Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New York City Proposals For Change After Sandy

In the wake of Sandy, the New York City Council is considering sweeping changes to zoning laws, building codes, and other regulatory initiatives to prevent the disruption caused by this storm.  In the weeks and months ahead there will be hearings and proposed legislation to make changes to how buildings are built in NYC. 

As reported in Law360, Council members made several suggestions for new legislation to determine the feasibility of relocating power lines underground, adopt the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood elevation maps and strengthen flood-proofing requirements for buildings in vulnerable areas and health care facilities.

One suggested bill, proposed by Council Member Sara Gonzalez, would change the city's building code to match with those at the national and state levels when it comes to construction requirements meant to deter flooding.  Gonzalez's bill would raise elevation requirements for buildings in flood zones, requiring that their boilers and other critical equipment be kept above ground level. It would also create stricter construction standards for buildings in Zone A, the area closest to the waterfront where property is most vulnerable to flooding.  Other suggestions include locating power lines underground (this would help in the outlining boroughs where power lines were felled when trees came down) and requiring hospitals to have critical systems on floors above ground level.

Many of these suggestions mirror suggestions made in Florida and Louisiana and other Gulf states over the years.  By making changes like these, disruption can be lessened and insurable losses will be less.  It will be interesting to see how the debate goes and whether the will to make significant changes in light of Sandy stands firm in the face of what surely will be opposition to these changes.


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