As residents rush to clean up the damage and assess the damage from the catastrophic flash floods that ravaged the Northeast last week, President Biden prepared to visit the hard-hit areas of New York and New Jersey, where he was will cope with the growing political unrest over the climate-driven disaster.
The deadly deluge from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which killed more than 45 people in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, has intensified the fighting that began with Hurricane Sandy in 2012 over how to slow climate change and improve communities. to protect. The floods are heightening the debate about whether city, state and national leaders are doing enough — even those who, like Mr Biden, publicly advocate strong action.
Mr. Biden’s journey comes as he and Democratic leaders struggle to get Congress to take steps to curb the planet’s emissions in a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and raise funding to help communities against disasters like last week’s.
“We need to take action,” Mr Biden said in a speech on Thursday, describing the floods in the New York area as “another reminder that these extreme storms and the climate crisis are here” and calling for more spending on the modernizing power grids, sewers, water systems, bridges and roads.
But some climate groups blame his government for taking in major new funding to build and widen highways in the measure.
In New York and New Jersey, advocates for tougher climate action hope the disaster will give new impetus to ambitious state and local climate laws and regulations and help overcome opposition to even more sweeping proposals, such as a city council bill to increase gas heating. ban 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 to tackle climate change as state and city agencies expanded to help residents apply for aid and filing insurance claims. But some residents still complained that there had been no official in their block for days after the flooding.
Mrs. Hochul on Sunday said on Twitter that she allocated $378 million in federal diaster funding to protect New York residents from the effects of climate change and would “work with local governments to identify and fix vulnerabilities so this level of damage doesn’t happen again.”
sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and the majority leader, said he would seize the moment to budget for more extreme weather protection, and pledged to provide support. the request of the state that Washington is expediting damage assessments and federal aid. But some New York City residents pushed for more.
Dozens of protesters branded life jackets – each in the place of a New Yorker who died in the floods – outside Mr. Schumer’s Brooklyn home on Saturday, calling for a $1.43 trillion proposal for a “Green New Deal” for public to support schools.
Climate and environmental justice groups said they would also protest Mr Biden. Their message: The dead — at least 13 in New York City and at least 27 in New Jersey — show that government action has been too lenient both to curb the burning of oil and gas that causes climate change and to protect people from the storms, fires and heat waves that become more frequent and intense as the planet warms.
Rachel Rivera, a resident of the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn who has campaigned against a new gas pipeline there, said she wanted to urge not only Mr. Biden but also local officials “to stop the climate pollution causing all this and get the job done.” fund to keep us safe.”
“It’s not one or the other,” she said. “It’s both. Every storm they talk big, but then they do nothing.”
Ms. Rivera joined New York Communities for Change, a group that addresses environmental and 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, which is home to the majority of New York City residents who died in the floods last week. Most of them drowned when rainwater poured into basement apartments that violated housing regulations.
The president will also visit Manville, NJ, where 10 inches of rain fell in Wednesday’s downpour, 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 tackle climate change. Ambitious infrastructure plans were designed for the development of renewable energy and coastal protection such as sea defenses and dune restoration. Public pension funds began to divest from fossil fuel companies and laws were passed requiring sharp cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
But many of those projects remain unfinished, and even more sweeping proposals have failed to become law. Supporters of the more ambitious ideas, such as the city bill to ban gas-fired appliances in new homes, are now mobilizing for a new impetus.
They include a growing number of local legislators who has chosen on promises to take bold action to curb carbon emissions and tackle problems and inequalities that have been allowed to fester — in housing, transportation, disaster preparedness and others — and make extreme weather more deadly.
Minor problems that may have gone unnoticed before the floods are already attracting new attention. A protest was planned before Monday in Queens against Jenifer Rajkumar, a state legislator, over a proposed parking lot she backs in Forest Park, one of the borough’s largest green spaces.
The official response to the latest disaster did not begin until Sunday. The police went door to door looking for people who were still missing. Government agencies are setting up command centers in flooded neighborhoods to help people get information and help. The New York Sanitation Department collected storm waste and said it would roll back a plan for garbage collectors to take Labor Day off.
On the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, Linda Bowman, another New York Communities for Change member, experienced a second flood; her house was also flooded during Sandy.
“I need help,” she said. “Don’t just talk.”