November 15, 2012
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Commissions to Improve New York State's Emergency Preparedness and Response Capabilities, And Strengthen The States Infrastructure to Withstand Natural Disasters

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces Commissions to Improve...

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the formation of three commissions charged with undertaking a comprehensive review and making specific recommendations to overhaul and improve New York States emergency preparedness and response capabilities, as well as examining how to improve the strength and resilience of the states infrastructure to better withstand major weather incidents.

The recent major storms to hit New York State, including Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee, have revealed major weaknesses in the states transportation, energy, communications, and health infrastructures. In addition, the storms have exposed needs in emergency response capabilities at all levels of government and in the preparedness of the energy, health care, transportation, water, fuel, communications and other sectors. The three commissions, established today through Executive Order by the Governor, will help prepare and equip New York State for future natural disasters.

Over the past two years, New York State has been hit by some of the most destructive storms in our states history, causing untold damage and the tragic loss of many lives, Governor Cuomo said. Regardless of the cause of these storms, New York State must undertake major reforms to adapt to the reality that storms such as Sandy, Irene, and Lee can hit the state at any time. For this reason, I have charged these three commissions to seriously examine existing systems and present a comprehensive blueprint so we can bring our emergency preparedness and response capabilities into the 21st century and ensure our infrastructure is built to survive major weather incidents.

Each of the three commissions is outlined below:

NYS 2100 Commission

The NYS 2100 Commission is tasked with finding ways to improve the resilience and strength of the states infrastructure in the face of natural disasters and other emergencies. The Commission will be co-chaired by Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Felix G. Rohatyn, former Chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation.

Specific areas the Commission has been charged to review and make recommendations on include:

  • Strategies to protect existing transportation, energy, environmental, and other infrastructure systems to withstand natural disasters and other emergencies;
  • Priority projects to replace damaged infrastructure or to diversify or make more resilient our infrastructure;
  • Long-term options for the use of physical storm barriers and natural protective systems;
  • Opportunities to integrate infrastructure planning, protection and development into New Yorks economic development strategies; and
  • Reforms in the area of insurance and risk management related to natural disasters and other emergencies.

Co-Chair Judith Rodin is President of the Rockefeller Foundation. Judith Rodin was previously president of the University of Pennsylvania and provost of Yale University. Since joining the Foundation in 2005, Dr. Rodin has recalibrated its focus to meet the challenges of the 21st century and today the Foundation supports and shapes innovations to strengthen resilience to risks and ensure more equitable growth around the world. The Foundation accomplishes these goals through initiatives to address climate change in poor communities, strengthen global health systems, catalyze the field of impact investing, mobilize an agricultural revolution in Africa and shape smart, sustainable transportation policies in the United States. In addition to President Rodins leadership and expertise, the Rockefeller Foundation will provide both staff expertise and other assistance in developing the Commissions report and recommendations.

Co-Chair Felix G. Rohatyn is the former Chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation. Mr. Rohatyn is currently Senior Advisor to the Chairman and CEO at Lazard and the Co-Chair of the Governor's NY Works Task Force on statewide infrastructure planning and finance. He returned to the company after enjoying a nearly 50-year career at the company, both as Partner and Managing Director. He departed in 1997 to serve as US Ambassador to France under President Clinton, and went on to head his own private advisory firm, Rohatyn Associates. Mr. Rohatyn is a trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on multiple boards, including the Boards of Directors of Publicis Groupe SA and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy. He was chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation (MAC) of the State of New York from 1975 to 1993, where he successfully restructured New York Citys debt and resolved its financial crisis in the late 1970s. He also served as a member of the Board of Governors of the New York Stock Exchange from 1968 to 1972.

The State University of New York will also contribute to the NYS2100 Commissions work not only through the participation of Dr. Timothy Killeen, SUNYs Vice Chancellor for Research and an atmospheric studies expert, but also with the assistance of University of Buffalos Transportation Systems Engineering Lab and UB2020s Strategic Strength in Extreme Events, and SUNY Stony Brooks School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, two of the nations top research centers in this area.

The Commissions preliminary recommendations are due January 3, 2013.

NYS Respond Commission

The NYS Respond Commission is tasked with finding ways to ensure that New York State is ready to respond to future weather-related disasters. The Commission will examine and make recommendations to improve the planning, training and resource commitment that must occur before the next major weather event in order for the appropriate deployment of people and resources to take place during and after the emergency or disaster occurs. The Commission will be co-chaired by Thad Allen, Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton, and Admiral (US Coast Guard, Retired), and Brad Penuel, Director of the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response at New York University.

