Cuomo, Biden warn of post-storm rebuilding in new ways

Jan. 8, 2014 at 2:10 AM
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ALBANY, N.Y., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- New York and other coastal states must alter how they rebuild to avoid ruin from ever more damaging storms, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden said.

"Extreme weather is the new reality, like it or not, and we have to deal with it," Cuomo said at the state Capitol with Biden at his side as he outlined how New York would spend more than $16 billion in federal disaster aid following 2012's Superstorm Sandy.

"I know there are global warmer deniers. I'm not going to get into that debate," Biden said. "But the reality is: This is going to continue to happen."

Simply rebuilding after a storm "cannot be the standard" anymore, Biden said. "We have to rebuild in a way that you will not be victimized by a similar storm again, because if we don't, we're just wasting money."

Cuomo outlined more than 1,000 projects he said would make New York better prepared for future storms.

They include rebuilding tidal wetlands, upgrading the electrical grid, developing high-tech weather stations and preparing seals for entrances to subway stations.

"We have to think in fundamentally different terms about our relationship to the coast," Cuomo said.

As part of the rethinking, he said the state would create what he said would be the nation's first undergraduate state university college dedicated to emergency preparedness, homeland security and cybersecurity.

"There are colleges that have programs in emergency preparedness but no college of emergency preparedness. I believe this is going to be a need in the future. I believe it's going to be growing," Cuomo said.

He also said the National Guard would create a training program for 100,000 volunteers to join a newly created Citizen First Responder Corps.

The New York City subway upgrade will be "the most fundamental redesign to the subway system since it was created," using $5 billion to fortify transit infrastructure including subway tunnels and bus and rail yards, Cuomo said.

The new $19 million weather-detection system will include 125 interconnected weather stations that will provide real-time data on air, wind, soil and radiation conditions, allowing the state to anticipate storms and flooding better, he said.

The state also plans to replace and repair 104 bridges at risk of flooding and require gas stations near major highways to have backup power systems, Cuomo said. Fuel shortages were a major problem after Sandy.

The storm, which struck the Northeast Oct. 29, 2012, has been blamed for more than 150 deaths and more than $63 billion in damages, mostly in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

New York has so far received half of an initial $12 billion in federal supplemental funding for storm relief and reconstruction, Cuomo said.

Cuomo and Biden -- both potential presidential candidates in 2016 -- said national infrastructure problems were keeping the United States from competing with other countries that are investing in newer technologies.

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