NYC City Council eyes storm protection

Mayor Michael Bloomberg photographed with City Council Speaker Mayor Michael Bloomberg photographed with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at a news conference. Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

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The City Council on Tuesday said a series of hearings starting in the new year would look at how various city agencies handled superstorm Sandy and what they will do in the future.

In addition, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other members, many of whom represent the hardest-hit areas of the city, introduced legislation that aims to stormproof the five boroughs.

"Climate change is an irrefutable reality, and New York City must be better prepared when the next storm strikes," Quinn said in a statement.

There will be 13 Sandy-related hearings, starting Jan. 14 with a session that will assess the city's Office of Emergency Management's storm disaster plan.

Following Tropical Storm Irene, the agency updated its evacuation zones to include more coastal areas. Mayor Michael Bloomberg hinted two weeks ago that those zones might change because of Sandy's destruction.

An agency spokesman didn't return messages seeking comment about the upcoming hearings.

Another major hearing will be Jan. 31, when Metropolitan Transportation Authority representatives testify to the Transportation Committee.

The hearing will focus on the closure and recovery plans for subway and buses and on how the agency's infrastructure-rebuilding efforts are coming along. Earlier this week, the MTA said it hopes to get the R train running to all its stops by Friday.

The final hearing, which has no date, will assess planning for the long term, but several council members didn't wait for that tentative meeting to get a start on improving the city.

The four bills announced Tuesday call for adopting FEMA's new flood zones, which include more areas of southern Brooklyn and Queens, and raising elevation requirements for buildings in areas such as the Rockways and Long Island City based on the new data. Another bill would floodproof hospitals that are in low-lying areas by placing their boilers and generators on higher floors to prevent them from malfunctioning during a flood.

Another piece of legislation calls for a study that would look into burying the city's power lines.

Con Edison spokesman Chris Olert said the utility buried all of its power lines in Manhattan and is working to do the same in the rest of the city, but there are serious roadblocks.

"The costs are extremely high. We're talking millions of dollars a mile," he said.

Nonetheless, Quinn said the city won't wait while the federal government and environmentalists square off about global warming solutions.

"The more lessons we take away from this storm, the better prepared we will be for the next one," she said.

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