Mayor Michael Bloomberg said New York should lead the way locally and globally in tackling climate change and pledged not to abandon the urban waterfront, in a gathering to address the city's future after Sandy sponsored by Regional Plan Association and New York League of Conservation Voters.
Mr. Bloomberg was introduced at the event by an unannounced guest: former Vice President Al Gore, who called on President Barack Obama to do more to confront the threat of global warming and praised the mayor for his work to bring major cities together to combat climate change.
Saying that "dirty energy causes dirty weather," Mr. Gore lamented the lack of action on the environment by national leaders, saying it was time for the federal government to "wake up" to the dangers of global warming.
Mr. Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work on climate change.
New York's major infrastructure systems all failed during Hurricane Sandy, the mayor noted, as he promised to adjust the city's evacuation zones and harden transportation, power and telecommunications networks to better withstand future storms.
The mayor emphasized that there would be no "magic bullet" solution, saying many measures would be needed to confront severe weather and climate change. He said the city would work to update zoning codes to allow for taller buildings in flood-prone areas, incentivize large buildings and hospitals to invest in co-generation systems, and expand wetland and other natural flood barriers. Noting that new structures fared better in areas hard hit by flooding, he said the city will upgrade building codes to make homes and businesses more storm-resilient.
"We can't just rebuild what was there and hope for the best," he said. "We have to build smarter and stronger and more sustainably." Mr. Bloomberg also cautioned that tough choices would have to be made about how to allocate limited resources. "Saying we're going to spend whatever it takes just is not realistic," he said.
Deputy Mayors Cas Holloway and Linda Gibbs will lead a review of the city's preparedness and recovery operations, the mayor said, while Seth Pinsky, the president of the Economic Development Corporation, has been tasked with developing recovery and climate action plans. The mayor also announced that Marc Ricks, a former Bloomberg administration official now at Goldman Sachs and secretary of the board of the RPA-led Governors Island Alliance, will take a leave from the investment bank to aid the city in its recovery and resiliency efforts.
Watch video of the event