March 14, 2019
Director Jainey Bavishi, Office of Resiliency and Recovery: Good morning. I am Jainey Bavishi and I'm the Director of the Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency. First of all, I want to thank the New York City Panel on Climate Change for 10 years of tireless work. Special thanks to Bill and Cynthia NPCC co-chairs. The NPCC’s findings are the foundation for all we're doing to build a stronger, more resilient city. We're excited to participate in their event tomorrow celebrating these 10 years of work and the release of the new NPCC-3 report and we look forward to continued engagement with the NPCC and the full scientific community on the issues that are most vital to our future.
We're here today to talk about climate change. The challenge we face is unprecedented. In New York City, it is an existential threat as Hurricane Sandy, so dramatically illustrated. Sandy devastated our city from the Rockaways to Staten Island to Brooklyn. Right here in Lower Manhattan, the damage was extensive. The power went out plunging us into darkness, water poured into homes, businesses, and tunnels. The destruction was unlike anything we've seen before.
Sandy was a turning point. Across the city we began advancing bold solutions and reconsidering our relationship to the water and we quickly realized that there is no silver bullet to the risks that we face and that's why we're implementing a multilayered strategy in all five boroughs. We're working on different timescales, recognizing that the largest and most complicated projects can take many years to study and design and we're not wasting any time on the projects we can implement now. We're developing unprecedented solutions to these unprecedented problems. We are spending tens of billions of dollars to make New Yorkers safer and more resilient. You can see here a map of New York City's coastal protection projects. These are essential to reimagining our waterfront in the face of climate change and safeguarding us from the next storm.
We have already completed a fully constructed Rockaway boardwalk, which sets a new standard for resilient design. We are working closely with the US Army Corps of Engineers. Together, we have already built nearly 10 miles of dunes on Staten Island's and on the Rockaway peninsula, and just last month we secured $615 million of funding for the Staten Island levy project.
The Build it Back program has rebuilt and elevated thousands of homes. Now, those families are safer than they've ever been. We're also making sure that climate projections are reflected in how the city plans and invests, and that's only a small fraction of the work that we are doing. The science tells us that stronger storms are only one of the threats we face, which is why we're preparing for heat waves, which are the cities deadliest extreme weather event, more intense precipitation which will cause more flooding including in our inland communities, and the chronic effects of sea level rise on our 520 miles of coastline as well as other emerging climate threats.
All of this work is critical to our future. It's ambitious, it will span generations and we're doing it so that our city can continue to thrive. The impacts we face in 2050 are severe and at this point 2050 is within the span of a home mortgage. In 2100 climate impacts will be even more dire. A child born today will likely see those impacts play out and as a new parent, I think about that every day. One thing is certain, we don't have time to waste. Now, as we look to the future, I'm going to turn it over to Mayor de Blasio who has an exciting announcement to make about Lower Manhattan. Thank you.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you, Jainey. And thank you for your good work and all your colleagues’ good work to prepare us for this day when we come to grips with some of the things that we are facing in this city and prepare for the future. Also, I want to say to Jainey – extra credit for taking time from your parental leave to join us and we really appreciate that above and beyond. Let's thank Jainey for all she has been doing.
So we have been focused over these last five years on making the city more resilient and any of us who went through Hurricane Sandy, we understood why we had to do that. It wasn't an idea, it wasn't an abstraction. It was very personal. It's very human for all of us who saw the destruction and the pain caused by Sandy. Let's remember what happened. Forty-four New Yorkers killed, thousands and thousands lost their homes and were displaced – $19 billion in devastation. I often said after Sandy, you don't find a lot of climate change deniers in New York City. For us it was a fact. It was something we knew was now part of our lives.
So this is the existential threat. This is the core issue we all must face as aggressively as humanly possible. New York City is addressing global warming in many, many ways and today we announce a plan unlike anything that has been done before in terms of its scope, in terms of its impact.
This is a plan that will protect Lower Manhattan for the remainder of this century all the way to 2100 and in fact beyond. I want to thank everyone who's worked on this effort starting with the co-chairs of the New York City Panel and Climate Change. Again, thanks to Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig of Columbia University and Dr. Bill Solecki of Hunter College for the hard work they and their colleagues put in. Want to thank, while I'm at it, talking about good folks from academia, our host, Dr. Joanne Passaro, President of Metropolitan College. And our partners in this work, so many key leaders, civic leaders, business leaders, community leaders understand that we have to get it right this time. So a real thanks to the President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, Kathy Wylde, Thank you. To BJ Jones, the President and CEO of the Battery Park City Authority, thank you. And to Jessica Lappin, President of the Downtown Alliance, thank you so much.
After Sandy, I toured neighborhoods of this city and I remember vividly being in Lower Manhattan and seeing the destruction and seeing the impact of the flooding and seeing people's lives totally upended. Businesses destroyed, homes destroyed, people felt very vulnerable. They felt a lot of fear. They felt that something had happened that they couldn't fathom. For days, you'll remember in Lower Manhattan, there were people who did not have food, who did not have electricity, couldn't get enough water. This happened in recent memory and if you ever wanted to use the phrase wake up call, there it was.
Now global warming is an extraordinary threat to all of our country, all of our Earth. But when it comes to New York City, one of the great coastal cities of the world, we are particularly threatened and nowhere is that threat greater than for the hundreds of thousands of people who live and work in Lower Manhattan.
We've been looking at different solutions and we had to come to grips with the sheer magnitude of what had to be done and the challenge of making it happen in real terms, because remember we're talking about a neighborhood, a living, breathing, active neighborhood where so much has been done for centuries and our job was to protect that neighborhood but also recognize that we couldn't disrupt so much that happens there. We also have to think about what would ultimately work against a wide variety of threats. It's not just a superstorm that we fear, it's rising sea levels, it's a host of other challenges that could lead to making this an area that simply isn't livable.
You're going to hear from the President of the Economic Development Corporation, James Patchett, in just a moment on some of the details, but let me give you the headlines now. We will initiate an effort that has an estimated cost of $10 billion to extend the shoreline of Lower Manhattan into the East River to protect the Seaport area and the Financial District and all the people live and work there.
And we are already investing half-a-billion dollars in four projects to strengthen the Lower Manhattan coastline and provide interim protections. All four of those projects will be under construction in the next two years. There will be installation of temporary barriers put in place this year by the end of this summer in the area around Two Bridges, the Financial District, and the Seaport to protect us this year from this coming hurricane season.
Now this Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Plan is comprehensive to say the least. It is audacious, but most of all it is necessary. This is a very, very big undertaking. There's nothing been done like this in the history of New York City, but it is needed and I want to give you the plain facts that make so clear why we have to do this. This is a city with four-and-a-half million jobs. One in 10 of the jobs in this city are located in Lower Manhattan. Seventy-five percent of the subway lines in New York City run through Lower Manhattan. There's $60 billion worth of property in Lower Manhattan. And as I said, hundreds of thousands of people who live or work there every day.
Now the next point I'm going to make should be something that's talked about not only here, but in our nation's capital. Lower Manhattan is one of the core centers of the American economy. It is where the financial capital of the United States is. The security of Lower Manhattan should be a national priority. The fact is it is not, and it's incomprehensible to me that there's no sense of urgency from the federal government and there hasn't been to protect Lower Manhattan and all it means not only for the city and state, but for this country.
