Yes, the lost rent revenue will hurt, Spinola said. But not as much as having a building knocked out of service and tenants with hundreds of employees displaced for weeks or months.
“There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that I have spoken to,” Spinola said. “They don’t want to have to go through this again.”
There is also already talk, he said, about changing building codes and zoning rules in ways that might make it easier to move certain equipment all the way to the roof, in buildings where there is now insufficient space on lower floors.
Richard Lambeck, a clinical associate professor in construction methods and technology at the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate, said there might be ways to design watertight vaults for electrical transformers, although he noted that encasing that equipment would pose a ventilation challenge.
Engineers at Con Ed began examining the system’s vulnerability almost immediately after the crisis phase of the recovery began to wane, Miksad said.
Even before the storm, the utility had resolved that any new substations would be elevated enough to be untouched in either a Category 2 hurricane or the type of flood the Federal Emergency Management Agency expects to occur only once every 100 years.
It isn’t clear yet whether older stations in flood zones should be rebuilt to also raise them out of the flood zone, said John Miksad, Con Ed’s vice president of electric operations.
The utility is still studying the issue. But even if they are not, some key components could be raised on platforms, or surrounded by higher flood barriers to offer better protection.
In one of the more dramatic developments of the storm, the flood barriers at a key substation on the East River proved to be a few feet too short. Water cascaded into the station, causing an electrical arc that lit up the sky and plunged a huge part of Manhattan into darkness.
Meanwhile, the equipment in a new substation built on the ground level of 7 World Trade Center, one of the towers reconstructed after the 9/11 attacks, sat just high enough to stay mostly dry. That allowed the lights in Manhattan’s waterfront Battery Park City neighborhood to stay on, while streets for miles around were dark.<< previous 1 2 3 next >>