Tuesday November 6, 2012

Lessons From Sandy Will Be Ignored By Bureaucrats Again

But will we learn anything from Sandy? As long as bureaucrats and not visionaries are in charge, probably not.

By Alicia Colon

All last week, we were inundated with warnings on how devastating hurricane Sandy would be to the Northeast corridor; the billions of dollars damage it would cost to lives and property. For once the warnings were not overhyped and the damages are estimated to be over $50 billion. Yet I am once again struck by the fact that even though we are in the 21st Century we are as unprepared as ever for what Mother Nature routinely has in store every year. There are simply not enough visionaries in the government sector to safeguard anything except their own reelection. What we need are persons with keen foresight like Kotaku Wamura.

Mr. Wamura was laughed at when he was mayor of the small town of Fudai in Japan and ordered the construction of a 51-foot-high gate. It cost $20 million dollars and took 12 years to complete but the grandiose construction allowed his small town to escape the devastation wrought by the March 11, 2011 tsunami. Towns to the north and south also braced against tsunamis with concrete seawalls, breakwaters and other protective structures, however they failed and over 25,000 people were missing or dead.

Let's be clear about one thing. Sandy has been called many things; a hurricane, a super storm, the perfect storm. But what it was on Staten Island was a tsunami. The shore homes were hit by the ocean coming inland in huge waves and wiping them out. Comparing it to Katrina is an exercise in the ridiculous because Sandy was a direct hit on the largest city in the country, one that had usually escaped the damages wrought by other natural disasters. The huge loss of life In New Orleans can directly be attributed to the negligence of city and state officials and a community totally crippled by dependence on the government.

Unlike New Orleans, New York City has tentacles reaching around the country and the world and when it shuts down, others are affected. Major retailers get over 20% of their business here and losses in New York City will impact everywhere. I was born in Manhattan and a hurricane warning for my neighborhood usually meant a flying trash can. The other boroughs were hit harder but never ever like this. Now for the past 34 years I am a resident of the outer boroughs - Staten Island - which now deserves its epithet 'the forgotten borough' in spades. For three days my family was without electricity and phones and we were the lucky ones because we are on a high hill and escaped the ocean that swept over the city's shore lines and crippled it.

Almost immediately after Sandy roared into town, the global warming crowd chirped in with their doomsday messages and none were more nauseating than our nanny mayor Michael Bloomberg who cavalierly ignored our misery while insisting that the five borough New York marathon go on as scheduled Sunday. The public outcry was so intense that the mayor was forced to cancel the race which, incidentally, only runners cared about to begin with. For most New Yorkers the annual marathon is a big pain inconveniencing the populace at large.

But will we learn anything from Sandy? As long as bureaucrats and not visionaries are in charge, probably not.

Every year our mass transit system that serves millions of commuters is crippled by the elements when rain and snow floods the underground. Train entrances should be shuttered when forecasts predict storms with automatic metal covers sealing up the stations. I'm not an engineer but surely someone could have dreamt up something by now. Commuters might be inconvenienced but it would only be for the duration of the storm instead of being shut down for days and millions of dollars expended.

Whenever we drive to Atlantic City, we pass towns that are quite close to the water and needless to say are prone to flooding every year. There are countless other towns around the country that are routinely flooded by the rising waters of nearby ponds lakes and rivers. An imaginative government would have invested in installing retractable seawalls or dykes along the borders that could be raised automatically when water rises to a dangerous level. The cost would be astronomical at first but compared to the annual costs of property damage due to flooding it would be worth it.

Remember the futuristic cartoon series, The Jetsons? It was set in the year 2062 only 50 years away and we are nowhere near the technological advances some creative cartoonist dreamt up. For that matter, where are our Leonardo Da Vincis who was centuries ahead of his time. He even came up with a design for movable dykes to protect his beloved Venice but that project was considered too costly by the bureaucrats in the 15th Century.

Another thing that confounds me is why haven't we come up with a road covering that can endure regular traffic longer than a few months? I remember when environmentalists would complain about landfills being filled with styrofoam and plastics that would take thousands of years to decay. Surely scientists could come up with some material that is sturdier than the asphalt we now use which crumbles every winter because of the salt, creating gigantic potholes that wreak havoc on car axles.

So have we learned anything at all in New York City about natural disasters like Sandy? Not with the current liberal environmental ideologues in office. Our nanny Mayor Bloomberg ("Let the marathon go on") turned down Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz' plea for the National Guard to assist in his devastated borough saying that he didn't want to turn it into a police state. "We don't need it. The NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns." The National Guard has been an essential help in the New Jersey cleanup but then New Jersey has a Republican governor.

Warnings about our vulnerability have been issued for years with no action taken. In 2004, the Storm Surge Research Group in Stony Brook University proposed large portions of the city could be protected by three movable barriers installed at the upper end of the East River near the Throgs Neck Bridge, under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and at the mouth of the Arthur Kill between Staten Island and New Jersey. The environmental militant Greenies like Bloomberg, Al Gore, et al, with their powerful funding would reject any major changes to the precious ecology and rant about carbon footprints and ineffectual solar projects.

Next year we will be electing another mayor and I hope it will be someone who is less interested in saving the planet than in protecting us from a planet that is trying to kill us.

Alicia Colon resides in New York City and can be reached at and at

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