Here's the stark reality. Federal funds only come after there's been a disaster. That is the reality of our country right now. There's no plan. There's no vision. There's no funding to actually protect us from what is looming in our future. It's only when the destruction has been done that money eventually starts to flow. We can't live that way anymore. I want to give you an example for anyone who may be thinking right now, well, I just told you about a single initiative that's going to cost $10 billion. Someone might say, well, how on Earth are we going to afford this? Here's a fact. From the years of the Iraq war, the United States spent on average of $50 billion a year on that war and did not spend money protecting Americans from global warming. We have to get our priorities right.
In the meantime, we have to go at the root cause. To say the least, we would like our national government to focus more on how to stop global warming, but in the meantime, the City of New York is doing all week can – and cities all over the country, over 400 cities have pledged to live up to the standards of the Paris Agreement. We are cutting emissions 80 percent by 2050. We're the first major American city to divest our pension fund dollars from fossil fuels companies. That's going to be a $5 billion divestment. We are committed to investing two percent of all of our pension fund money in renewable energy. That's going to be a $4 billion investment. We are doing the things that are needed, but they'll have to be done on a much greater scale literally if we are all to survive.
We can't afford to bury our head in the sand and that's, right now, what our federal government is doing, but we understand we have to make a difference and we have to advocate for the big and bold changes needed. I believe in the Green New Deal. I believe in the sweep and scope. I believe that we have to fundamentally change our lives and our approach to our economy. We have to become a low carbon economy as quickly as possible. We have to invest money in renewable energy on a much greater scale. And as part of that Green New Deal, there has to be a huge federal initiative to protect the coastal areas of this country and the tens of millions of people who live there.
By the way, all of that will create a huge number of jobs that working people need. So in the meantime, we don't just sit around and have wishful thinking about our federal government getting the memo. We are acting and this plan is how we protect one of the single most sensitive areas of our city and our nation before it's too late.
A few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, I want to bring forward the President of the Economic Development Corporation, James Patchett. He and his team have worked very intensely to come up with a plan that will work no matter how ambitious, no matter how challenging. This is a plan that will actually protect Lower Manhattan. I want to thank him and his team. James Patchett.
President James Patchett, Economic Development Corporation: I don't need this step. All right. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you to our scientist friends for being here and for showing so much leadership on this for more than a decade. And thank you also to Cathy and Jessica for being here. It means a lot to see the business community here, the Lower Manhattan community here recognizing what an important issue this is for the future of our city. I also want to just take a moment to second what the Mayor said about Jainey, who is technically still on maternity leave. As the parent of two children under the age of five and having been on a number of conference calls with her recently, hearing the baby crying in the background, I just want to say it's really – says a lot that she's here today, so thank you.
That's right. I would clap for my wife if she were at a press conference during her maternity leave, although then I'd be at home. Okay. So, as the Mayor mentioned this comprehensive resiliency plan, will invest over half-a-billion dollars in projects that protect about 70 percent of the Lower Manhattan coastline. These projects are all beginning design today and will be in construction by 2021. I want to take a moment to walk you through each of these projects in a little bit more detail.
First I want to start with Battery Park City. So the City has already approved $134 million in borrowing authority for Battery Park City. So this is a resiliency plan for Battery Park City and the design aims to integrate flood protection into the existing landscape. This is – the design process is underway and this is going to guarantee protection against both a storm surge and sea level rise, two of the biggest threats to the Battery Park City level – sea level rise increases.
So the Battery Park City Authority, as I mentioned here today, have already kicked off the design process. We're working closely with them and we anticipate they will begin construction on this within the next year – or I should say next year.
Moving around south and east to the battery – Battery Park which is just next to Battery Park City. It's key that we have a comprehensive solution that covers all of the elements of Lower Manhattan and this is the next element. So we know how vulnerable the Battery is to storm surge after what happened during Hurricane Sandy. Both the wharf and the esplanade were badly damaged and it also provides an area – an entryway for water to come into Lower Manhattan if this area is not also protected.
So, this project will protect the park against rising sea levels and provide coastal protection for the neighborhood behind it. It's a $165 million project and it will reconstruct and raise the wharf and the esplanade to protect against higher sea levels. And we're also going to build an elevated and protected barrier at the back of the park. So it's a combined effort, one on the waterfront and one further back in the park. We're just beginning the design process here. We're going to work closely with the community on that. We haven't determined the final design. We know it needs to have those two elements as a part of it. But we are going to begin construction on this project by 2021.
So moving on to Two Bridges, skipping past the Seaport for a moment. So here we're in the process of designing and building a $200 million system of flip up barriers and flood walls. They will protect this neighborhood and also preserve the waterfront. So the flip up barriers are – what that means is they're deployable barriers that come up from underground in the event of a storm. When there isn't a storm, you won't even know that they're there. And here's an ominous picture of a storm – showing the barriers flipped up, protecting the neighborhood. We're now finalizing the design and we're going to continue to work with the community very closely in the coming months. And we will also begin construction on this project by 2021.
So I want to move on to the most complicated area at which, as Jainey noted, is the FiDi and the Seaport, which are also two of the most vulnerable neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan. That's why the City has been going through a process of exploring an exhaustive list of alternatives of ways to protect this area.
So this has a unique combination of complex factors that makes it particularly challenging. It's infrastructure constraints, including both the Battery Tunnel and the A, C tunnel, which are both passing directly under this area, has low topography at about eight feet above sea level. And so none of the known or existing strategies that we're using across the rest of this district are going to work here, but we don't have a choice. We know that we have to protect this community. The mayor reference the amount of value this area represents for the city and the importance of it to our economy. We have to protect this area.
So, what are we doing? We're going through a comprehensive climate resilience master plan where we will create a specific plan in partnership with the community to extend the shoreline, which will give us space to construct the necessary infrastructure.
We recognize that building in the water will be challenging and we're treating this option as the absolute last resort, but our analysis has shown that an on-land solution like the one we're using at Two Bridges which will reduce nearly half of the area that was originally proposed for shoreline extension in Seaport City, that solution is just not viable in this segment of the original Seaport City area. So this shoreline extension could extend anywhere from 50 feet to up to 500 feet, which is the pier head apart from the – away from the existing coastline. But the bottom line is this is not just a visionary concept at this point. Our next step is to immediately procure a team of engineers and designers to work close partnership with the community to come up with a specific and viable design.
By the end of this – by the end of our administration in partnership with the community, we will have a comprehensive design for a first phase of this project and a clear implementation plan for the comprehensive solution for this segment in addition to being on full in full construction on the other 70 percent of Lower Manhattan.
But all of that being said, we know that we can't wait for another hurricane season for this most vulnerable partner part of Lower Manhattan. So that is why we're working in close partnership with Emergency Management to take action now we'll be deploying HESCO barriers in portions of the Seaport and the Financial District and the Two Bridges neighborhood. These tools are critical as storms become more frequent. So those will be permanently in place in advance of this coming hurricane season and they will be accompanied by Tiger Dams, which are refillable dams, dams that can be filled up with water in the event of an incoming storm which will be placed in conjunction with the HESCO barriers in the event that we see a storm coming.
So comprehensively what we have is a plan to begin construction on full resiliency measures for 70 percent of Lower Manhattan, a plan to protect the remaining 30 percent before this next hurricane season, and a partnership with the community to determine a long term solution to that remaining in most challenging part. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you very much, James. So I want to just again express my appreciation to everyone who worked on this effort. This has taken a tremendous amount of research and rethinking of what is possible and what is needed. One of the things that’s clear is this team understood, to quote from the great movie Apollo 13, that failure's not an option, that we have to find something that would work no matter how expensive or ambitious it was and this is the plan that we believe can work and we have to get to work on it right away. I want to say one more thing upfront, this again should be a federal priority. This should be a case where the federal government is asking us how they can help and talking to us about the importance of protecting this crucial national asset. That's just not happening. I want everyone to understand that. That conversation is not happening.
