Superstorm Sandy ran up a $42 billion bill on New York, and state and New York City congressional leaders are preparing big requests for federal disaster aid.
The cost includes $32 billion for repairs and restoration, but also includes an additional accounting of $9 billion for mitigation of damage and for preventive measures for the next disastrous storm.
“It’s common sense; it’s intelligent,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of the effort to seek preventive work for the next storm. That would include protecting the electrical power grid and cellphone network. “Why don’t you spend some money now to save money in the future? And that’s what prevention and mitigation is.”
Cuomo said Sandy caused more costly damage than Hurricane Katrina that slammed the Gulf Coast in 2005, although Katrina had a far higher death told than Sandy.
He said New York taxpayers can’t foot the bill: “It would incapacitate the state. … Tax increases are always a last, last, last resort.”
The most basic recovery costs for roads, water systems, schools, parks, individual assistance and more, according to a state document used in the private briefing of the delegation and obtained by The Associated Press, total $15 billion in New York City; $7 billion for state agencies; $6.6 billion in Nassau County and $1.7 billion in Suffolk County, both on suburban Long Island; and $527 million in Westchester County and $143 million in Rockland County, both north of New York City.
Cuomo met with New York’s congressional delegation Monday to discuss the new figures that he said is “less than a wish list.” The delegation, Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will now draw up a request for federal disaster aid.
Sen. Charles Schumer said the unprecedented damage “demands a strong and equally serious response from the federal government.”
“Make no mistake, this will not be an easy task, particularly given the impending fiscal cliff, and a Congress that has been much less friendly to disaster relief than in the past,” Schumer said. “We will work with the [Obama] administration on supplemental legislation, to be introduced in the upcoming December session of Congress, that will set us on the road to meeting New York’s needs. 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.”
“It really is survival,” said Rep. Peter King, R-New York. “This is an emergency. This should be separate of all the debate about the fiscal cliff and everything else.”
King said he spoke with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who pledges to be cooperative in the finding enough disaster aid. He confirmed the new total provided by the Cuomo administration official.
King, who represents hard-hit Long Island, said combined effort involving New York, New Jersey and Connecticut is needed to extract enough federal disaster aid to rebuild and recovery the Eastern Seaboard.
“I am certainly going to do all I can to fight for this,” King said in an interview after a meeting with Cuomo and congressional delegation from New York.
“The governor is showing leadership here,” the Republican said. “He was emphasizing bipartisanship. We’re not Republicans and Democrats, we’re all New Yorkers and this is the worst financial hit New York has ever had.”
Schumer and King are both veteran and powerful members of their house.
Hard times were already facing the state and city governments which were staring at deficits of over $1 billion before Sandy hit on Oct. 28. State tax receipts have also missed projections, showing a continued slow recovery from recession that could hit taxpayers in the governments’ 2013-14 budgets this spring.
Bloomberg announced earlier Monday that Sandy caused $19 billion in losses in New York City, which is part of the $30 billion estimate Cuomo used.
“I’m always optimistic. I always believe that we’re going to win,” Bloomberg said, then wryly cited the city’s failed bid for the last Summer Olympics, which centered on a proposed stadium in Manhattan that would have been eventually used for the NFL’s Jets before the project was shelved. “I still think we’re going get that stadium on the West Side. I still think we’re going to get the 2012 Olympics. I’m always an optimist and never give in.”
The mayor is asking federal lawmakers to put up nearly $10 billion to reimburse government agencies and private businesses. That would be additional funding on an expedited basis over the $5.4 billion in standard disaster aid that the city projects it will receive from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“The city will struggle to recover in the long term unless expedited federal funding is supplied,” Bloomberg said.
That FEMA money and private insurance won’t cover all the public and private expenses from the storm, which included damaged streets and restaurants closed because of flooding, Bloomberg said.
“While the impact of the storm will be felt for some time and the challenges are great, I am confident that the city will rebound and emerge stronger than ever,” Bloomberg wrote to the congressional delegation.
The Cuomo administration has gained the public support of President Barack Obama and FEMA in New York’s proposal for full reimbursement for storm damage, but state officials have privately worried about how much the state can get at this time.
Other states are seeking federal assistance, too. FEMA has already paid out nearly $250 million in New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie says the preliminary damage estimate is $29.4 billion and could rise.
States typically get 75 percent reimbursement for the cost of governments to restore mass transit and other services after a disaster.