Dame Magazine: Water demands a place to flow. In New York City, a place deemed a “concrete jungle,” however, rivers, wetlands, oceans, and other natural movement paths are unsurprisingly scarce. So when Hurricane Ida unleashed seven inches of rain in just a few hours over the city on September 1, stormwater rushed down streets, gushed onto subway platforms, pooled in Yankee Stadium, sunken highways, and basements—ultimately taking the lives of 13 people, 11 of whom died trapped in their own homes.
“It was absolute carnage,” said Anthony Rogers-Wright, the director of environmental justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
It’s not uncommon for this kind of pluvial flooding to disrupt life in urban areas like New York City. But none of the preparations city and state officials implemented ahead of the storm did much to soften Ida’s blow. The storm dumped more water in a short period of time than authorities estimated in their extreme flood reports and maps. Even the billion-dollar investments in flood protection after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the city nine years ago weren’t enough preparation. The old sewer system was just too overwhelmed to take in so much water. But unlike Hurricane Sandy, which overwhelmed places near open water like Lower Manhattan and the Rockaway Peninsula, Hurricane Ida showed that inland communities are at risk of flooding, too. Both, however, disproportionately devastated the city’s most vulnerable communities: its poor, its people of color, and its immigrants.
The brunt of the storm was felt in places like Hollis, Woodside, Elmhurst, and Flushing in Queens — one of the most diverse boroughs in the city and home to many immigrants. Of the 13 people who lost their lives during the storm, 11 were Queens residents in historically yellow or redlined areas that have seen less infrastructure investment than other notably wealthier and whiter parts of the city. Many, particularly those living in Southeast Queens, can attest to years of flooding and drainage issues only made worse by a delay or lack of infrastructure investment. While New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has made the most substantial and sustained pledge to address these issues, its efforts are no match for the pace and effects of a warming planet. Hurricane Ida is yet another extreme weather event, an omen of a rapidly accelerating climate crisis, the likes of which are bound to become more frequent, according to the National Climate Assessment. And New York’s roads, sewer systems, and buildings are buckling under the pressure.
“We need to prepare for everything,” said Amy Chester, managing director of Rebuild By Design, a nonprofit group born out of the federal effort launched after Sandy. “We need to make sure that we’re rebuilding our infrastructure and our communities in a way that [they] can bounce back.” Read more>>