We have to do it ourselves in terms of getting things rolling, but we pray the day is near when our federal government actually creates a plan for national resiliency and funds it properly so that we can build these new protections with the kind of resources we really need. This is not something that people in New York City you can handle on their own. This is something that deserves a national response and we're going to keep working for that day. In the meantime, we're doing all we can to get the ball rolling so we can protect our people, our jobs, our subways, our communities. Would that want to take questions from the media on this announcement? Yes.
Question: Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Good Morning.
Question: Congratulations on what sounds like a visionary, ambitious plan. In terms of context, recent experience tells us that this community pushes back a lot when it feels like it has not been consulted – given the example of relocating the post-Rikers closure jail to Lower Manhattan. Fairly or unfairly, there’s a sense that that process could have been handled better. Will it be handled differently and better in terms of design this time?
Mayor: We – look, this is going to be a major, major project. It’s going to take years to get done. We expect to go through a full ULURP process, just as we are, by the way, with the jails. And I want to remind people that New York City does something a lot of other places don’t do in this country. Through that ULURP process, we really engage communities as an opportunity for a lot of give and take, a lot of changes. Anyone who’s watched sees that many, many ideas evolve and change during ULURP. But I also think, if you talk to people in Lower Manhattan who suffered through Sandy, they don’t want to see it happen again. I remember vividly talking to the residents, talking to store owners. I remember being in people’s stores that were absolutely destroyed. Folks, again, who couldn’t get food, couldn’t get water. They don’t want to go through that again. So we believe – I believe people are really, ultimately, in these matters very thoughtful, intelligent, they understand that tough choices have to be made. But we’ll go through that full discussion with the community.
Question: Follow-up if I may?
Question: We are going to go 50 to 500 feet out, that raises the question of what’s going to be on those decks, what’s going to be in that landfill, how much of a voice will the community have in decisions about is this going to be a park, or a high-rise, is this going to be a school versus a library?
Mayor: It’s the same point. Through a ULURP process, that’s where all that gets determined. Now this is where the federal question really comes into play. Let’s imagine that for the next year to two years, we don’t expect to see a revelation in Washington where suddenly there’ll be huge interest in resiliency and funding it properly. Perhaps after 2020 there’ll be a very different reality, and something like a Green New Deal moves forward with a major resiliency plank to it. That is what I would like to see, and that would mean there’d be huge amount of federal funding, and that would allow us to have the ability to do these kind of barriers in a way that gives us the most flexibility – if we could fund it publically, then we don’t need to find private sources of funding.
From the perspective of the City of New York alone, this would be extraordinarily difficult to fund. I think it comes down to simply this: if there’s federal money in play, it probably looks one way. If there’s not federal money in play, we have to get some private money and there has to be some development. That to me is the dividing line. But that’s an honest conversation that we can have with communities. Now, the usually punctual Gale Brewer has arrived so let’s break for one second, if you’re ready, or do you want a moment?
Mayor: Thank you, Borough President. Marcia?
Question: I have actually two questions, the first has to do with the environmental concerns. Cleary, you’re going to have to put land fill of some kind around the coastline in order to build it up, are there any environmental concerns – the fish, the snail darter – all these things that have been raised in the past that could have an effect on how much land fill, where you could put it, et cetera?
Mayor: So I want to say, Marcia, there’s always real environmental issues that have to be grappled with, and I’d never take that lightly. But I also want to remind people this is an existential threat, and we have to deal with it aggressively. So one of things we talk about in this plan is the difference between a traditional permitting process – a traditional permitting process which could take many, many years and slow our ability to protect hundreds of thousands of people versus an expedited process that’s still very – honestly looks at those environmental issues but is much less bureaucratic, much more urgent. This is a call to action and so, yeah, we have to be mindful of the environment but I would honestly say we cannot have the endless dragging-on that usually accompanies something of this scale. I’m trying to tell people this is a very, very real threat and we have to move now.
Question: The second question has to do with how you’re going to pay for it. I know you’d like to have the federal government do it. You want to get the ball rolling. Will you be able to put city money into it and [inaudible] I’m going to pay for it by X.
Mayor: We’re going to start with city money for sure, so the next phases of design, the work that we have to do to get started, that will be done with city money. We are going to appeal to the federal government, for the reasons I state now. I don’t think there’s – it’s like the easiest argument in the world, why is this a national asset that has to be protected? When you think about the words national security, what is more important than protecting Lower Manhattan, right? But we spent tens of billions a year on foreign wars, but there’s no money to protect Lower Manhattan, to protect the biggest city in the country, that makes no sense. So I believe this is an argument that can be won, and the best kind of protection will come from a plan with a lot of federal funding. If we can’t get that federal funding, we have to have an honest conversation with the community, with the people of this city, about the choices. It’s not something that can be fully funded with city dollars, it just couldn’t be, there’s too many other demands. We would have to then either perhaps get state dollars, which, you and I would both say is not – don’t flow abundantly nowadays, or have some mix of private development in the initiative to help pay for it.
Question: If you had to get private development, would that mean that you might be building things on this land –
Question: – since you have to go two blocks out –
Question: – I mean you could build streets with buildings, is that something that would be –
Mayor: It’s possible, it’s possible. But again, so one, there’s going to be a whole, very intense community process that I said, ULURP and et cetera, to envision what the community would like to see. But it, also, there’s going to be an honest discussion of how do we pay for this protections. And this is what I think will happen. We have all watched these discussions play out in neighborhoods all over New York City. I understand how fiercely people protect their quality of life and the things they love in their neighborhood, but this will be very, I think, telling that folks never want to see the destruction they saw with Sandy again, and I think that’s going to be the number one imperative.
So how do we balance all that? How do we make realistic choices? We need to do this, and we need to do this quickly. It’s going to cost, again, $10 billion – we have to come up with the money. My job, all of our jobs is to have, to create a federal government, to vote for a federal government, to push a federal government to do this as they should, not only for New York City, they should be doing it for Miami, they should be doing it for Charleston, they should be doing for cities all over the country. But in the mean time we can’t sit still. Did you want to add?
President Patchett: Yeah, absolutely. I think, fundamentally, we’re looking at this from a resiliency perspective – fundamentally, we’re looking at this from a resiliency perspective – that is what drove this analysis – that is what this is about. It’s about collectively protecting Lower Manhattan. That is all we’re focused on – ultimately we’re going to look at alternatives here, but there’s a wide range of possibilities. 50 feet is a much less significant extension than 500 feet. The 500 feet limit is what’s set by the Coast Guard and the Army Corps because of the bulkhead line, but it’s our objective to make this as minimal an impact on the community as possible while still providing the protection. But ultimately there’s a question of funding as well.
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: Mayor, Sandy happened in 2012.
Question: Why did it take six-and-a-half years to come up with this plan, which you now say yourself, will take years to implement?
Mayor: Because the plan that was on the table, we came to realize, was going to take way too long and was actually the wrong solution for a lot of the areas of the Manhattan shoreline. Rather than have the original vision of Seaport City, which was very private development, heavy, which extended a very substantial way along the East River, we came to the realization we could do more and more quickly without that kind of intensive development, as James just said. Our focus is not private sector development, as I think it was more in the previous administration. Our focus is resiliency, so we came up with a plan that is, in most of its areas, quicker and easier to implement. We came up with a plan, also, that addresses more problems, because it turns out, you know, and this is not a criticism, it’s just everyone in the aftermath of Sandy was thinking about how to defend against a Sandy. It turns out there’s a whole lot of other challenges we have to defend against in terms of this kind of resiliency.
