Big New Infrastructure For New York

Christine Quinn is probably the leading candidate to succeed Mike Bloomberg for mayor.  She is relatively sane compared to the other Democratic candidates, and is thought to have Bloomberg's backing.  (Currently she is Speaker of the City Council, and represents our district in the West Village.)

Yesterday Quinn gave a big speech before the Association for a Better New York.  As reported in this morning's Wall Street Journal, she used the occasion to call for a major new infrastructure project to put some kind of storm surge barrier up across the harbor to protect the city from future storms.  She mentioned total price tags for the barriers and other protections in the range of $20 billion.

That's all very nice.  What she didn't mention is that New York is out of money for big infrastructure projects because we overspend on the things I mentioned yesterday:  public employee pensions, education and Medicaid.  Back in the days before public employee pensions and Medicaid, and when costs of the public schools were reasonable, New York City built the water system, the subways, the big bridges and tunnels. Today we're building two small subway extensions with a total of four stations, about a 1% addition to the system, with much of the cost paid by the Federal government, and even that is of questionable affordability.  Meanwhile, there are plenty of other infrastructure projects that should be built and aren't. They have been squeezed out.

So Christine, please answer the question, if you want to build these storm barriers,  how exactly are you going to get the existing unproductive overspending under control first?

One final thing:  The WSJ article doesn't say exactly where these storm barriers would go, but the proposals I have seen would run the barriers from the western tip of the Rockaway peninsula over to Sandy Hook New Jersey, and maybe another smaller piece across Hell's Gate to guard against water from Long Island Sound coming in from the northeast.   These barriers would protect Manhattan Island first and foremost, and all of the harbor waterfront in Brooklyn and New Jersey, and even Staten Island.  But they would not protect the barrier islands of either Long Island or New Jersey:  the Rockaways, Long Beach, Jones Beach, Fire Island, or the New Jersey shore.  In other words, of the worst-hit areas from this recent storm, really only Staten Island and Coney Island would be protected.

In the map below the pin shows the location of Quinn's proposed barrier.  All those Long Island beaches to the east, and the Jersey shore to the south, are left out.  Not that there's really anything that can be done to protect them, but we should realize what our money can and cannot buy.