Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants huge electrical transformers in commercial buildings hauled to upper floors and wants the ability to shutter key tunnels, airports and subways from floodwaters as part of a $9 billion plan to safeguard New York City from the next superstorm.
He also wants to require health facilities to have backup power on high ground instead of on lower floors or in basements.
The outline of Cuomo's $9.08 billion plan was part of briefing materials provided to The Associated Press on Tuesday. The plan is part of the briefing Cuomo gave to New York's congressional delegation on Monday detailing $32.8 billion in damage and losses suffered by the state and the city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city suffered $19 billion of that.
Cuomo, a Democrat, is forcing the issue into the traditional discussion that's usually focused on a request for federal aid to cover basic recovery after a disaster. He said Tuesday government must also take preventive measures to avoid future loss of life and billions of dollars more in damage.
"Why don't you spend some money now to save money in the future?" Cuomo said. "And that's what prevention and mitigation is."
The briefing includes what Cuomo considers the highest-priority prevention and mitigation needs. Further measures such as a sea wall to knock down hurricane-driven waves before they erode beaches and create a destructive surge into the city and on Long Island are being considered by Cuomo's NYS 2100 Commission.
Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican, said it's something that needs to be pursued.
"Now, how much we're going to get, we have to see," he said. "But I think if we can show it will save money, it makes more sense."
King said the hurdles in Washington include the coming fiscal cliff Congress and President Barack Obama's administration hope to avoid and other states that had disasters but didn't get aid to fend off future disasters.
Other cities have taken similar measures, such as a medical campus in Houston that has 100 submarine doors to cut off floodwaters, elevated subway entrances and flood gates in Bangkok and steel walls in Washington that can block a 17-foot rise in the Potomac River.
Cuomo is taking a chance on pushing for the unconventional prevention aid, particularly at a time when Washington is facing its own fiscal crisis. The federal government traditionally covers only the cost to a state to get through and recover from disaster.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat and a key to the disaster funding effort, on Monday said it won't be an easy task.
"This will be an effort that lasts not weeks but many months, and we will not rest until the federal response meets New York's deep and extensive needs," he said.
The more immediate priorities include $2.7 billion to elevate massive electrical transformers in commercial buildings. The record storm surge from Superstorm Sandy last month flooded a hospital and many Manhattan buildings with their electrical components in basements and on ground floors, contributing to power losses and delaying restorations.
Cuomo proposes another $5.8 billion to prevent flooding in key tunnels and keep saltwater from sensitive subway signal and power systems. Additional transportation priorities include building improvements to airports after LaGuardia Airport was underwater and closed for days.
Cuomo also would require secondary power sources for key health care facilities statewide and relocate generators to safer ground at hospitals and nursing homes.
The high priorities also include permanent protection for beaches, not just replenishing eroded sand. That along with better protecting Yonkers and Long Island sewage treatment plants is estimated at $407 million.