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New York City Allocates Nearly $300 Million Of Sandy Funds For Climate Change Resiliency Plan

On Friday, the City of New York allocated $294 million of Superstorm Sandy recovery funds for resiliency projects to respond to the threat of fossil-fueled climate change.

The announcement was part of the unveiling of NYC’s plan for $1.77 billion in Sandy recovery initiatives by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) at New York City Hall:

The City has set aside $294 million for resiliency investments to be detailed in a report issued by the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency later this month.

“HUD’s approval of our comprehensive Action Plan enables us to take the next critical step toward recovery — launching the programs for home rebuilding and business assistance that will rejuvenate the neighborhoods Sandy hit hardest,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway. “We’ll also take the first steps toward making the City more resilient to the impacts that we know climate change will bring.”

The sequester cuts reduced the planned budget for resilience from an original $327 million.

The New York City Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) was established by Bloomberg in November, 2012, with an explicit mission to address global warming:

When it comes to climate change, New York City has long been considered a leader in long-term sustainable planning, but Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call to all New Yorkers.

SIRR is directed by W. Seth Pinsky, the President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the quasi-public agency that supports urban development projects in the city, in close coordination with the NYC Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, led since December 2012 by Sergej Mahnovski, a renewable-energy expert. Goldman Sachs vice president Marc Ricks, a lead architect of New York’s sustainability roadmap, PlaNYC, took a leave of absence from the investment firm to join the SIRR team.

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The report “will present policy recommendations, infrastructure priorities, and community plans, and identify sources of long-term funding” in addition to the $294 million in emergency federal funds.

SIRR’s climate-resiliency plan is being developed in consultation with the New York City Panel on Climate Change, co-chaired by climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig and urban environmental scientist William Solecki. The climate panel has previously estimated that by 2050, New York City will face seven to 29 inches of sea level rise caused by man-made global warming.

According to Pinsky, the city is also “working with McKinsey and SwissRe to quantify the cost that climate change is likely to impose on the city in the future.” In a recent public presentation, Pinsky said that global warming is a “very serious challenge” for the entire planet:

We’re facing a very serious challenge, not just as a city, but as a planet. And that challenge cannot just be counted in terms of inches of sea level rise, but also in terms of dollars and cents.

The initiative’s team spent the month of March holding public community meetings across the areas of the city hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy. SIRR has also held close, private consultations with New York City’s powerful real estate developers, many represented by former Bloomberg officials.

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Reports indicate that the Pinsky plan is unlikely to recommend the construction of tidal barriers or a directed retreat from vulnerable coastlines, in line with Bloomberg’s desire to reject pessimistic implications of catastrophic and rapid sea level rise for the city.

It is unclear whether Pinsky’s plan will address the primary cause of global warming, the burning of fossil fuels. In addition to New York City’s direct carbon footprint, the global financial capital plays a central role in financing the carbon extraction industry, personified by New York City’s richest man, carbon billionaire David H. Koch. Any investment in climate resilience to protect New York City will be for naught if the city does not divest itself from the likes of Koch.

The $294 million in federal funds allocated by New York for climate resilience is equivalent to one-third of one percent of the personal fortune of the Koch brothers.