Quinn proposes big infrastructure plans to storm proof city
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn Tuesday offered some ideas for ways the city can protect itself from Mother Nature's fury, and experts said she is proposing the correct first steps.
During a breakfast with the Association for a Better New York, the speaker, who may be eyeing a mayoral bid, laid out a set of plans that she hopes would prevent the Sandy damages from happening again.
Quinn advocated for several infrastructure plans, including one that would create storm surge walls and one that would raise subway platforms.
"What we do in this moment will determine whether we allow that reality to define us, to hold us back -- or to inspire us, to push us to do what we know is hard," she said.
Before Sandy, Quinn said the idea of retractable flood walls around coastal areas, similar to those found everywhere from Amsterdam to Stamford, Conn., didn't have traction in New York. But they might be a necessity.
The City Council called for the acceleration of both a study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and two studies by the city that would figure out exactly how New York could fund, create and maintain such infrastructure projects.
The city studies aim to have their findings ready by this spring, the speaker said.
Dr. Radley Horton, an associate research scientist at Columbia University's Earth Institute, agreed with fast-tracking the storm walls, but said they need to be planned effectively.
The walls come with costs that affect the city's budget and residents' quality of life.
"I think barriers may be a solution for the city, but we need to do the research and bring all of the communities together," said Horton.
Quinn went after ConEd for failing to flood proof its power stations. She asked the utility to bury its power lines in all parts of the city and build its facilities in higher areas.
"Now that we know flooding can be much more widespread, companies need to dramatically expand the area in which these upgrades are being made," she said.
A spokesman for the utility said it is working on safeguarding its facilities and welcomes Quinn's suggestions
Quinn offered many suggestions for how to prevent another subway shutdown.
She proposed raised buffers around grates, elevating entrances and even installing an emergency balloon system that seals tunnels from flooding in the Hugh L. Carey tunnel.
Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign applauded Quinn for pushing the improvements. He doubted that there would be any immediate action, but said every voice counts.
"A lot of ideas have been thrown out [there], but it helps to start the conversation," he said.