As residents sought to clean up and assess the damage caused by catastrophic flash floods in the northeast last week, President Biden prepared to visit the hardest-hit areas of New York and New Jersey where he faced political ferment that is about the climate-related disaster.
The deadly flood from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which killed more than 45 people in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, has fueled the fighting that began with Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to slow climate change and protect the population Communities tightened. The floods are already sharpening the debate about whether city and country leaders are doing enough – even those who, like Mr Biden, are publicly advocating strong action.
Mr Biden’s trip comes as he and the Democratic leaders struggle to get Congress to incorporate measures to curb planet warming emissions into a $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill and funds to protect communities from disasters increase like last week.
Within hours of the downpours in the New York area, Mr. Biden had linked it directly to his climate agenda. In a speech he described the floods as “another reminder that these extreme storms and the climate crisis are here” and called for more spending on modernizing power grids, sewers, water systems, bridges and roads.
But some climate groups are blaming his government for including large new funds for building and upgrading highways in the measure.
In New York and New Jersey, advocates of stricter climate action are hoping the disaster will give new impetus to ambitious state and local climate laws and regulations and help counter opposition to even broader proposals like a city council bill banning gas heaters and stoves in all new buildings.
Kathy Hochul, the governor of New York, and Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, pledged to step up the fight on climate change as state and city agencies stepped up to help residents apply for assistance and file insurance claims close. However, some residents still complained that days after the flood there had not been an officer in their block.
Ms. Hochul said on Twitter on Sunday that she got 378 million back. “
Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and majority leader, said he would use the moment to add more extreme weather protection to the budget and pledged to support the state’s call for Washington to speed up damage assessments and federal aid. But some New York City residents pressed for more.
Dozens of protesters waved life jackets – each representing a New Yorker killed in the flood – outside Schumer’s Brooklyn home on Saturday, calling on him to come up with a $ 1.43 trillion proposal for a “Green New Deal” for public schools to support.
Climate and environmental justice groups said they would also protest against Mr Biden. Their message: The deaths – at least 13 in New York City and at least 27 in New Jersey – show that government action has been too hesitant to curb both the burning of oil and gas, which is driving climate change, and the Protecting people from the effects of climate change storms, fires and heat waves, which become more frequent and intense as the planet warms up.
Rachel Rivera, a resident of the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn who campaigned against a new gas pipeline there, said she wanted to urge not only Mr. Biden but also local officials to “stop both the pollution that is causing all of this” also to start financing the work ”. to get us to safety. “
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“It’s neither one nor the other,” she said. “It’s both. In every storm they talk big, but then they do nothing.”
Ms. Rivera joined New York Communities for Change, a group working on environmental and public housing issues after her roof collapsed during Hurricane Sandy. She said her teenage daughter still suffers from traumatic flashbacks when it rains.
Mr. Biden will visit the New York borough of Queens, home to the majority of New York City residents who were killed in the floods last week. Most of them drowned when rainwater poured into basement apartments that violated housing codes.
The president will also visit Manville, NJ, which recorded 10 inches of rain in the downpour on Wednesday, forcing the city to rescue residents by helicopter and boat.
Both New York and New Jersey were devastated by Hurricane Sandy nearly nine years ago, sparking new policies and grassroots movements to combat climate change. Ambitious infrastructure plans for renewable energy development and coastal protection such as levees and dune restoration have been drawn up. Public pension funds began divesting fossil fuel companies and passed laws drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But many of these projects remain unfinished, and more far-reaching proposals have not made it into law. Proponents of more ambitious ideas like the city’s bill to ban gas appliances in new homes are now mobilizing for a new boost.
This includes a growing number of local lawmakers, chosen on promises to adopt bold measures to curb carbon emissions and address issues and inequalities that have been allowed – in housing, transport, disaster preparedness and other areas – and the extreme weather conditions cause more deadly.
Small issues that may not have been noticed before the flood are already attracting new attention. A protest against Jenifer Rajkumar, a state lawmaker, was planned for Monday in Queens over a proposed parking space she supports in Forest Park, one of the largest green spaces in the district.
The official response to the recent disaster did not begin until Sunday. The police went door to door looking for people who were still missing. State authorities are setting up command centers in flooded areas to help people get information and assistance. The New York Sanitation Department collected storm debris and said it would reverse a plan for garbage collectors to suspend Labor Day.
On the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, Linda Bowman, another member of the New York Communities for Change, had to contend with a flood for the second time; her house had also been flooded during Sandy.
“I need help,” she said. “Don’t just talk.”