“A new reality, an old infrastructure”

Andrew Cuomo tells the inconvenient truth: New York, from now on, will have to start thinking like New Orleans

A few minutes ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a press conference (no video or transcript yet, but I’ll be happy to provide it later if I can find it) again gave a version of the line I’ve been hearing from him since last night: “We have a new reality, in terms of weather patterns, but we have an old infrastructure….  I don’t think anyone can sit back any more and say, ‘well, I’m shocked by that weather pattern.’ ” As Cuomo has been pointing out, the storm has caused events that were never envisioned, and that utilities, city planners, and private entities can’t be faulted for not anticipating (most damaging, saltwater flooding throughout lower Manhattan’s subway tunnels)—but that we must plan on becoming routine from now on. Lower Manhattan, southern Brooklyn and Queens, any place near the East River—these were not regular flood zones in the past. But they are now, and must be redesigned as such.

The governor has said he’ll keep pushing this. I hope he does. Against my inclination, I’m starting to side with Matt on this: given how far climate change has already gone, and how many interests stand against quick action, we can’t assume a climate future that resembles the past. But the reward to acknowledging climate reality will be (where local politicians aren’t climate deniers, and only there) urban areas that are far better designed to accommodate the new reality than they have been up to now.

Author: Andrew Sabl

I'm a political theorist and Visiting Professor (through 2017) in the Program on Ethics, Politics and Economics at Yale. My interests include the history of political thought, toleration, democratic theory, political ethics, problems of coordination and convention, the realist movement in political theory, and the thought of David Hume. My first book, Ruling Passions: Political Offices and Democratic Ethics (Princeton, 2002) covered many of these topics, with a special focus on the varieties of democratic politics and the disparate qualities of mind and character appropriate to those who practice each of them. My second book Hume's Politics: Coordination and Crisis in the History of England was published in 2012; I am currently finishing a book on toleration, with the working title The Virtues of Hypocrisy, under contract with Harvard University Press. A Los Angeles native, I got my B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. Before coming to Yale I taught at Vanderbilt and at UCLA, where I was an Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor; and held visiting positions at Williams, Harvard, and Princeton. I am married to Miriam Laugesen, who teaches health policy and the politics of health care at the Mailman School of public health at Columbia, and we have a twelve-year-old son.

3 thoughts on ““A new reality, an old infrastructure””

  1. Just a nitpick: Much of the NYC coastline has been a flood zone for a long time. But The Queens lowlands, Red Hook, the edges of lower manhattan. But people have built more and more vulnerable stuff there (e.g. housing). And upgrades that engineers have been calling for during (at least) the past 30 years have been put off endlessly. Hurricane Gloria flooded many of the same areas, just not quite as deep, and with a little more room to spread out.

    So it’s the confluence of changing climate and politicians ignoring everything that the builders and engineers have been telling them for a generation, because it would cost money.

  2. You’re not really siding with Matt until you’re putting out Chicago BS which doesn’t take into account the costs.

    And Mark, what I said was the simple truth.

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