After Ida, New York takes stock of the dilapidated state of its infrastructure

New York (United States)

From our correspondent

After heavy precipitation from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on Wednesday night, it’s time for cleanup and questions in New York City. Images of buses making their way through flooded streets or cascades of water pouring into metro stations have highlighted the vulnerability of local infrastructure. A source of concern for many elected officials, who fear that the city and its agglomeration, the most densely populated area of ​​the country, are not prepared to face the intensification of climatic phenomena. “Meteorologists say this kind of episode only happens once in five centuries. But the standards must be completely revised. We are in uncharted territory ”, warns Mark Levine, a city councilor. This maladjustment is not a discovery. During heavy rains, large puddles form in the streets due to blocked pipes. Indeed, 60% of the water treatment system is “combined”: rainwater circulates in the same pipes as the water used by individuals or businesses, which puts this system of 10,000 kilometers of pipes at thank you for heavy precipitation.

To make matters worse, garbage cans in shops and residential buildings are placed on sidewalks, without being stored in containers, due to lack of space and space between buildings. It is enough that the detritus is released from the garbage cans, with the help of greedy rats or strong winds for example, so that it clogs the sewers and adds to the problems of water flow. Another headache: the power cables of certain districts of New York and its suburbs are not buried, for reasons of cost, which increases the risk of blackouts.

The metro situation is particularly worrying. The oldest network in North America at the height of its 116 years, it has been the victim of underinvestment since the emergence of the car in the 1960s. The paint strokes regularly brought in by the agents do not fool anyone: some stations are dilapidated. When it rains, it is not uncommon to see water spilling onto the platforms or underground rails… Three days before Ida, an electrical problem had paralyzed several lines and caused the evacuation of hundreds of users. Twenty billion dollars, mainly from the federal government, have already been invested since Storm Sandy in 2012 in protecting the coastline. Since Ida’s visit, ideas for mitigation tools have been popping up among elected officials and environmental activists: extending green spaces to absorb rainwater, raising metro entrances, reviewing waste management, etc. Part of these ideas could become reality thanks to the plan to modernize infrastructures of more than trillion dollars on which the House of Representatives must vote before September 27.

In the immediate future, elected officials could decide to tackle another issue: the legalization of basement apartments, which are particularly vulnerable to flooding. Eleven of Ida’s thirteen New York victims drowned in these basements illegally converted into housing. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to strengthen the alert mechanism to reach tenants in these cheap apartments, often illegal immigrants who do not speak English.


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