ground zero, precautions to protect the 9/11 memorial actually helped prepare the site for its opening in just over a week. But as Port Authority executive director and big man downtown Chris Ward told the audience at a New York Building Congress forum today, we were inches away from disaster.
“Thank god Irene didn’t come over the sea wall at Battery Park City,” the avowed atheist said. “I was down there at 2 A.M. watching the waters lap at the sea wall, and if the surge had come up over the Battery, across West Street and on to the site, it would have been an enormous amount of flooding. It could have been devastating. The waves were lapping right at the edge of the sea wall and going in about two or three feet, and there was a moment of, ‘just stay there.’ And it did, and we’re very lucky.”
Mr. Ward was the keynote speaker at the forum, which was held to introduce a new report highlighting the importance of public investment in infrastructure. Mr. Ward gave an animated speech that bordered on the political at times—more on that tomorrow—but his remarks about Irene were notable for the disaster averted.
“Like Satchel Page said, I’d rather be lucky than good,” Mr. Ward added in his gravelly voice. We’re pretty sure he thinks he’s good, too.