Governor Hochul: "One thing I want to make clear: we're not treating this as if it's not going to happen again for 500 years. What we saw, the record rainfall that precipitated, the situation out here in Great Neck as well as what we've seen all the way from here to Suffolk to the five boroughs to Rockland to Putnam to Westchester, it was an unbelievable amount of rainfall in an incredibly short amount out of time."
Hochul: "We know how to build resiliency. ... Many of our coastal areas are in a far better place to be able to handle the wind and wave action. ... But what we're not prepared for and what I'm not satisfied with, what's happening on our streets at the higher elevations. ... The raging flood waters cannot be contained by the existing storm sewers and drainage systems, and then the flood starts going into our subway system. That's what happened here. It happened all over Long Island. It happened in New York City and our surrounding counties. That's what we have to address."
Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul provided an update on storm recovery efforts from Long Island and emphasized the urgent need for more resilient infrastructure to protect New York communities from storm damage.
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us as we continue our survey of storm effects and also now the cleanup and what I was just witnessing moments ago was an extraordinary effort by the incredible team literally a few feet away who worked through this morning and through the night to try and restore service here on Long Island and Nassau County and here in the Great Neck Station.
The Port Washington Line has been disrupted considerably and they are working tirelessly to restore the tracks so they are safe once again and they anticipate in the next few hours they'll be able to make some announcements on that timing so that's something I just saw, but I want to thank the incredible leaders who are with me here today.
Janno Lieber first of all - I've been on the job a week and we've already had some other shutdowns and disasters and I feel very confident in his leadership. This is not my first disaster. I have been handling these for many decades as a local official and a member of Congress and as lieutenant governor, but also the decades of experience that these individuals bring to it, so i have confidence in the MTA to get things restored.
Phillip Eng, the president of Long Island Rail Road who is working day and night to make sure we restore service to thousands of commuters.
Our Nassau County Executive Laura Curran who's been a friend and a partner through so many years and her great service to this community is never taken for granted. She's done an amazing job here as well and thank you for your immediate response in this in the aftermath of this incredible storm.
Senator Anna Kaplan, we were together in our State Capitol yesterday working on relief for our renters and landlords and had to come down immediately to be able to address another crisis situation.
Also want to recognize our Mayor Ted Rosen is here. Thank you mayor for joining us and the deputy mayor of Great Neck Village is here as well and I think I got all my elected officials.
What we saw last night was nothing short of unprecedented. I cannot imagine a community having gone through this before. In fact we were told it was a 500-year event. I'm not sure how they know that; I'm not sure who was here 500 years ago to tell us that but that is the scale we're talking about.
One thing I want to make clear: we're not treating this as if it's not going to happen again for 500 years. What we saw, the record rainfall that precipitated, the situation out here in Great Neck as well as what we've seen all the way from here to Suffolk to the five boroughs to Rockland to Putnam to Westchester, it was an unbelievable amount of rainfall in an incredibly short amount out of time.
We're talking about literally from 8:50 p.m. to 9:50 p.m. last night, a record shattering rainfall, at LaGuardia, JFK, at Central Park. Records are broken, but what is fascinating is that the records that they broke were literally set a week before. That's what we're dealing with now, my friends, so when we talk about how is this happening, people have been warning for decades that the effect of climate change and what it would do to our communities - it's happening right now. It is not a future threat. It is a current situation and it is the status quo.
We know how to build resiliency. We saw that particular here on Long Island after Superstorm Sandy. Many of our coastal areas are in a far better place to be able to handle the wind and wave action. I just was down last week in anticipating the onslaught of Hurricane Henri. I was on the beaches and I saw what we had done to build up.
But what we're not prepared for and what I'm not satisfied with, what's happening on our streets at the higher elevations. They're not able to sustain the effect a flash floods. Flash floods are now coming. It is not waves off the ocean or off the sound. It is flash floods coming from the sky. It was literally Niagara Falls here and I've been in Niagara Falls a thousand times. That's what the staircase looked like here. What we have to do next is to immediately assess loss of life and there has sadly been the loss of nine New Yorkers as a result of this horrific storm. And I cannot imagine a family that said good night to someone yesterday or saw them go off in their car and know that they're safe in their home to find out the next morning they're no longer with us because of Mother Nature and her fury. It is absolutely heartbreaking to fathom that experience and we want to protect human life as much as possible.
We also are concerned about the damages. A short distance from here the flooding in basements, people's most prized possessions washed away, family photos of their babies. I lost pictures of my kids when they were born in floods myself. I know how sad this can be. Our businesses have been affected.
So what I want to send to them as a message, what we're doing here on the ground is doing assessments and you'll get a complete report from our leadership at the Long Island Rail Road as well as local leaders in a few moments in the MTA. But my overall strategy is this: We deal with the immediate crisis. It's not quite over but we're getting there. We remediate to protect life and property, which is going on right now, which is why these incredible crews under the leadership of Anthony Simon and all of the transit workers at SMART are doing an incredible, incredible job. They're tireless and I'm so impressed by them. We deal with the immediate situation. Then I start asking the questions. Did we have enough warning? Did we let people know? Should we shut down subways earlier? Was there a breakdown in communication with the weather systems? Were we prepared enough? I am going to intensely asked those questions, get the answers, and when I get that, I will share that with the public because every crisis is an opportunity to learn and to improve and to be more prepared for the next one.
I've been to countless physical disasters, natural disasters, and so that's approach I'm going to take. That's in the short term. The long term is how do we get more infrastructure dollars to communities like this. And I want to tell you: I just spoke to President Biden in the last hour. I was with Senator Schumer. Members of the delegation. They are 100 percent committed to working to bring those dollars home to do long-overdue improvements to the areas that you don't even see. You don't even see on the street like this where it can be compromised when you get a flash flood situation. The raging flood waters cannot be contained by the existing storm sewers and drainage systems, and then the flood starts going into our subway system. That's what happened here. It happened all over Long Island. It happened in New York City and our surrounding counties. That's what we have to address.
That is the long-term answer to building up and the other long-term answer is doing whatever we can in our power to continue to fight that climate change -continue to transition to carbon-neutral energy to make sure that we're doing everything we can. And I'm 100 percent committed to ensuring that New York continues to lead the way in a clean energy future that will protect our environment. We have no choice, my friend. The future we spoke about in dire terms? That future is now. It's happening now. We're losing lives, we're losing property, and we cannot continue on this path.
So that is a sense of urgency that I'm bringing to this situation, and I want to thank everyone for attending. Thanking the homeowners and the businesses for hanging in there. I deployed the Department of Financial Services to bring out teams in-person to help people file their claims for insurance. I told insurance companies to get ready. I don't want delays. I want your claim adjusters out there meeting with property owners right now to get money to them.
And I also lastly, I want to tell you that President Biden assured me that anything we ask for he will grant, so we're doing our FEMA assessments almost immediately to determine the scope of the expenses that have been incurred by municipalities and state government as well as homeowners and businesses. We put together that package and I fully anticipate that will exceed the 30-million-dollar threshold in order to apply for FEMA funds and then the president said the second he gets it he'll sign it and make it happen so the money can start flowing to give us relief. That was the commitment I received from President Biden He said Kathy, whatever you need I'm there. So I will take that to heart and I know that he means that sincerely and I just want to at this time thank everyone again for coming out turned and I will turn it over to Janno Lieber, our leader at the MTA and thank him for everything he's done. A lot of sleepless nights. It just never seems to stop. I've always said sleep is overrated, so I'm sure you're going to be just fine. Don't worry about us.