Problems Without Practical Solutions - 27 East


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Problems Without Practical Solutions

Number of images 2 Photos
Dorothy Nigro's photo of "The Nigro Rose Garden" won Best in Show and first place in the Rose Garden Class.       DOROTHY NIGRO

Dorothy Nigro's photo of "The Nigro Rose Garden" won Best in Show and first place in the Rose Garden Class. DOROTHY NIGRO

Improper ventilation caused this mold growth on attic rafters. COURTESY BRAD SLACK

Improper ventilation caused this mold growth on attic rafters. COURTESY BRAD SLACK KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA


Living Green

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: Jan 21, 2013

It’s been a few months since Hurricane Sandy tore through the northeast, and in many parts of New York and New Jersey the cleanup has barely begun.

As I looked through the pictures of the destroyed neighborhoods, flooded cars, displaced people, one thing has been continually ringing in my mind: it’s obvious that we have to rebuild and get these people back into their homes, but what exactly are we going to rebuild so that when the next hurricane passes through, we don’t look like fools having rebuilt exactly what failed this time. Are we going to put finished basements back into the Rockaways? Does it make sense to have living space two, three and four feet above sea level along the Jersey coast? Are underground parking garages really practical in Tribeca?

It’s obvious that in light of Sandy, Irene and Katrina we are living in a different climactic era than the times in which these houses were built. What may have seemed sensible when the hammers were set to work to erect these buildings no longer seems prudent considering the climactic times that are upon us.

The problem this realization brings with it is how do we get the displaced people back into their homes immediately, while avoiding the same pitfalls that befell what was destroyed? Its obvious that the local building codes will need to be amended to not only protect the residents from future perils, but also the taxpayer from having to fund cleanups and the insurance companies from having to rebuild properties that were built in areas and manners now deemed perilous.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the liberty of time to research and change the local building codes to ensure against similar future disasters. This is a serious dilemma as it seems that the billions of dollars of emergency aid money being spent on rebuilding right now, while going toward the good cause of getting people back into their homes, is actually money being wasted if the next storm proves to be as catastrophic as Sandy. While much of this money is actually derived from taxes, this waste will prove a serious burden to the average taxpayer in the years to come.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his State of the State Address, mentioned increased preparedness. I agree wholeheartedly. He specifically mentioned the changing of the local building codes, which is the only way to effectively govern the situation and avoid all that I mentioned above.

But this in itself creates an entirely new problem: How can we impose new building restrictions, and even go so far as to forbid building on parcels of land that have been previously improved and enjoyed by the owners for generations? Surely it’s not fair to impose the inherent financial implications this rezoning will cause upon the innocent taxpayers/homeowners? On the flip side, how can the rest of the taxpayers shoulder the burden for the obvious shortsightedness of rebuilding flawed structures in perilous situations?

One solution that has come to mind is similar to the situation with the recent bailout funds that we have gotten accustomed to hearing about. Basically a payout to all of the endangered property owners that purchases the land for state purposes as parkland or open space. The property owners could then use the money to relocate or build elsewhere.

Obviously this amount would be significantly greater than the money required to rebuild, but would not have the risks of re-disaster attached.

As the governor highlighted in his speech, changes have to be made that protect all of us—both physically and financially—from seemingly unavoidable future natural disasters. It’s a good time to hear as many broad-stroke plans as plans that deal with the current crises on the ground. Attention must be given to the problem at every level.

I’m certain you’ll be hearing a lot about this issue over the coming months, especially as the dollar amounts being spent to rebuild increase.

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