Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene Came and Went. What's the big picture?

The Good:
1. Three snaps up for the comprehensive emergency response plan that was put into place to alert the citizens along the East Coast.

2. Mayor Bloomberg did an excellent job of protecting NYC.

3. Cheers to the FDNY for evacuating 63 people in Bulls Head, Staten Island in the midst of the storm.

4. Cheers to the rescue teams in the city and neighboring counties.

5. Governor Cuomo did an excellent job in allocating emergency support services for the state of New York.

6. Governor Christie did an excellent job of warning the residents of the coastal areas of New Jersey and the state of New Jersey.

7. So far, as of Sunday, August 29th, there have been a limited number of fatalities.

The Bad:
1. There are significant power outages after Hurricane Irene. Here are the estimations:
a. New York City - 61,000
b. Long Island - 469,000
c. New Jersey - 708,000
d. Connecticut - 620,000
e. Westchester - 40,000

2. There are many fallen trees.
The downed trees are next to power lines.

3. There is and will be significant flooding next to the rivers and tributaries that feed into New York State.

4. There is a significant amount of debris that has to be cleaned up. Road crews will have to deal with the sinkholes throughout the city.

We are still missing the overall picture.
The emergency management system worked.
Hurricane Irene, by the time it reached the tri-state area, was a 70 to 100 mile wide category 1 system.
There were high winds, flooding, and debris damage.
Disgusting stuff floats in the water as all manner of things come up from the sewers.
The transportation system was shut down and there will be significant damage to subway stations and cars in areas that are prone to flooding.
We as a nation need to be forward thinking about what infrastructure can be put into place to make sure there is a major reduction of flooding that continually happens whenever any weather event occurs that involves water.

We as a nation need a system of retaining walls throughout all of the rivers and tributaries.
Do we really think we can afford to have water crashing up and over the retaining walls that eventually affect highways, which are the main thoroughfares needed if we had to do mayor evacuations?

As neighborhoods grow we need the infrastructure to support the development of more residences, malls, and offices. How do we deal with an electrical power supply that is above ground and therefore subject to fallen trees and floods from weather systems like Hurricane Irene?

It requires more than emergency response plans on a city or state level. It requires engaging in conversations and plans on a national level that generates methods for improving the infrastructure - Now!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

100,000 Drains in NYC

Hurricane Irene is coming. There was a news clip on NY1 today that New York City has 100,000 storm drains. $200 million dollars has been spent by NYC since 2002 to deal with maintaining the storm drains.

Sometimes the storm drains work well and sometimes they don't. When they don't, there is flooding. The MTA right now is gearing up for the possibility of flooding . Click here to see their preparations.

The type of expenditure needed to maintain storm drains requires the sure steady hand of the federal government.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Only 3 drains on 159th Street = Wade in the Water Part 4

I listened to a story today on New York 1 in which homeowners in Queens who live in a neighborhood that has "low lying topography" fight a losing battle every time that it rains. The three drains on the street quickly become clogged with debris. The water contains "run off from a neighboring plant" and the back flow from sewers.

The result - the possessions of the homeowners who are working class, trying to stretch a dollar to help their family, now must deal with throwing away items they probably held dear as it is now ruined. They must also cope with the thought of the long term damage that is happening to their basements, and in reality, their homes.

The solution - we need more drains. More drains requires civil engineers, which eventually means construction, which means jobs, which leads to addressing one component of infrastructure. A patchwork solution will not address the issue. We need the helping hand of Uncle Sam to address not only this type of situation in areas around the city but around the country. That can only happen if the emphasis is on - - - infrastructure now.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wading in the Water Part 3

There are home owners in Dongan Hills in Staten Island who must be the best savers in the world. Whenever there is a big thunderstorm or downpour of rain, or weather in which precipitation falls from the sky for 24 hours and the ground becomes saturated, the basements flood. The residents on Channel 11, this morning recounted that some have renovated their basement 3 times in the past 3 years. The question to think about - how many of those same residents now have the resources in these hard economic times to renovate their basement again? How many of these residents have the medical resources in case a family member becomes ill from being exposed to water in the basement for a prolonged period of time? How is productivity affected if the attention of people is focused on saving the structural integrity of their homes?

