The Tri-State Area is marking the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ida on Thursday, as officials emphasize what's been done to better prepare for future storms.
One year ago, relentless rain sent New York City into a state of emergency, as water poured into homes and subway stations and left vehicles nearly submerged on major roadways.
New York City May Eric Adams held a press conference Thursday in South Ozone Park, Queens, which was one of the neighborhoods hit hardest by flooding and storm damage.
"One year ago, Hurricane Ida brought the heaviest rainfall in our recorded history and flooded our streets, subways, and basements, and, worse, claimed the lives of 13 of our neighbors," Adams said. "Our neighbors were victims of climate change, which is bringing longer droughts, stronger storms, and heavier rainfall to places all over the globe, but we will not simply stand by and do nothing."
The city has undertaken several projects to mitigate the effects of future large storms, including 2,300 new recently completed curbside rain gardens across Queens and the Bronx -- just one part of the city's effort to install more green infrastructure projects.
Ida Lookback: Then and Now
The city is accelerating its plans to install better stormwater infrastructure that can handle Ida-level rainstorms in the future.
"Climate change is sending us weather that our sewers were not designed to handle," New York City Chief Climate Officer and DEP Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala said. "It will take time, but we will make New York City resilient to Ida-level storms through green infrastructures like rain gardens, bluebelts, and cloudburst infrastructure."
Thirteen people died in New York City from Ida flooding, and most were living in illegal basement apartments.
Since the storm, the city has taken several steps to create safer homes for New Yorkers that are still occupying basement apartments.
"Last year, we experienced a devastating storm, and our city mourned the loss of life due to unsafe, illegal basements," Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz said. "We must use this anniversary as a reminder that we can do more to create safe, legal homes for New Yorkers who are currently living in basements. We will continue working with the City Council to pass the 'City of Yes' Zoning for Housing Opportunity text amendment and with our partners in Albany to finally see successful state accessory dwelling unit legislation."
New York Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed a plan that would use more than $41 million in federal funding to rebuild infrastructure in flood-prone areas.
Meantime, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy addressed the effects Hurricane Ida had on many parts of the state, with widespread flooding destroying several neighborhoods.
Thirty people died in New Jersey, with record rainfall reaching more than 10 inches in some areas.
"We're not yet done putting back together what Ida tore to shreds, as I said, but today we're ready to move forward to complete the job of repairing and preparing," Murphy said. "And together we will get there."
Over the past year, over $650 million has been put back into communities that are still rebuilding after the storm.
Murphy announced an additional $283 million HUD Community Development Block Grant, which will help the hardest hit homeowners restore their homes and supplement renal housing costs for low-income families.
Owners of rental properties will also receive a zero-interest forgivable loan to make repairs to their units.
In Cresskill, students are finally going back to their high school and middle school after Ida inundated the school with 3 feet of water, thanks to a $21 million referendum to repair them. They money mostly went to new boilers, vents and energy recovery units.
FEMA will eventually pay for about 90% of the cleanup tab.
While the auditorium is not yet ready, most of the classrooms are prepared to welcome students for the first time in two years after Ida's destruction came on the heels of the buildings being closed due to COVID.
Superintendent Michael Burke welcomed teachers back in the building Thursday for the first time since March of 2020. They taught 1,100 students remotely and at local churches all of last year.
The final touches -- laying down safety tread, buffing the floor and cleaning the blackboards -- were an all-hands-on-deck effort.
Going forward, no New Jersey school will need to wait for emergency funding the next time this devastation happens.
Students heading back to class Tuesday will be met with a "return to normalcy" celebration including a ribbon cutting and a marching band.
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