Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn And Building Resiliency Task Force Release Recommendations To Strengthen New York's Building Standards And Make Homes, Businesses More Resilient

June 13, 2013

33 Proposals Expand on Initiatives Outlined in "A Stronger, More Resilient New York"

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today released the recommendations of the Building Resiliency Task Force, the expert panel they convened after Hurricane Sandy to outline steps to fortify New York’s buildings and strengthen building standards. The report includes 33 recommendations that address resiliency in a wide range of buildings – including commercial buildings, multifamily residences, hospitals and 1- to 3-family homes – and offer options to help existing buildings become more resilient and strengthen the Building Code and Zoning Resolution to ensure future construction meets the highest level of resilience. It also proposes measures that would establish backup power if primary networks fail, protect water supplies and stabilize interior temperatures if residents need to shelter in place. The Mayor and Speaker released the report with Russell Unger, the Executive Director of the Urban Green Council, which managed the Task Force. They made the announcement at the CityLights Building in Long Island City, which flooded as a result of Hurricane Sandy and has since made upgrades to protect their building and ensure back-up power, where they were joined by Marc Ricks, Chief Operating Officer of the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, John H. Lee, Deputy Director for Green Buildings and Energy Efficiency in the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, and Council Members James Gennaro and Jimmy Van Bramer.

“We have to be able to withstand and recover quickly from all hazards posed by climate change,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “That’s why Speaker Quinn and I asked Russell Unger to help us address this enormously important task and will now begin the process of putting it into action. The specific recommendations cover important ways to make every kind of building in the city safer from future storms.”

“Strengthening our City's infrastructure today will save billions of dollars in the future and will save lives,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “The Task Force report provides the city with a clear direction on how to make our buildings more resilient and helps us protect our businesses and our homes. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg and the members of the Task Force for all their work.”

“Another Sandy is inevitable, and New York isn’t ready. But it can be,” said Unger, Executive Director of the Urban Green Council and Task Force Chair. “The Task Force recommendations are tangible and economically achievable steps that will prepare our citizens, buildings and city for future extreme weather events. We look forward to working with Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and the next administration to protect all New Yorkers and avoid billions of dollars in costs.”

“Mayor Bloomberg’s recently-released resiliency blueprint for New York City continues the work that he has done during his time in office to make the City a world-leader in confronting climate change,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President and Director of the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency Seth W. Pinsky. “The Building Resiliency Task Force’s report represents yet another step forward on this important mission. Thank you to the entire task force, led by Russell Unger, for their hard work and to Council Speaker Quinn for her on-going partnership on this important issue.”

”Making our city’s buildings more resilient to coastal flooding and other climate hazards is a challenge that requires collaboration among government, designers, engineers, and building owners, among others,” said City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden. “The Task Force's work exemplifies the kind of innovation and cooperation necessary to prepare our city for a changing climate.”

“To protect millions of New Yorkers, New York City has among the toughest building standards in the world, and this Task Force report will help us make them even better,” said Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri. “I would like to thank our engineering and architectural experts who played a critical role in developing the report’s recommendations, as well as Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and Russell Unger for their leadership in making our buildings stronger and safer in the years to come.”

“The Building Resiliency Task Force Report represents the best analytical thinking among world-class professionals, working in unison with real estate, government and labor interests,” said John H. Lee, Deputy Director for Green Buildings and Energy Efficiency in the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. “Together, we will continue to make New York the strongest and most reliable city to do business, raise our families, and share in culture, arts, and entertainment. Our buildings define our city, and the strength of our resolve is reflected in the strength and magnitude of our buildings. Through the work of the Task Force, we can assure that New Yorkers will build smarter and will occupy safer, sustainable structures that are more resilient in the face of climate change.”

Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn convened the Building Resiliency Task Force to examine what measures existing buildings could adopt to protect against future storm damage, and also to propose changes to regulations that would raise resiliency standards in future construction. Overseen by the Urban Green Council, the local chapter of the US Green Building Council, the Task Force assembled more than 200 volunteer experts in architecture, engineering, construction, building codes and real estate to produce the report and its 33 recommendations.

The Task Force proposals are organized around four central goals: constructing stronger buildings; securing backup power; providing essential services including water and sanitation; and developing building-specific emergency plans. The CityLights building is located in the 100-year floodplain and was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. The co-op is in the process of installing a combined heat and power system, which is more efficient and can operate during power loss. A full copy of the Task Force’s report is available on www.urbangreencouncil.org.