So this plan had to take a lot more into account, and come up with the way to protect each part of the shoreline and we found it was very different for each part of the shoreline. This piece, around the Seaport, around the Financial District, is unfortunately the worst of all worlds because it is where there are so many jobs, subway lines, everything we’ve talked about, people more and more living there, and it’s the lowest part of the whole shoreline. So it’s the most vulnerable, and that’s why we need this extraordinary barrier.
President Patchett: We’re talking about a 100 year solution here for what our projections of what storms are going to be like in 2100 and the science and information has evolved significantly since Sandy. Our analysis shows that Lower Manhattan by 2100 will be flooded daily, 20 percent of the streets, so if you’re in Lower Manhattan –
Mayor: If you don’t take action –
President Patchett: If we don’t do anything, 20 percent of Lower Manhattan will be flooded every day, and that’s new science that came out of our analysist. So we want to make sure is we’re designing the protections that actually address the most current science because if we design protection based on old science, we’re not going to be solving for the most current, known challenges. Of course climate science is always evolving and we’ll hear more from our friends about that tomorrow, but it’s critically important that we be constantly on top of the most current information.
And I would also add it’s really significant that we were able to come up with a solution for Two Bridges which is deployable barriers. The Bloomberg Administration did a lot of great and important work immediately following Sandy and I think it set a really important foundation, but it was a framework. It was a way of thinking about the different solutions and the solution that they had identified for the area from the Battery almost to the Manhattan Bridge was to build in water development.
The great thing about what the Mayor said, to elaborate on it, is that we identify deployable barriers for almost 50 percent of that area meaning that we don’t have to go in the water at all for that amount and we can start construction on that within the next two years. So that’s a really enormous difference. It means that we’ll have almost half of that area protected by 2023 as opposed to by 2030, that’s an enormous step in the right direction and the reality is we went through a comprehensive analysis of every possible alternative for that remaining 50 percent of that area and there’s just no viable alternative but to build in the water. Why? Because it’s eight feet above sea level and we are expecting six feet of sea level rise by 2100. Why? Because the Battery Tunnel is less than six feet below the ground and the A/C Tunnel are also between the Battery – between the surface and the bedrock which you have to drive any deployable barriers into. It’s a very complex area. There’s no easy solution. We had to do a comprehensive look at the science and all of the alternatives and we came to the conclusion that none of us wanted to come to which is we have to do something in water or this area will never be protected.
Mayor: Okay, who hasn’t gone? Dave?
Question: This plan of building in the East River, have you run it by any of the property owners, the residents? What’s their reaction? How do they feel about it so far?
Mayor: I’ll just start by saying, you know, as you heard from the Borough President, there’s been a dialogue already, but this is just the beginning of what will be a much more extensive dialogue. I mean, one thing I’ve heard from folks in Lower Manhattan for five years is that they want to be protected, number one concern. You know, we understand, again, there’s been controversies over particular building projects and people want to make sure that quality of life is protected, that’s when we’re talking about a normal kind of development question. This is not that. This is how do we protect your neighborhood from being flooded all the time? How do we protect from being impossible to live in? How do we protect your business from being destroyed? That conversation, people get very open minded about, they want solutions and they want them as quickly as possible. So yes, there will be extensive dialogue because this is a multi-year project and it will go through ULURP. But I want to say Dave, people think very differently about resiliency because they know they can’t afford to go without it.
President Patchett: I can add. We spoke in the course of this process, we spoken to the community boards, we’ve spoken – I’ve spoken directly to both the leaders of the business organizations in Lower Manhattan as well as many of the major property owners. I mean everyone recognizes this is a complicated challenge. Everyone has concerns, but everyone knows we have to do something.
Question: [Inaudible] actually be finished, we would see construction [inaudible] –
Mayor: So let me just say this gets back to Marcia’s question about are we going to end up with the traditional, bluntly, bureaucratic endless permitting challenges where all different levels of government take their sweet time while Mother Nature continues to loom. If we do this the long, slow traditional way, this might not be completed until 2030. If we do it the expedited way, we could shave as much as five years off that. So you can be talking 2025 or something much more reasonable.
This – you know, I think the call to arms point here is Dave is, are we going to be serious about protecting ourselves? If we are, we can’t do things the traditional way. We have to be mindful of the environment and everything has to be in full consultation with communities, but we’ve got to move fast. So this is going to be a real challenge to see if people willing to change the way they do things in the name of protecting our community. Go ahead, Gloria?
Question: Mr. Mayor, so you’re saying how badly you will need federal funds to get this done and you’re saying that you’re not confident at this point that you will get them. You said that the city will spend – will start spending money on the design first, do you have a breakdown yet of where you are going to get started? How much it will cost? And how much you will actually need of federal funds at this point?
Mayor: Let me just – let me just – I’ll start and then pass to James about what is the immediate plan. I’m stating the, you know, I think the pretty tragically obvious truth right now Gloria that there is no federal resiliency strategy. Not just in New York City, for the entire United States of America. There is no costal resiliency plan, there is no stream – funding for resiliency, I mean we’ve been dealing with global warming for decades, there is literally not a federal policy. It’s only in reaction to disasters. So we have to change that. Do I think the Trump administration is going to change it? No. We have a climate denier in the White House. He’s not going to change it. And it can’t move without a president. So I would say it’s after the 2020 election that we open up the possibility of a serious s new national resiliency policy and serious money being applied to it, and it is consistent with the vision of the Green New Deal. That means that we’ve got several years right there, but we just have to keep moving the ball with everything we’ve got. Go ahead.
President Patchett: I think it would frankly be more helpful to send you a breakdown, project by project, of the city components and the federal components. Just as an example, the Battery, that’s $108 million of city funding. The Battery Park City Authority is through bonding authorities, none of that is federal money. And then the Two Bridges component – there is federal funding there, we’re anticipating some city funding for that as well –
Mayor: I think you are crossing topics a little bit – let me – hold on – let me make sure we’re all speaking – hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on. So, there are the projects underway that we described earlier, Battery, Battery Park City , Two Bridges, that’s again mix of different funding streams, we can get you all that. I think your question also refers to the specific efforts to protect the Seaport area, and the Financial District, this core area where we are going to have to add land, what money are putting in to get that process started?
President Patchett: Right, absolutely. No, for sure, absolutely – anyway, yeah, so today we’re talking about is about $5 to $10 million in immediate engineering analysis to get the master planning process started. I’m trying to give you context, which is to say, that the other projects we’re talking about, really in many cases for the first time today, those are generally a mix of city and federal dollars and realistically that’s an expectation we have here to try and guess what we’re going to spend on a $10 billion project, what the breakdown is going to be in over the next decade. I don’t think we can say that today.
Mayor: And the existing – the existing projects again are about half a billion combined federal and city money and we’ll get you that breakup.
Question: That five to ten you mentioned to start the design analysis – is that going to be in this year’s budget?
President Patchett: It’s – yes, city funding.
Mayor: Yeah, yes, go ahead.
Question: Mayor, I just want to make sure I kind of understand the timeline here with the changing of these projects. You had said before the plan that was on the table we came to realize was going to take too long. Is that a reference to the sort of BIGU type plan?
