We know many people are not leaving the evacuation zone, and that many of them got there in the first place thanks to developments fostered by the Bloomberg administration. At this morning’s press briefing, The Observer asked the mayor if it was wise to continue encouraging development in these flood-prone areas. Should people really be living on the Williamsburg and Queens waterfront, even along the fetid Gowanus Canal, which the administration pushed to rezone. The mayor saw no reason to change course.
“People like to live in low-lying areas on the beach, it’s attractive,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “People pay more, generally, to be closer to the water even though you could argue they should pay less because it’s more dangerous. But people are willing to run the risk.”
Even as his administration encourages development in these areas, he did not believe it was necessary to undertake major infrastructure investments that could mitigate these storm surges.
“We cannot build a big barrier reef off the shore to stop the waves from coming in, we can’t build big bulkheads that cut people off from the water that they’re trying to do,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “Robert Moses actually did that with the roads and we’ve been ever since spending a fortune trying to get around it. No, I think we’ve done a lot of preparation in terms of roads, strengthening things.”
Council Speaker Christine Quinn stepped in to argue that the city has already done a considerable amount to strengthen its built environment in the face of climate change and rising sea levels.
“In the hurricane planning we’ve done, the coastal planning we’ve done, and the green building codes and the other structural changes, we’ve made significant changes in the requirements of how we build in lower-lying areas and particularly changes to particular projects coming down the pipeline as those conversations were going on,” Speaker Quinn said. “So the mayor was right, we can’t go out and build a barrier reef, but we have done what we can do in the confines of our code, and no one has a better tighter code than we do now.”