The Task Force worked with the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency in its development of the building recommendations for “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” the comprehensive report with more than 250 specific recommendations to further fortify the city against climate events. The Mayor presented that report earlier this week and outlined the proposals that will improve the existing 68,000 buildings projected to be mapped in the 100-year floodplain through retrofits and that will create stronger future buildings by updating current regulations so that new construction meets higher standards.

“Protecting Long Island City and the rest of our great City from the inevitable storms which will strike must be our top priority in government,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Now is the time to make the necessary infrastructure investments to avoid catastrophic flooding and loss of life in low-lying and other coastal areas of Queens and New York City. These recommendations are smart and forward thinking and will ultimately save billions of dollars and countless lives.”

“Superstorm Sandy was an extreme wake-up call in New York City,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “We need to be better prepared for severe storms, and proactively engage residents and communities to ensure that their homes and businesses are equipped to safely face any weather emergency. These thirty-three Building Resiliency Task Force recommendations go a long way toward that goal, comprehensively addressing key building issues and proposing solutions that lay a strong foundation for our city.”

“Let us learn from Sandy and address New York's many vulnerabilities to severe weather events,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “Let’s get some thoughtful proposals on the table and make sure that our best systems are in place to protect both new and existing buildings.”

“It is crucial that we learn as much as we can from Hurricane Sandy in order to prepare for the next storm,” said Council Member Vincent J. Gentile. “I commend the NYC Building Resiliency Task Force for working to identify important measures to mitigate climate change and increase building resilience. Together we can ensure that our City is even better prepared to meet Mother Nature’s next challenge.”

“I am proud to be part of the City Council’s ongoing efforts to better prepare for future storms as the challenges of climate change facing our City become increasingly apparent,” said Council Member Sara M. Gonzalez. “As I fought to help Red Hook recover from the damage caused by, what I couldn’t help but wonder was why the City was not better prepared. I strongly believe in being proactive to prevent future damage and make our waterfront neighborhoods more resilient.”

“I commend the tireless work and visionary leadership of Speaker Quinn and all those involved with the Building Resiliency Task Force for producing 33 comprehensive and actionable changes that will make our buildings—and our communities—stronger and safer,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez. “I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to further discuss and implement the broad spectrum of essential initiatives—including changes to the Building Code that will foster substantial resiliency, provide for integrated backup power systems, ensure that buildings are safer sand more habitable in the event of a blackout and streamlining emergency planning and recovery response.” 

“Since Sandy hit, city government has been engaged in ongoing efforts to both meet the short term immediate needs of folks impacted by the storm and, also, to plan for long-term issues that we will have to address to ensure we are better prepared in the future,” said Council Member James S. Oddo. “This plan is intended to help us plan for future storms.”     

“It is absolutely critical that we take the lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy and use those lessons to better prepare and protect our City for future disasters. The recommendations release by the Task Force today reflect thoughtful consideration from an esteemed and experienced panel of experts so we can do exactly that,” said Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. “On behalf of my community, which was devastated by the storm, I want to thank the Mayor, Speaker Quinn, and the Task Force for their hard work and commitment to this vital project. I look forward to working with all of them to implement needed improvements to the City’s resilience and recovery planning.”

“We must do everything we can to ensure we never again experience the chaos and confusion that occurred after hurricane Sandy,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “With this in mind, I am very happy to be involved with the new measures New York City has been implementing. We are taking great strides in making sure we are stronger and better than ever before.”

“Climate Change continues to pose a direct threat to coastal communities across New York City,” said Council Member Eric Ulrich. “This task force will be charged with the important task of preparing New Yorkers from future storms, while at the same time updating our physical infrastructure. I commend the Bloomberg Administration and Speaker Quinn for spearheading this effort.”

“We can’t prevent another Sandy from happening, but we can take action now to minimize the impact of future storms,” Council Member James Vacca. “We’ve learned how to recover and rebuild and now—with the recommendations before us today—we’ll learn how to be more resilient to future climate risks. Although my district was largely spared in comparison to other districts, many of my constituents are now facing costly insurance premiums. I urge that the federal administration take our recommendations into account so that New Yorkers are not flooded with soaring insurance costs.”

Marc La Vorgna / Lauren Passalacqua

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