Specific areas the Commission has been charged to review and make recommendations on include ensuring that:

  • sufficient trained personnel can be activated for emergency response and recovery efforts
  • the health and safety of hospital patients and other vulnerable persons are protected during an emergency
  • the public is provided with reliable and timely information
  • every locality has planned and is prepared for a disaster
  • emergency responses are effectively coordinated across all levels of government
  • adverse events are rapidly responded to and post-emergency needs such as shelter, food, water, electricity and essential appliances are identified and met

Co-Chair Thad Allen is Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton, where he supports the firms work with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. He leads the development of thought leadership and client engagement regarding the future direction of law enforcement and homeland security. He is known for his expertise in bringing together government and non-government entities to address major challenges in a whole of government approach designed to achieve a unity of effort. Mr. Allen completed his distinguished career in the US Coast Guard as its 23rd Commandant. In 2010, President Barack Obama selected Mr. Allen to serve as the National Incident Commander for the unified response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Working closely with the US Environmental Protection Agency, DHS, the Departments of Defense, Interior, Commerce, and Health and Human Services, state and local entities, and BP, he sought to bring a unity of effort to response operations. Prior to his assignment as Commandant, Mr. Allen served as Coast Guard Chief of Staff. During his tenure in that position, in 2005, he was designated Principal Federal Official for the US governments response and recovery operations in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita throughout the Gulf Coast region.

Co-Chair Brad Penuel is the Director of the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response (CCPR) at New York University (NYU) where he also serves as the Assistant Vice President for Health Initiatives. Previously, while with Chemonics International in Washington, DC, he consulted on initiatives for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank. He has also served as a civil/environmental engineer for Gresham, Smith and Partners, in Nashville, TN. Mr. Penuel received a BS in Civil Engineering from Auburn University and a Masters degree in Urban Planning from New York Universitys Wagner School of Public Service. He is also the co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Disaster Relief (2010, with Dr. Matthew Statler).

New York University will also contribute to the NYS Respond Commissions work through the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness & Response and other faculty and staff expertise.

The Commissions recommendations are due to the Governor by January 3, 2013.

NYS Ready Commission

The NYS Ready Commission is tasked with finding ways to ensure critical systems and services are prepared for future natural disasters and other emergencies. The Commission will be co-chaired by Ira M. Millstein, Senior Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and Dr. Irwin Redlener, Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia Universitys Mailman School of Public Health.

Specific areas the Commission has been charged to review and make recommendations on include:

  • addressing vulnerabilities in the States health care, energy, transportation, communications and other systems
  • ensuring that new, modified and existing construction is resilient
  • ensuring the availability of adequate equipment, fuel, food, water and other emergency supplies
  • ensuring that first responders and other critical personnel are able to communicate efficiently and have access to adequate resources
  • ensuring the availability of reliable real-time information for decision-makers
  • ensuring that lines of authority are clear and officials have the authority to react rapidly to emergency situations.

Dr. Irwin Redlener is a recognized national leader in disaster preparedness and the public health ramifications of terrorism and large-scale catastrophic events. He and his team have developed major programs to enhance public health and health systems readiness with respect to disasters. He has written and spoken widely on the response to Hurricane Katrina, U.S. readiness for pandemics and the concerns of children as potential targets of terrorism. Dr. Redlener has also had more than three decades of experience providing healthcare to medically underserved children in rural and urban communities throughout the U.S. As founder and president of the Children's Health Fund, he is a renowned advocate for access to healthcare for all children. Dr. Redlener served as a principal developer and president of the new Children's Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx. He has been a formal and informal adviser to the president and various cabinet members since 1993, over the last few years working with key members of the U.S. Congress on disaster preparedness and child health access. In 1993 & 1994, Dr. Redlener served as special consultant to the National Health Reform Task Force for the Clinton White House. He has taught medical students in rural Honduras and has led or assisted in international disaster relief in Central America and Africa. Dr. Redlener has also created a series of direct medical relief programs and public health initiatives in the Gulf region ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Ira M. Millstein is a senior partner at the international law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, where in addition to practicing in the areas of government regulation and antitrust law, he has counseled numerous boards on issues of corporate governance, including the boards of General Motors, Westinghouse, Bethlehem Steel, WellChoice (fka, Empire Blue Cross), the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), Tyco International, The Walt Disney Co., the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority, The Ford Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, among others. In addition to his active legal practice, Mr. Millstein is Chair of the Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership at Columbia Law School. He was formerly the Senior Associate Dean for Corporate Governance and the Theodore Nierenberg Adjunct Professor of Corporate Governance at the Yale School of Management. Mr. Millstein, appointed by former Governor George Pataki as Chairman of a New York State Commission on Public Authority Reform, which led to the 2009 Public Authorities Reform Act.

Columbia University will also contribute to the NYS Ready Commissions work through the Mailman School of Public Healths National Center for Disaster Preparedness and other faculty and staff expertise.

The Commissions recommendations are due to the Governor by January 3, 2013.