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BY T. SCHOEN | Borough President Scott Stringer recently gave his State of the Borough address, but maybe it should have been called the State of the East River Shoreline, since that was one of its major points.
The speech’s most prevalent topic was Hurricane Sandy, the so-called superstorm that disrupted many of the city’s services, and left thousands of New Yorkers homeless, hungry and destitute for four to five days and, in some cases, far longer. In response to the hurricane, Stringer announced a plan called the East River Blueway Plan.
Composed jointly by Stringer and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, the proposal is an outline of methods to help prevent future storms from causing destruction on the level of Sandy again. Among the methods proposed is the construction of artificial wetlands along the East River shore. Wetlands like this naturally act as a buffer against powerful storms and the dangerous surges they produce. Using marshlands for this purpose is not a new concept: In New Orleans the restoration of protective wetlands around the city has become a significant aspect of hurricane-based disaster prevention. Stringer’s description of the idea suggests a future renovation of the shoreline beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, converting it into “an active waterfront destination that also fortifies the shoreline.” This area could be a popular spot accessible by kayakers, for example, Stringer offers.
Additionally, Stringer proposed an installation, a “new, green pedestrian bridge that can also serve as a sturdy flood barrier,” which would be built along the shoreline by the 14th St. Con Ed facility. Con Ed’s East Village power plant was severely damaged by powerful storm surges during the hurricane, plunging Manhattan south of the 30s into darkness for over a week. The bridge / barrier structure would help prevent the same type of extensive blackout from occurring a second time. Stringer hopes that the Blueway plan will ultimately serve as a “model for regional planning and engagement” against such violent storms.
The borough president also mentioned his deep concern over the state of the city’s middle class, which struggles more and more to survive, and which, according to Stringer, is an essential part of ensuring the success and well-being of the city.
“Without a strong middle class, New York ceases to be New York,” he stated.
Stringer suggested that a possible solution to the middle class’s decline lies in the ever-growing tech industry.
“Starting salaries in the new tech-economy can begin at $65,000 a year and rise quickly from there,” he said. “It should be the ladder up for so many of our residents.”
He also mentioned his concern for the state of early education in New York, citing concerns over the lack of attention given to what he considers a highly relevant program.
“We know that children up to 3 years old enrolled in programs like Early Head Start are much more likely to stay ahead,” he said. “And yet, we invest almost nothing in these early years.”
To help such programs, he suggested that the use of a system called “Social Impact Bonds,” which would “allow private investors to fund public programs.”
Also on the topic of education, he stated that there must be an increase in “efforts to link schools to the workplace.”