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NYC Council on Storm Resiliency Efforts: ‘We’re Way Behind’

Ida overwhelmed sewers in minutes when it barreled in over the city on Sept. 1, flooding entire neighborhoods, causing stormwater to surge into people’s homes and killing at least 13 New Yorkers.

(TNS) - De Blasio administration officials conceded Tuesday they have no immediate plan to replace the city’s aging sewer infrastructure with a more resilient system — drawing ire from councilmembers who contended time is of the essence in the wake of this month’s deadly storm.

Testifying before a City Council oversight hearing on the administration’s response to the remnants of Hurricane Ida, the officials said it would be too costly to rip out the more than 7,000 miles of sewer pipes that snake through the five boroughs.

“It’s physically infeasible. It’s going to cost $100 billion,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Vincent Sapienza .

Rather, Sapienza and the other de Blasio honchos argued for a more incremental approach, whereby the city will funnel more money into building rain gardens, which help contain flash floods, while seeking to beef up sewer storm-water capacity on a local level in some neighborhoods.

The city officials also spelled out plans for using emergency notification systems more aggressively, including instituting mandatory travel bans, shuttering subway stations that are prone to flooding and evacuating residents from low-lying areas if word comes in of an approaching storm.

“I think we’ve learned that we just have to be hyper-aggressive,” said Emergency Management Commissioner John Scrivani .

But councilmembers said there needs to be a more urgent focus on infrastructure as climate change threatens to make extreme weather events increasingly more common and destructive.

Ida overwhelmed sewers in minutes when it barreled in over the city on Sept. 1 , flooding entire neighborhoods, causing stormwater to surge into people’s homes and killing at least 13 New Yorkers.

“Why is it that the city of New York isn’t pouring money into arguably the most important issue of our time, which is climate change?” said Brooklyn Councilman Antonio Reynoso . “Why is DEP concerned about money, when, if not handled and taken care of, we have a loss of life for residents and significant long-term structural damage to homes, to businesses and to our local city infrastructure?”

Sapienza countered that the administration has rolled out “the most aggressive green infrastructure program” in the nation, prompting Reynoso to interrupt.

“This idea that we’re doing enough is not the way we should be approaching this,” the councilman said. “We’re way behind.”

“No one said we’re doing enough. We need to reform,” Sapienza replied, noting that Mayor de Blasio’s “extreme weather response task force” is drawing up blueprints to address long-term infrastructure fixes.

Still, the officials said the city’s hands are mostly tied when it comes to comprehensive infrastructure fixes and said it will need funding from Congress to make such initiatives reality.

Manhattan Councilman Mark Levine said he believes the city can play a bigger role than the officials suggested.

“None of what we have done is enough,” he said. “We need now to think bigger than ever in the midst of a climate change disaster, which is already here.”

©2021 New York Daily News. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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