Superstorm Sandy revealed significant vulnerabilities in New York City’s buildings and infrastructure networks. The storm displaced entire communities, stalled business activity, and shut down transit systems and critical utility networks for days. In the hardest-hit neighborhoods, some residents lost both their homes and livelihoods to flooding, while others suffered through utility failures that left them without food, heat or transportation for weeks.
Key infrastructure networks including electricity, steam, natural gas, liquid fuel, and telecommunications services suffered enormous damage during the storm. Power customers experienced service disruptions due to transmission substation failures, damage to overhead lines, and flooded equipment. Sections of the city’s steam and natural gas distribution systems were inundated, causing damage to generating stations, mains and lines, resulting in the loss of service in multiple neighborhoods. Liquid fuel distribution networks were disrupted by broad supply chain failure. Telecommunications networks were impacted by both flooding and power outages, reducing the ability of individuals, businesses and communities to respond to the storm or coordinate recovery activities in its aftermath.
Businesses in the city’s affected areas experienced not only physical damage to their buildings, but lost significant inventory and business-critical equipment. Many also sustained longer-term business losses due to business closure or relocation, lost or cancelled orders, and the displacement of customers and employees also recovering from the storm. Following the storm, the majority of impacted businesses exhausted their resources by making only the most necessary repairs in order to quickly get back to business. Not having the means to invest in resiliency measures, they remain vulnerable to future storms and other extreme weather events.
The need to invest in resiliency measures is not limited to those businesses that sustained flooding or service interruption due to Superstorm Sandy. According to the December 2013 revised Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), the number of buildings located in the 100-year floodplain has nearly doubled compared to the maps in effect at the time Superstorm Sandy reached our shores, suggesting that approximately 68,000 buildings could be at risk for wave action or flooding during future storms. Continued sea level rise will further expand these vulnerable areas – future storm surges could result in damage equal to or greater than Superstorm Sandy.
As a direct result of Superstorm Sandy, businesses located in this revised 100-year floodplain – regardless of whether or not they experienced damage or service outages – are evaluating whether to expand or even continue operations in these vulnerable areas. There is therefore a significant risk that the impacts of Sandy will continue to be felt in the 100-year floodplain and across the city as companies consider taking valuable employment out of vulnerable areas.
New York City is addressing these vulnerabilities by funding a variety of strategies to enhance the city’s resiliency, supporting not only traditional measures but also solutions that are new, innovative and cost-effective. RISE : NYC aims to support the implementation of cutting-edge solutions that will enable buildings and infrastructure networks to better resist, adapt to or bounce back from future storms.
Hurricane Sandy Impact on New York City
businesses in areas inundated by Sandy’s floodwaters
New Yorkers experienced loss of power
fuel terminals in the New York Metropolitan Area shut down for 3 days
buildings with impacted telecomm systems