The Disaster Preparedness Commission met biannually some years, but there are gaps in which there is no record of a meeting. However, some administrations, including Cuomo’s, convened many of the same agency heads to discuss emergency management. But even under Cuomo, who has taken a much greater interest in emergency management after three violent storms in his first two years in office, there are still three vacancies on the commission.
Richard Brodsky, a former New York Democratic assemblyman who was chairman of the committee that created the 2006 report, credits administrations with making some improvements to the plan in recent years, such as requiring a specific plan to protect and evacuate the infirmed and to save pets.
“But on two issues related to Sandy – prevention and recovery – they did almost nothing,” Brodsky said. “If Goldman Sachs was smart enough to sandbag its building, why wasn’t the MTA smart enough to sandbag the Battery Tunnel?”
Sandy flooded both tubes of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, now called the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, which was one of the major and longest transportation disruptions of the storm. It also ravaged the Rockaways in Queens, particularly the waterfront community of Breezy Point, where roughly 100 homes burned to the ground in a massive wind-swept fire.
Among the other crises Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg faced on a daily basis during Sandy were the shortage of temporary housing, which continues, the long disruption of electricity and gasoline, generators in health care facilities swamped by floodwaters, restoring power from swamped electrical infrastructure and repairing commuter rail lines.
The warnings touched on many of these areas, but mostly in a broad way with few specific directions for action. Some areas, such as a shortage of shelters in New York City and repairing commuter rail lines quickly, have improved in recent years to some degree, but other areas such as making sure health facility generators are on upper floors are newly realized problems forced by Sandy, according to the former legislators.
“What you’ve got here is a great number of consequences that were foreseeable, but unforeseen,” Brodsky said. “Prevention is politically less sexy than disaster response.”
There was another obstacle to enacting calls for more preparation: funding. The state and city were each facing $1 billion deficits from a slow economic recovery before Sandy hit.<< previous 1 2 3 next >>