January 2, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
The 25-member state commission tasked with prioritizing rebuilding projects in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is set to present its recommendations on January 3, and the results could have a huge impact on the kinds of new jobs that will need to be created.
"There's been a lot of damage, but the good news is that we're going to spend a lot of money to rebuild, which will mean a lot of jobs," Assemblyman Jim Brennan told LaborPress.
Governor Andrew Cuomo created the New York 2100 Commission just a few weeks ago in response to Hurricane Sandy's historic devastation. Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Felix Rohatyn, former chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation are co-chairing the group. Assemblyman Brennan is serving on the commission at the behest of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Other members of the commission include New York Building Congress President Richard Anderson.
Anderson didn't want to talk about the commission's work, but Assemblyman Brennan said that during the commission's initial meeting members talked about the creation of manmade barrier islands running from New Jersey to Long Island, as well as inside New York Harbor.
"The purpose of this is to look at the infrastructure, transportation, environmental protection across the region and evaluate what is needed to strengthen and protect our hardcore assets – bridges, tunnels utilities, roads," Assemblyman Brennan said. "And make things more adaptable to major storms down the road. It's something that needs a lot of thought."
Such barrier islands, already used in places like the Netherlands, would be designed to absorb some of the incredible tidal forces that the Tri-State area experienced during Hurricane Sandy.
NYC District Council of Carpenters Executive Secretary-Treasurer Michael Bilello told LaborPress that organized labor wants to be a part of any discussion about rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
"I think any rebuilding done by the water has to be designed to withstand this kind of a disaster," Bilello said. "When it comes to rebuilding, we can play a big role as part of the construction industry. There's a lot that certainly can be talked about in regard to design – and we'd like to be a part of that conversation."
In forming New York 2100, as well as two other commissions created to address storm readiness and responsiveness, Governor Cuomo said that the intent was to gird the state against future natural disasters on the order of Hurricane Sandy.
“Over the past two years, New York State has been hit by some of the most destructive storms in our state’s history, causing untold damage and the tragic loss of many lives,”Governor Cuomo said. “Regardless of the cause of these storms, New York State must undertake major reforms to adapt to the reality that storms such as Sandy, Irene, and Lee can hit the state at any time."
The prescription will cost billions – but Brennan indicated that the magnitude of the task should not supersede the need for existing labor practices to continue to be enforced.
"There's going to be a lot of construction jobs, and they should be unionized," Assemblyman Brennan said. "We should not be bypassing any current laws that assure that skilled labor, the trades, or prevailing wages are bypassed in any way. That's not an appropriate thing."
In addition to the potential use of barrier islands and other natural protections, the New York 2100 Commission has also been tasked with the following: prioritize projects to replace damaged infrastructure, explore opportunities to integrate infrastructure planning, protection and development into economic development strategies, and investigate reforms in the area of insurance and risk management related to natural disasters and other emergencies.
"I strongly believe that by working cooperatively and creatively we can build a stronger and more resilient New York that will be better able to face challenges in the future," Assemblyman Brennan said.