Mayor: Yeah, just as James said, you know, you think about major private sector development from the Battery all the way up to the Manhattan Bridge, that’s essentially the Seaport City vision, that would have been a massive undertaking and we came to realize it was, one, unnecessary because as James said, about half that area could be protected more quickly with other approaches. Two, we don’t agree with a private sector development focused model. We thought there was a different way to go about it. So the fact is the – for about half that area, what we’re going to do will be faster and achieve at least the same level of resiliency.
Question: I guess what I’m asking though is - [inaudible] know better, this like – the East Side Resiliency project of before that had been kind of behind schedule, does this replace that –
Mayor: That’s a different, wait a minute what do you mean?
Question: The parks and the [inaudible] –
Mayor: That’s separate – the words all sound the same, that’s separate from the Lower Manhattan piece, so Jainey wants to jump in too, why don’ t we have her and then James?
Director Bavishi: So the BIGU concept proposed land based coastal protection features all around the Manhattan tip. Through our analysis we actually found that that was not feasible, that there were places in this geography because of the geographic constraints, the extensive underground infrastructure, we couldn’t actually protect this entire area with seawalls or deployables or parks and berms. And that’s why, where we can do that, we are doing that, and where we found that is not feasible, we are proposing instead the shoreline extension.
Mayor: Explain also the difference the East Side piece and the things we’re talking about here.
Director Bavishi: And the East Side Coastal Resiliency project was also born out the BIGU concept and as you know we’re moving forward with that project. It extends from Montgomery Street all the way up to East 25th Street.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer: I can –
Mayor: Hang on, wait, wait, wait, let us just let Jainey finish this point –
Director Bavishi: I think it is important to realize that the BIGU was a concept. The BIGU inspired the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, the city has moved forward with planning and engineering analysis for that project. That project will move into construction next year. We continue to do analysis of potential coast line protection solutions for the rest of the geography and the BIGU concept we found it had its limitations. So this plan that we’re proposing – we’re presenting now takes that conversation forward and proposes projects that we can actually implement.
Borough President Brewer: I can – 25th and Montgomery is the old BIGU, this is how I understand it. And I think it’s correct. It’s in lay persons terms, and that’s involving the East River Park and the Parks Department and it is controversial but tons of meetings are taking place. That’s the old BIGU. Then you have the deployables at Two Bridges, then you have nothing at Finance and Seaport, and then you got Battery Park and then you go over to the West Side and their fine. Thank you.
Mayor: I’m going to do variation on that – hold on, hold on, that was good. Gale Brewer explains the world to you. Okay, I’m going to go the other way around, because again I think I understand why these terms all seem to overlap. Battery Park City, that is one resiliency effort onto itself. The Battery itself – Battery Park – the Financial District and the Seaport, the Two Bridges area, that’s fourth, and then fifth is the East Side – what’s it – East Side Coastal Resiliency. So there’s five distinct initiatives. Four of the five – you did but I’m saying it a little bit differently – four of the five are all moving right now. The fifth one, which is the most sensitive, is the one that we are announcing today, the plan to move forward and the vision to move forward on. The others are all – all have a tremendous amount of funding, as I said, the half billion just for the ones in Lower Manhattan alone, that’s already moving. Marcia?
Question: Mr. Mayor, I just have to go live and have like 20 minutes. I want to get the finances done. So you’re spending half a billion dollars on the four projects that are moving forward and then the financial – Financial District –
President Patchett: Three –
Mayor: Battery Park City, Battery, and Two Bridges are half a billion between them – real money right now.
Question: [Inaudible] between $5 and $10 million to do the engineering studies –
Question: For the Financial –
Mayor: District and Seaport, yep, and separate is the East Side Coastal Resilience, which is farther up the East Side.
Question: How much money is that?
Mayor: What is that clocking in right now? 1.4 billion? $1.4 billion.
Question: Do we have that money?
Mayor: Yes, it’s all funded right?
Director Bavishi: Yes, it’s all funded.
Question: [Inaudible] the big deal then would be to get the rest of the $10 billion that you –
Mayor: It’s essentially the $10 billion because the Design money is a small beginning. We have to find $10 billion more to protect that absolutely vulnerable area of lower Manhattan around the Financial District and the Seaport.
Question: The way you are going to try to find the $10 billion more is?
Mayor: First, federal dollars, once the federal government decides they have to have a resiliency plan, failing that we are going to work with the community figure out some combination of city, state dollars and private development but our preference of course is to fund this with federal dollars.
Borough President Brewer: We will find the federal dollars.
Mayor: I like your attitude.
Question: [Inaudible] dictate what goes on [inaudible].
Mayor: Say again?
Question: The type of funding you get could ultimately –
Mayor: Yes, yes.
Question: Determine what goes on, whether it’s a –
Mayor: Planning process with the community, continued engineering to help us, tell us what can be done most effectively, less is more right? If we can do less and spend less and get the same protection, that’s what we want. And where the heck is the money coming from?
President Patchett: I just want to encourage you to look at the map because that explains it.
Mayor: Well, that’s far away that map.
President Patchett: We’ll give you a copy.
Mayor: Give her a copy. Okay, okay back there.
Question: Yes, Hi thanks, Mr. Mayor for your time. Sydney with Patch. I am asking, based on what you said so far, the main difference between what was proposed during the Bloomberg era and this, the Seaport City plan, is that it doesn’t extend far, as far north essentially is what I am getting at. The shoreline extending into the East River, just doesn’t extend as far north –
Mayor: About 50 percent less area.
Question: Yes, 50 percent less –
Mayor: So I just want to be clear, it’s half the shoreline, it’s a big, big difference.
Question: But could you explain or elaborate on the development between what was proposed and what studies were done five, four or five years ago between then and now because this is – it seems like eerily similar to what was studied –
Mayor: No again, respectfully I think you are suggesting an assumption I want to ask you to keep an open mind and hear what we are saying. No, you’re wrong respectfully. This is not the same thing. That was a much bigger area. It was focused on private development only, we don’t agree with that. It was focused on building up a whole lot of buildings. That’s not the only wat to do things and we believe it not – no not, because they could see all the other threats and concerns, we are in a different moment where there is a lot more information and there’s different technology to be able to see a whole host of other concerns that have to be addressed. So you have to see it as a different moment and a different approach. We would like to get as much done as possible, obviously without private development. We would like to get things done as quickly as possible as opposed to as you can imagine private development taking quite a bit of time. So that’s where we start which is different from where they started but Jainey talk about the differences of science, of scope of what was looked at compared to that time.
Director Bavishi: So the other thing to keep in mind is that we, and James mentioned this, is that we looked at a range of climate threats, not just storm surge. The proposal that was presented at that time was primarily focused on addressing storm surge. We looked at sea level rise, we looked at intense precipitation. And we looked at the threat of ground water table rise which is one of the impacts of sea level rise. So taking all of that into consideration, we wanted to limit the shoreline extension to only the places where that was the only feasible solution. And in the other areas where we know that there are technologies that will provide protection without going into the water, that’s what we are moving forward with.
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: Mr. Mayor, just on the issue of the $10 billion, if you don’t get the federal funds though, aren’t you going to need to rely on private development?
Mayor: It would be a combination of city money, perhaps state money and private development, that would be the only way in that case. Now there is enough time here, again for a federal plan to be in place to pay for a lot of this. There’s still time because it will take several years to even be able to start spending money in a major way but otherwise, yes it will have to be a mix of those things. Okay anyone who hasn’t gone yet, who has not gone, okay going back to you. Right there.
