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Here's how NYC coastal areas can prepare for future storms: report

The Regional Plan Association proposes a coastal commission that will proactively manage tri-state resilience measures

Hurricane Sandy: One Year After Disastrous Storm Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

If Hurricane Sandy taught New York City one thing, it’s that the city was not prepared to tackle its fallout. Now approaching the superstorm’s five-year anniversary, only 189 of 500 houses that will be rebuilt through the city’s post-Sandy repair program, Build It Back, have been constructed, and some 13 percent of those who enrolled in the program have yet to receive any benefits. On top of that, the various systems and programs the city has enacted to tackle the effects of the storm have highlighted how bureaucratic red tape has disadvantaged progress.

With all that in mind, planning and advocacy think tank the Regional Plan Association has released a new report that calls for the creation of a Regional Coastal Commission for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut that would connect the states and municipalities to come up with a comprehensive framework to tackle coastal resiliency.

The report, titled “Coastal Adaptation: A Framework for Governance and Funding to Address Climate Change,” offers a roadmap for how the region’s different municipalities can band together under said commission to prepare for, rather than react to, the storms of the future.

As the report highlights, over the next 30 years some 59 percent of tri-state energy capacity, as well as four major airports, 21 percent of public housing units, and 12 percent of hospital beds will be in areas at risk of flooding. Today, about 1 million people live in areas at risk of flooding during extreme storms. That number is poised to double by 2050. In that same period of time, the sea level is expected to rise by two feet.

The RCC would be responsible for producing and maintaining a regional coastal adaptation plan that would be extended to all coastal areas in the region rather than specific municipalities; creating scientific standards that would lead development and adaptation projects in at-risk areas; and award funding for new adaptation trust funds.

In order to fund this endeavor, the RPA proposes a set of adaptation trust funds in each state that the report says would be “initially capitalized from surcharges on property and casualty premiums.”

The RPA’s proposal would effectively move the region from a cycle of waiting for the storms and the federal recovery dollars that come after them to proactively planning and instituting resiliency measures. As the numbers show, the time is now.

Head this way to read the RPA’s full report, “Coastal Adaptation: A Framework for Governance and Funding to Address Climate Change.”