Column: We need a Department of Coastal Protection

Recent storms have caused havoc for above ground utilities.
Photo courtesy Getty Images

Earlier this week I held a press conference at Edgewater Park in the Bronx to discuss two bills I had previously introduced on the topic of waterfront and coastal protection.

The first bill I had discussed, introduced last winter and awaiting its first hearing, would update an old study investigating the feasibility of relocating above-ground power lines underground, requiring the agency conducting the study to submit a report and recommendation to the City Council and Mayor’s office. As we unfortunately know all to well, aboveground power lines are vulnerable to outages in storms and severe weather events. This accounts for the immense disparity we see in power outages, which are often more than just mere inconveniences, between the outer boroughs and Manhattan.

Manhattan began moving their power lines well over a century ago, it’s about time the outer boroughs do the same. This bill is a serious step forward in achieving that goal —  seeking to create the most comprehensive report on the subject in council history — accounting for cost of implementation, infrastructural limitations and even will compile data on how storms tax boroughs with above-ground power in various ways.

The second bill, which I introduced earlier this year, seeks to create a first-of-its-kind, stand-alone city agency to be known as the Department of Coastal Protection. This prospective department, complete with its own commissioner, budget and mandate, will be tasked with protecting our coastline infrastructure from storms and all other events, informing the public about best practices. This agency would fill a much-needed gap, because as it stands, there is no such agency at the city level, and at the state level. The applicable agency’s focus is exclusively on storm recovery, not storm resiliency and protection.

For any further questions about this legislation, or concerns to be directed to my constituent affairs team, please contact me at either MGjonaj@council.nyc.gov or at (718) 931-1721. Thank you and stay safe.

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