Question: Two related questions, first, if there is to be some development here, I’m sorry –
Mayor: I – you start, then you go.
Question: If there is to be some development here, do you see this as a possible venue for further progress on your very ambitious goals regarding affordable housing. And second to get Battery Park City built they needed to create a quasi-independent agency, the Battery Park City Authority, do you envision creating a new instrumentality like an authority or would this be done through existing city agencies?
Mayor: I’m going to let my colleagues speak to the instrumentality – today’s good word, instrumentality question. The first part again, I’m sorry. I was so caught up in your word I couldn’t.
Question: Affordable housing.
Mayor: Affordable housing. Yes, everything, look, whenever we do a ULURP, if there is private development, housing development, obviously we use the rules that we put in place with mandatory inclusionary housing. So that’s everywhere. Go ahead. Oh, do you want to speak to the instrumentality?
Director Bavishi: Can you repeat the instrumentality –
President Patchett: The answer is yes. We envision setting up a separate non for profit entity to oversee this because it’s such a large scale project whether there is development or not.
Question: So it’s something like EDC, a public private partnership that has some government authority but –
President Patchett: Yes, I think Battery Park City Authority is a better analogy but yes.
Question: So two quick questions, first, I’m just with the BIG U, I know we have gone over the differences but there was some funding correct, that HUD had dedicated to the lower coastal part of the project, does that still translate over or because it’s different –
Mayor: We don’t let funding get away.
Director Bavishi: So the BIG U proposal was in response to the Rebuild by Design competition and from the Rebuild by Design competition we received $335 million from HUD for the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. So that’s sort of the first compartment of the BIG U proposal. And then we also received $176 million from HUD through the National Disaster Resilience competition for Two Bridges.
Question: Okay, so that applies to the Two Bridges Project –
Director Bavishi: Exactly.
Question: Not to harp on the $10 billion but I mean isn’t there a concern here that there’s not the federal funding and it’s going to take years to realize this, that you are leaving it in the hands of the next administration to deal with?
Mayor: Again, you are not going to be able to put a shovel in the ground until that next administration is in place anyway, point one. Point two, with the energy behind the Green New Deal right now, which is a very good thing – it’s not impossible for a resiliency policy to be voted on in 2021 and funded. Federal government, for the federal government, $10 billion to protect one of the most important places in the United States of America, is pocket change. They could do it in a heartbeat.
Borough President Brewer: Texas got $4 billion.
Question: Mayor, earlier when you were kind of ruling this out, you mentioned that no place in New York is more vulnerable to some of these effects of climate change than Lower Manhattan but during Sandy, the vast majority of deaths were actually on the outer boroughs, on Staten Island more than half and many more in Queens. I know that there’s been some progress on the project, the Army Corp project on Staten Island. There’s been significantly less progress as far as I understand it on some of the larger scale barriers or proposals out on the Rockaways and in Queens in terms of Army Corp projects. What would you say to people who live there, who’s property might not be as valuable or –
Mayor: Well again, I understand the construct but I would like to correct the record. Some of the biggest and most successful resiliency projects already have happened in the outer boroughs. Jainey I would like you to actually run the list for people because I think they should hear it. We went where we had seen the destruction and where people were vulnerable and put resiliency measures into place and a lot of others are coming on quickly. But I want to be clear in terms of the sheer number of people affected. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers live and work in Lower Manhattan are tremendously vulnerable right now, our city’s economy is tremendously vulnerable. Our subway system is tremendously vulnerable. There is no other place in the city where all those challenges meet so deeply as in Lower Manhattan and to make matters worse, it’s one of the very lowest parts of the city. So in fact, respectfully, it’s the other way around. The outer borough projects actually have already happened or are happening. This piece was very complex. We had to figure out the right way to do it but in terms of the number of people affected and what it would do to the entire rest of the city, this is one of the most important things to address. Would you give people a sense of what has happened done and what is happening in the next few years?
Director Bavishi: Sure. So we have, as I mentioned in my remarks, we’ve rebuilt the 5.5 mile Rockaway boardwalk. That was completed in 2017.
Mayor: As a resiliency barrier.
Director Bavishi: As a resiliency barrier. We have worked with the Army Corp of Engineers to complete a T-groin and sand nourishment project in the Seagate neighborhood in Brooklyn. We’ve installed ten miles of dunes in Staten Island and the Rockaway peninsula and we’ve – the interim flood protection measures that we are talking about today, we’ve actually implemented those in 46 sites across the city. Build it Back has served 100 percent of its residents so that’s another important note because many of those residents are in the outer boroughs. And there’s a lot of projects in progress so we’ve recent announced the Staten Island levy project where we are investing $615 million with the Army Corp of Engineers and the State. We are moving forward with the work in the Rockaways with the Army Corp of Engineers as well both to create new protections on the beach side as well install new protections on the bay side of the Rockaway peninsula. That work will begin in either late this year or early next year. We are also advancing design for Red Hook Integrated Flood Protection System and that work is advancing this year as well. And that’s not even to mention that you said Coastal Resiliency Project which we’ve discussed –
Mayor: So, everything that Jainey just talked about is right here. I want to ask our friends from our team to make sure that this is passed out to all the folks in the media so they can see this is all the things that have happened or underway as we speak, overwhelmingly in the outer boroughs. Go ahead, Gloria.
Question: Mr. Mayor, I know you don’t like hypotheticals.
Mayor: No, I don’t, but try me.
Question: But, let’s just say you don’t get a Green New Deal. President Donald Trump gets a second term, and you don’t get these federal funds that you need in terms of the private development that then would be needed and the pressure of getting this done in time. Would you be willing to change the zoning laws? Or somehow change the ULURP process so that you don’t get into that government [inaudible] –
Mayor: It’s a ULURP process either way, Gloria. So the point is you’re going to – again, this is going to be a very honest conversation with the community. I think everyone will say why don’t we try and get it right, meaning getting the federal government involved. And I would also like to note in addition to the President, another very big X-factor is the U.S. Senate. If the senate goes Democratic and the Chuck Schumer is the Senate Majority Leader – that alone, even if there is a Republican Presidential administration, that could change the discussion onto itself. So there’s actually more than one way to get to the resolution we need. But if the federal government is entirely unwilling to participate then it becomes a very honest conversation with the community of what choices we’re going to make but that will go through a ULURP process. Yes?
Question: Is Chuck Schumer fully on board with this plan?
Mayor: Chuck Schumer, I’m sitting down with him actually in the next few days, and I’m going to go through it with him. But this is a vision, he’s going to watch as everyone else does as we develop the details, and he’ll speak for himself on that. But does Chuck Schumer care deeply about resiliency? He’s been the driving force in getting a lot of these resources that have allowed us to provide the protections we have all over the city. Anything else on this? Yes.
Question: Mr. Mayor, is the coastal extension view that different from what was proposed in the BIG U plan and will there be [inaudible] development in that area? And then secondly, when did you guys determine that the BIG U was [inaudible]?
Director Bavishi: So, the BIG U plan did not – BIG U concept I should say did not propose coastal extension. A proposed land based coastal protection features and what we looked at is whether or not those features would actually work in the constraint geography given the extensive underground infrastructure in this geography, and we found that for Seaport and the Financial District it would not, that we needed to go out into the water. So that’s what we are saying now.
Mayor: Okay, yes?
Question: In regards to the harbor Army Corps study, the New York/New Jersey harbor study with the five different alternatives with storm surge barriers in the harbor. What – how does that study factor into possible design and how extensive certain parts of the shoreline would have to be, do we know that at all yet?