I'll stop with the questions and make a suggestion. When Congress comes back from their "va-ca" (vacation), the first thing on their minds should be to look at all of the bills and ideas dealing with infrastructure.

Do you know that water mains are large pipes underground that carry -- water -- underground? Who knows the age of water main pipes? Could some of those water main pipes be several decades old? When pipes break they pose a huge problem because now the water affects other elements needed such as gas and electricity. Check out Con Ed once again trying to deal with a water main break by clicking here.

So did you know President Obama proposed an Infrasture bill back in October 2010 - $500 billion dollars, dealing with - of all things - rebuilding such things as drainage, spillways, pipes, bridges, roads - all that type of stuff- in America. Don't believe me? Check it out here.

Hmm - it seems when the government starts investing in maintaining or rebuilding or truly repairing infrastructure, one creates jobs. Dare I say it - focusing on infrastructure is a link to rebuilding jobs in America, for Americans, by Americans, to rebuild, repair, and revitalize - - - America.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wading in the Water - Part 2

Woke up this morning to what was a relatively minor kerfluffle dealing with an air conditioning unit that seemed to be a conduit for the rain outside to find that there are major sections of roads and areas of the city that frequently flood that we now accept as natural.

We have Amboy Road in Staten Island. There are avenues and boulevards that frequently overflow with water.
This is not new information. If there is a heavy downpour of rain, then these sections always experience flooding.

As reported on various media outlets, there are beautiful homes in Staten Island, whose basements are now flooded with water and sewage because of the overburdened sewer systems.

There are roads that are so concave from overworked, out off date sewers, that they turn into swimming pools in which motorists unfortunately feel they need to cross.

Last year in August, when there was a downpour of rain, a section of the Belt Parkway flooded. This year, in August, major downpour of rain, and surprise, a section of the Belt Parkway by Exit 13, is experiencing small lake like conditions. In fact, the FDR Expressway, is notorious, particularly under sections close to Sutton Place, for becoming mini swimming pools.

In Hoboken, the news cameras show pictures of the solution, we as a country in the 21st century use, sandbags. This same situation occurred last year and required engineers to come out to try to address the problem of erosion.

If there is new development but the sewer system is not upgraded - that's a problem.
If the solution to rising tide of a nearby lake is sandbags, which break and have proven ineffective time and again - that's a problem.
If the drainage system and sewer system can not handle heavy rain flow and the result is that basements are flooded, then the chance of becoming a breeding ground for all types of bacteria increases for families, particularly the most vulnerable - that's a problem.

A city trying to patch work a street, boulevard, avenue, highway or road is not enough. A state trying to eek out money so that again a patch work solution is presented is not enough. This requires federal intervention - lawmakers thinking about the good of the nation, of the states, cities and towns, and employing consistent level of laws about the quality of urban development. Sandbags can not substitute for a systematic method to protect coastal areas.

Time to have a flood control system for coastal areas. Time for Congress to do their job. One doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. The Netherlands are famous for the numerous strategies they have put into place to deal with all types of flooding.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wading in the Water

It's Sunday and there's been a huge thunderstorm that has pelted the Northeast. Living in a solid neighborhood that is considered a naturally occurring retirement community, one would think a weather condition such as a thunderstorm would not be a major event.

It turns into a major event when one descends from the elevator to find water flooding into the back hallway of a complex. Problem. It is a problem when one little thing that has not been cleared up due to lack of money causes a domino effect of the drains backing up, and hence there is a back flow into hallways, whether in the front or the back in which there is 1-2 inches of water.

One ordinary weather event becomes a major investment of time, in this case 10 maintenance men reacting to a situation while there is a downpour of rain. I know - sounds minor. But here's the thing - if you don't constantly clean your house - it becomes filthy. If you don't constantly organize - your environment becomes sloppy and unmanageable.

I think it is indicative of the type of lack of planning that is occurring in which we as a nation need to come together to remind Congress that the United States of America needs to be maintained. Let's start with the drains, to the roads, to the bridges, to the planes; to the electrical grid. Everything needs maintenance. And the type of comprehensive level of maintenance is beyond the scope of cities and states, it requires a consistent national vision that can be implemented.