It’s been five months since Superstorm Sandy devastated the tri-state area. And now, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are working on preparing for the next storm. Congress has allocated some money for that purpose, but very little of that will go to Connecticut.
After the FEMA dollars are spent and houses and buildings are reconstructed, there’s still next hurricane season. And Connecticut has a lot of preparing to do. A month after Sandy, Governor Dannel Malloy said if the storm had moved just a little more slowly across New Jersey, we could have seen the same damage in downtown Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk that New York City had. We may not be so lucky next time.
“We dodged a bullet, but we’re going to have to harden this infrastructure," he said.
That’s why Congress passed a $62 billion bill at the beginning of the year known as Sandy supplemental relief. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut all presented a list of needs for funds that weren’t met by FEMA or other emergency relief money, and would protect against future storms. Now, the federal government has started to announce who will get how much. So, how did we do?
“Unfortunately in the Sandy bill, Connecticut did not get all that much funding for addressing some of these issues," says Rob Smuts, administrative officer for the coastal city of New Haven.
Out of $3.2 billion Connecticut requested, so far $70 million has been awarded. When all is said and done, it’s likely that Connecticut will get maybe a tenth of what it asked for. Smuts says New Haven was hoping to use some of that money for its most vulnerable coastline.
Now, though, he says, “the scope of it is not going to go all that far.”
The city of Stamford needs money to work on some pretty urgent projects as well. Mayor Michael Pavia says one of his priorities is fixing some railroad underpasses in the city that are over 150 years old.
“And these are primary evacuation routes. And they do flood, they flood regularly…we have had those bridges and the underpasses shut down probably two or three times a year," Pavia says.
The price tag on that project: At least $200 million. And that’s probably as much as the whole state will get overall from the Sandy supplemental relief bill. So clearly, additional money will have to come from other sources. Tim Sheehan is director of Norwalk’s redevelopment agency, which is chasing down private funds.
“The Robin Hood Foundation that we applied to, we just got $250,000 from them," he says.
But $250,000 won’t address big infrastructure concerns. Daniel Esty, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, says it’s not surprising the state didn’t get everything it asked for in a time of such need. New York and New Jersey need a lot more money, says Esty, because they saw more damage.
“I think we have a sense that our initial allocation is appropriate," Esty says.
Still, there were some differences in how the three states asked for the funds. New York, for instance, submitted a 56-page report to the White House detailing specific road and bridge projects that were needed; even money for sweatshirts for storm victims was in there. Connecticut’s request, by contrast, was less than a page long and didn’t name any specific towns or projects. Towns are now asking for some of that initial $70 million allocation; Bridgeport is requesting $59 million.
Read more in the Connecticut Mirror at ctmirror.org.