Mayor: I’m going to start as the layman, because I asked – good question, I asked the same question and these folks will give you more detail. But here’s what I want to note, the idea of the harbor barrier – first of all, it does not solve the many problems we just delineated here. So this is again, and I want to acknowledge, there’s a lot moving parts here, its complex. But one of the things Jainey said earlier, the original vision for Seaport City again well intended but missed a bunch of other factors. It looked at you know, a superstorm, didn’t look at torrential rains which we’re seeing more and more around this country, didn’t look at the ground water rising, a number of things that we’re looking at more and more that weren’t as evident six years ago, so point one. Point two, the barrier, if there even were a barrier out in the bay, it doesn’t affect all these other factors. It is one piece that could be very, very important but there’s a lot of other challenges it could not address. And I think Jainey can give you a flavor of that. The other thing I’ve said about the barrier and this has been brought up to me at town hall meetings in the Rockaways and other places is talk about something that would take federal money. Jainey, what is the latest estimate of if there were a harbor bay barrier, how long would it take to build? And how money would it take to build?
Director Bavishi: It would probably take 20-30 years, and it would take at least $150 billion.
Mayor: Right, so there’s a magnitude problem, just – that’s not a question of city funds, that’s not a question of private development contributing to – that’s straight up, it’s only if the federal government does it. But extremely long time, and $150 billion. I mean if it’s anything in that ballpark we should be doing everything else we can do in the meantime. But why don’t you speak to the specifics of the question.
Director Bavishi: So, we’ll continue to patriciate in the harbor [inaudible] study. We’re a partner along with the States of New York and New Jersey with the Army Corps of Engineers. They’re not just looking at harbor barriers; they’re also looking at shoreline protections not only in Manhattan but in other parts of the city, and the region. So we’ll continue to participate and see what comes of that and these [inaudible] processes will certainly talk to each other, we expect the Army Corps to be an important partner in the next of this Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency plan.
President Patchett: But a harbor barrier is primarily designed to deal with storm surge and not sea level rise, and again it would leave 20 percent of Lower Manhattan flooded everyday even if you did that $150 billion harbor barrier.
Question: So, this is probably for Patchett. How exactly would those deployable barriers work? Would the city have like a button that it pushes? Or like you know –
Mayor: Like there is a little red button and you flip up the thing and push it, that kind of thing.
Question: Yep. [Inaudible] developer who owns that plan?
President Patchett: No, no, it’s typically cranks, the way they are typically deployed, although the technology is actually rapidly evolving. I love that you call me Patchett, it’s like I don’t think I’ve ever met you before –
Although, I love you, great, thank you.
Mayor: Does that answer your question?
Question: Well, who would have – who would be –
President Patchett: The Office of Emergency Management is responsible for these type – as they are for deploying the tiger barriers that would go alongside the HESCO barriers which again you feel them up with water and place them in conjunction with the barriers as an interim of protection measure for this area and many other parts of the city.
Mayor: Okay, anything else on this? Go ahead.
Question: Will there be development allowed on the new land that is created? And back to the other question of when did you administration determine that the BIG U plan was not reasonable?
Mayor: So let me – to the development point again it is a little chicken and egg at this point. We want to get this barrier in place as quickly as possible. We know it’s a major undertaking. The immediate question is are we going to get cooperation from the federal government to speed the permitting as I said. That could make a difference of up to five years, and how quickly this could be done. That’s even before you talk about how you pay for it. In terms of how you pay for it, I strongly believe the best option is federal funding. We’ll certainly have some skin in the game, too. But the best option is federal funding, then you wouldn’t need to talk about private development. If there is no federal funding, if we are left to our own devices. We have to have an honest conversation about how we pay for something in this magnitude. Private devolvement might be part of that solution, but there will be a ULURP process with the community to determine what makes sense. On the others?
President Patchett: Again, we talked a little bit about this I think before. But just for clarity, the BIG U was about on shore measures and what we’ve determined is that on shore measures are viable on the east side between two bridges in the Battery, and at Battery Park City. On shore measures are not viable in the Financial District and the Seaport, because of the level of infrastructure that’s in the ground, and the need to go down to the bedrock to have barriers that are effective. So you would need to drive piles down into bedrock, and go effectively through both the Battery Tunnel, and the AC Tunnels, which is obviously not viable. So the engineering analysis combined with our nice science, which is what our report shows and you’ll get a copy of it, is it demonstrates what is the current science, what is the engineering feasibility of alternatives for this segment, this 30 percent segment of Lower Manhattan and it concludes that for that segment we have to build something in the water, that’s what we’re telling you today.
President Patchett: The date is today, that’s what we’re telling you.
Question: So if there is a development, if there’s this extension to the East River, and there are buildings on that, won’t those buildings then be vulnerable to flooding? Is there going to be a massive—
Mayor: No, they’re built. I can start as the layman. No, it’s all built then to be resilient by definition; it’s built as a barrier. Like, here’s a very simple way to think about. Rockaway Boardwalk used to be a boardwalk, and God forbid what happened, you know in the storm, in Sandy, it became a projectile that was thrown into the neighborhood and caused damage. It was rebuilt as a resiliency barrier onto itself and a boardwalk. So same thing, if you build any kind of buildings there, they are built for resiliency.
President Patchett: Yeah, and you’d also, it would be – the thing itself would be a barrier built to the height necessary to withstand sea level rise and storm surge as well as the building specifically having in-building resiliency measures to deal with it. But again, the goal here is resiliency not development.
Mayor: Okay, last call.
Question: Just back to the Army Corp study really quick because, I mean, environmentalist and some local officials see storm barriers as a non-starter –
Mayor: You mean the harbor barrier –
Question: Yes, the [inaudible] big one.
Mayor: The big one. I like that. The barrier out in the harbor.
Question: The barrier out in the harbor –
Mayor: Good, we’re speaking the same language.
Question: They view it as a non-starter and one of the things they mentioned is what you said about how it only – it doesn’t address sea level rise, it only addresses storm surge. So, do you think the Army Corp shouldn’t be looking at those barriers as a solution? I mean, are you against the use of barriers?
President Patchett: Our view is that we have to look at every possible option to address the issues of climate change. We can’t leave any options off the table which is what we looked at specifically for this area and what we need to look at across the city. As Jillian said, I mean, there’s not just about Lower Manhattan, it’s about every neighborhood of New York City. There are other parts of New York City that are just as complicated as the Financial District and the Seaport because they are incredibly low-lying like the Rockaways, and we have some solutions there but every neighborhood is complicated and we have to leave everything on the table.
Question: [Inaudible] anything – I’m not sure how big of a concern this is given probably there’s a lot of higher rise buildings, but in terms of flood insurance and the risks that people [inaudible] their flood insurance premiums going way up, is there any sense from the federal government – I don’t know if it’s too early to say – but whether these kind of mitigations could be used to lower premiums.
Director Bavishi: Definitely. So, many of the coastal protection projects that we are building now – so for example the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project – we are hoping to get that FEMA-accredited. That’s the plan so that flood insurance premiums in the area that’s protected by that project would actually – there would not be a requirement to buy flood insurance anymore, although we encourage everyone to buy flood insurance, because we would redraw the flood maps.
President Patchett: So, again, they are driven by what your – flood zone you’re in. So, once you [inaudible] it takes you to a lower risk flood zone which drives your premiums inherently down.
