OCEANSIDE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) said the state – and particularly Long Island – have come a long way since Superstorm Sandy hit the area five years ago Sunday.
“We survived Sandy,” Cuomo said as he appeared with Schumer in Oceanside, Long Island. “We built back stronger than ever before. We worked together. Senator Schumer got the federal government to deliver. The county – Nassau, Suffolk; the state all worked together – and we built back a better Long Island.”
Schumer added, “We always knew Long Island would come back because of the spirit and toughness and strength and love of this beautiful area, and that’s what happened. It’s amazing how things have turned around.”
Schumer said Long Island did not just rebuild, but rebuilt better and stronger so that everything would not risk being damaged or swept away again in the event of another hurricane or superstorm.
“We said, ‘We’re not just going to rebuild.’ In the past, FEMA would just want to rebuild exactly what was there, and God forbid there’s another flood; another Sandy in the way – it would all go again,” Schumer said. “So we had to change the way FEMA worked, and said: ‘No, no, no – we’re going to build better and more resilient. We’re not just going to put the same stuff back.’ And we did.”
He said homes have been elevated, roads are being built stronger, a program for shoreline protection all the way through suburban Long Island is in place, and a new boardwalk has been built at Long Beach – all using federal dollars.
“We learned to build with resiliency, and put homes on piers, and buildings on piers. We learned to set up fuel reserves. We learned to have backup generators where we need them. We now have backup generators at all the key gas stations on Long Island. We learned to make our power grid more resilient,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo took issue with anyone who might deny climate change – saying Sandy and other major storms serve as proof.
“To deny climate change is to deny science is to deny reality. I mean, how much more proof do you want – one year after the other, every year hotter, the worst hurricanes, highest numbers of hurricanes. Let’s put it this way – either there’s climate change, or Mother Nature’s having a nervous breakdown, OK?” he said.
Meanwhile, Schumer took a jab at Texas for fighting against federal money for Sandy relief – but said New Yorkers now stand with Texas and other states and territories that have been devastated by storms this year.
“We said to our dear friends in the Texas delegation, who led the fight against Sandy money and voted against Sandy money – we’re not going to do the same to you. We’re Americans. We’re New Yorkers. When any area’s hurt, we stand up for that area that is hurt, no matter where they are,” Schumer said. “And I want to say to my colleagues, that also means Puerto Rico today, as well as Texas and Florida.”
When Superstorm Sandy hit nearly five years ago, it was considered a 500-year storm. But experts now say a similar storm could strike in the next 20 years.
Cuomo on Sunday also announced a $354 million state project to improve the water quality on the Western Bays of Long Island. The plan will diverted treated waste from the Bay Park Wastewater Treatment plant through an abandoned aqueduct near Sunrise Highway to the existing Cedar Creek Outfall – which diffuses treated sewage to the Atlantic Ocean.
The project will prevent the discharge of 19 billion gallons of sewage into the warm, shallow Western Bays every year, Cuomo’s office said. Cuomo said the project represented another effort toward building back after Sandy.