After Hurricane Ida’s historic lashing of New York City this month delivered a wake-up call on the perils of global warming, the overwhelming favorite in the city’s mayoral race, Eric Adams, poured new detail Friday into his plan to improve the city’s climate-change resiliency.
Adams, the Democratic candidate in the November election, released an urgent storm-safety blueprint that called for unified ceiling-height requirements for basement apartments, a flood of funding for public-housing infrastructure and the appointment of a climate-resiliency czar at the City Planning Commission.
As he announced his proposals outside the Haber Houses on Coney Island, Adams leaned into a decidedly old-school point in his plan: He suggested blaring emergency sirens to draw attention to coming storms.
“As ironic as it seems, I think we need to revert to the siren system,” Adams told reporters outside the public housing complex. “We have been inundated with notifications on our phones. Oftentimes we ignore that.”
Though Adams carried a 17-point plan to make New York City greener during the bruising Democratic primary, it offered few specifics on how to bolster the city’s storm-readiness.
The Brooklyn borough president rarely talked about climate change, focusing relentlessly on gun violence as he climbed to victory. His rival Kathryn Garcia was endorsed by the New York League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group.
But in the aftermath of Ida, Adams has pivoted.
“Mother Nature’s not going to wait on us for a 20-year plan,” Adams said Friday. “We never expected to see the Brooklyn Bridge flood. We never expected to see people dying in their basements. We have to adjust with the horrific state we’ve left our planet in.”
The city drew criticism for its flatfooted response to the storm’s remnants, which deluged the five boroughs with unprecedented ferocity on Sept. 1, turning subways into subterranean rivers and basement homes into death traps.
More than a dozen New Yorkers died, most in basement apartments. President Biden visited Queens to survey the damage. And public officials signaled urgency to prevent future repeats.
Curtis Sliwa, the long-shot GOP nominee for mayor, focused on clearing sewers and catch drains, saying that maintenance is sorely lacking. The stunt-prone Republican called on Hochul and de Blasio to visit the sewer.
Adams’ short-term proposals include a public education campaign focused on storm perils, a partnership with social media companies to create warning systems and an effort to uncork federal aid. He also said the city should institute a multilevel emergency system that will activate escalating responses.
The candidate has said he plans to visit the Netherlands to see how the country is handling the changing climate. Much of that country is below sea level.
Increasingly destructive storms appear to be among the most pressing challenges Adams will face if he assumes office, along with the coronavirus pandemic.
Discussing reluctance in the local COVID vaccination effort on Friday, the candidate urged a sensitive touch in handling hesitant New Yorkers.
“If a woman is expecting to have a child, and she has real concerns, we have to respect that,” Adams said. “If there’s real religious exemptions, that your religion historically has been against vaccines — you can’t all of a sudden create it now — but if historically that is what you believe, we have to respect that.”
Adams appeared to be creating space between himself and de Blasio on that issue, and others. The mayor has taken an aggressive approach to mandating vaccines and has been at loggerheads with city union leadership over rules around the shots.
Adams and de Blasio are longtime political allies and generally avoid offering explicit public criticism of one another. But Adams has signaled a markedly different posture toward business from the current administration, and he also seemed to split with de Blasio on his work-from-home policy.
“I believe there’s room to do remote work,” Adams said Friday. “Let’s put our toes in the water, then our foot in the water, and then two feet. And eventually, we’ll get back. But if you can do your job from home, I think this is a good time to figure out how to do that.”
The mayor ordered the city’s entire municipal labor force to return to in-person work this month.