NYC Leaves Billions in Sandy Aid Unspent, Adding to Risks

New York City has only spent 54% of the $14.7 billion in already-approved U.S. funds for recovery and storm-protection following 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, according to city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

The unspent money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development could be used to protect public housing and hospitals and fund large-scale engineering proposals to safeguard low-lying vulnerable neighborhoods such as Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay and Breezy Point, according to a report issued Thursday.

“Six years after Sandy hit, we still haven’t fully recovered and many of the city’s homes, businesses, schools and hospitals remain dangerously exposed to the next storm,” said Stringer, who’s been fundraising toward a possible 2021 mayoral candidacy. “Safeguarding our shorefront is not a priority we can kick down the road.”

Jainey Bavishi, director of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, denied the existence of any spending lag. Most of the federal money didn’t become available until 2015, she said, and is on schedule to be spent in future years, at a rate faster than the national average for disaster recovery, she said.

“The risks posed to New Yorkers by climate change are real, they are severe, and we are acting with unparalleled urgency to address them,” she said in an email. “Re-envisioning hundreds of miles of waterfront in a dense, urban environment, conducting robust community engagement, and constructing unprecedented, large-scale infrastructure projects are all complex, multi-year endeavors.”

In March, de Blasio announced a $10 billion plan to push out the lower Manhattan coastline as much as 500 feet, or two city blocks, to protect billions of dollars of property. Sea barrier boardwalks have been built in the Rockaways in southern Queens, and other measures are underway in Staten Island.

The city has about 500 miles of vulnerable coastline, in which about $102 billion worth of property is situated, according to Stringer’s report. The National Academy of Science predicts that by 2030, rising sea levels could place these areas at risk to Sandy-like storms once every five years.