By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The city needs to do a better job of preparing and responding to natural disasters, former comptroller Bill Thompson said after taking a tour of areas of Coney Island damaged by Superstorm Sandy.
During a visit to a Coney Island senior center on June 13, Thompson, one of the six candidates running in the Democratic Party Primary for mayor in September, outlined a series of steps he said would help prepare the city for the next natural disaster or terrorist attack.
Thompson said that if elected mayor, he would create a new post of deputy mayor for Infrastructure and Construction. The deputy mayor would be in charge of converting billions of dollars in post-Sandy federal aid into long-term city planning to upgrade power, sewage and telecommunication systems.
"We must plan - and act - today to prepare for tomorrow," Thompson said. "We cannot secure New York's promise of opportunity if some families and communities are left fending for themselves when disaster strikes,” he said.
“When I'm mayor, communities in southeast Queens, the South Shore, City Island, and southern Brooklyn will receive the same resources as corporations on Wall Street or businesses on Fifth Avenue," the candidate said.
Under the plan, the city would elevate substations, reposition emergency generators in buildings, and work to make sure there are enough back-up generators in the city. Thompson called for the building and expansion of sand dunes and the stabilization of sand dunes and beach shrubs along the Rockaways, in Jamaica Bay, and in waterfront areas.
His disaster preparedness plan includes the creation of a new emergency call system that would automatically route fire and life-threatening calls to local dispatchers in each borough, a move Thompson said would save time and lives. The calls would bypass the city’s Unified Call Taker System.
Recalling the gasoline shortage that hit New Yorkers in the wake of Sandy, and the long lines at gas stations, Thompson called for a temporary suspension of maritime laws that block barges from delivering fuel to the city. The plan would deliver larger quantities of fuel to the hardest-hit communities, remove trucks from already-strained roads, and help prevent the long gasoline lines experienced after the hurricane hit, he said.
Thompson said he would launch a new "Bringing Businesses Back" initiative to assist small businesses with insurance, planning, and resources before, during, and after disasters. His plan also includes using federal stimulus to lower the cost of renters' insurance for residents who live in New York City Housing Authority buildings, especially senior citizens and families on fixed incomes living in evacuation zones.
Thompson also called for increased support for families, small businesses, and communities still reeling from Hurricane Sandy.