Question: So, if you did end up with a 500-foot extension out there and you end up with federal money to do it, are we talking about a park instead of development or what are you thinking, what was your –
Mayor: Gale will – have strong views. So, first of all, I want to put the 500-feet into perspective. That’s the length of the current piers. So, you’re in one way – a simple way to think about it – you’re just filling in between the piers and all that becomes continuous land. Lots of different options – a park is certainly an option but that’s also part of the community process and ULURP process. But it has to be – the number one thing it’s there for, whatever you do, is to be resilient and then you can think of any number of things that can be great for the city and great for the community.
Okay, last call for media on this – yes?
Question: What else?
Mayor: I don’t – again, a school, you can do all sorts of things. It’s a process – if you think about any ULURP process you listen to what the community wants, you think about different needs the city has, you put different options on the table. A park is an easy example, there could be others. But that’s a multi-year process that has not yet begun. Okay, last call on this before we go to other topics. Let’s go to other topics. Yes – fast with the hand today, Andrew.
Question: Two questions under the rubric of the presidential race.
Mayor: Yes, sir.
Question: Number one – what do you think of Beto O'Rourke, who announced he is running for president today? Do you have an opinion of him as a viable presidential contender? And number two – as to your own timeline, we know the line about not having ruled it out but in terms of when you’ll be able to tell citizens of New York that you have ruled it or have ruled it in, how tight a timeline is that? When will you have an answer?
Mayor: I’ll – I mean, I’ve gotten this question a couple of times. The answer is simple – sooner rather than later. Obviously, it’s a decision to make sooner rather than later. That’s all I got for you on that. On Beto, I don’t know him. I’ve never met him. I don’t know enough about him to form an opinion yet. Other people – yes, Gloria?
Question: Mr. Mayor, can we ask you about the Gambino family hit from last night? Any update that you can provide for us?
Mayor: I have no update for you. I – we thought those days were over. Very surprising but I guess old habits die hard. So, we’ll get more of an update in the course of the day.
Question: Can I also – I’m sorry – can I also ask you about – the New York Civil Liberties Union has a report out today looking at stop-and-frisk under your administration. I assume you haven’t read it yet but the main conclusion is that stop-and-frisk despite being down – the amount of stops – it still disproportionately affects black and brown people. Can you just talk about that under your administration? That question has been raised before – just your response –
Mayor: Sure, I have not read the report. Stop-and-frisk is not just down, Gloria, it’s down 94 percent. So, let’s put that in perspective. And the most important – I keep saying – the most important way to address disparity is to reduce the interaction to begin with. And you’ve seen that in many, many ways. Stop-and-frisk down 94 percent, arrests down 150,000 in 2018 versus 2013. I mean, I don’t want to be lost in this discussion that a huge, huge number of people who were experiencing disparity are no longer experiencing it because the numbers themselves are so much less.
But we have to keep working for greater fairness and equality. So, we do that through constant training of our officers, implicit bias training, and other efforts. And obviously, as we continue to deepen our neighborhood policing strategies we think you’re going to see more and more balance in the equation.
Question: An application for a rezoning in Industry City was pulled last week because of substantial opposition including a letter to the administration from – your administration – from Nydia Velazquez and Jerrold Nadler. And the City Council member for that area has said he would not approve it if it got to him. So, did you support that project and do you want to see it move forward?
Mayor: I’m going to turn to James because I will always be straightforward that I have not focused on the details of that project. But look this – this is about, to me, ensuring that there are jobs for working people in communities. And I understand why people are concerned about development and I understand that there’s concerns about gentrification and those are honest and those are real. But the irony to me is that this particular initiative was aimed at creating jobs for working people from the community and from surrounding communities which I think are part of what allow people to stay in their community. So, that’s the one thing that I can say. To the specifics – James.
President Patchett: I’m meeting with the Council member this afternoon about this topic and a few others. So, I look forward to hearing his thoughts –
Mayor: Very diplomatic.
President Patchett: Thank you. We have to support jobs. There are always legitimate concerns and I look forward to discussing them with the elected officials.
Mayor: Okay, other questions. Let’s see if there’s anything else. Yes, Rich?
Question: Mr. Mayor, so yesterday the Speaker said that he thought it would be very, very hard or nearly impossible to be Mayor of the City of New York and a presidential candidate at the same time –
Mayor: You’re saying Speaker Johnson?
Question: Yes. And I’m just wondering if whether you agree with that analysis or whether you think it’s spot on?
Mayor: No, look, it’s a very fair question, Rich, and I want everyone to understand this. I embarked on this path six years ago to serve this city and I take it as seriously as any human being possibly could. Everything we’re talking about today is about literally protecting our city from an existential threat. And I think about the needs of New Yorkers from the first moment in the morning to the last minute at night. I’m going to be doing that no matter what. But I also believe a lot of what we are facing as a city is really about a series of decisions that have to be made in Washington.
And right now, we’re nowhere near where we should be as a nation to address the concerns of urban America, to address the concerns of New York City. There’s no honest policy in place to fight global warming. There’s no real policy to protect coastal areas of the country. There’s no policy to address income inequality – a lot of the things I’ve been talking about that I think have to be addressed. And this city is actually coming up with a lot of solutions and I want to talk about those solutions and I want to drive the discussion to those ideas.
For people who do decide to run for office, that’s actually one of the better reasons to run for office. But as I said, I haven’t ruled anything out. It’s a decision that we’ll make sooner rather than later but it’s a decision that I would make with full consideration of what I think is in the interest of the people of this city. I could never separate that from the decision in any way, shape or form.
Question: So, you’re going to be Mayor and be a presidential candidate at the same time? I’m just getting back to the core of the question –
Mayor: By definition, look, all throughout decades and decades of history governors have run for president while sitting in office, senators – I mean, of course, people who have important jobs and busy jobs run for higher office. It’s pretty common actually. There’s a lot of demands here but as one of your colleagues the other day said – ‘Well, don’t you think we should leave the presidential field to people who are less busy?’ I said, actually, did you think about the implication of that point? Do you really want the next president of the United States to be someone who has a lot of time on their hands right now and doesn’t have a lot of responsibility and hasn’t dealt with big important decisions? I would say it’s the other way around.
Question: Mayor, in the sooner versus later situation, can you identify [inaudible] –
Mayor: Let’s see how we can parse further.
Question: Is March sooner [inaudible] –
Mayor: I’m just not doing it. I really admire your effort. I am just saying sooner rather than later. That’s all I got for you. That’s all I got for you. Why don’t you hold up like different number of days – calendar –
Question: [Inaudible] admire the persistence –
Mayor: I do admire every single time – every single time.
Question: Any plans to visit Hudson Yards as it opens up this week?
Mayor: No plans at this moment. Yes?
Question: There’s a measles outbreak – the Health Department said today that –
Mayor: You guys got range today. Okay, we’ve gone from Gambinos to the measles. Okay.
Question: [Inaudible] allowing unvaccinated –
Mayor: Say it again.
Question: Five additional yeshivas have been allowing unvaccinated children to come into school. There’s now an outbreak, which I’m sure you’re aware about. Are you looking into it?
Question: [Inaudible] Health Department doing –
Mayor: Absolutely. We’re very concerned about this. Deputy Mayor Palacio and Commissioner Barbot are working on this and we’re in deep communication with some of the institutions affected. This is not a good thing and this is not a safe thing and we have to convince people to do things otherwise because there could be much greater ramifications if this is not addressed. So, yes, our Health Department is all over this and we’re hoping for a resolution soon. Last call – once, twice.