Vice President Joe Biden traveled to the state Capitol on Tuesday, where he heard a presentation from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on his plan to use federal disaster aid to make the state’s infrastructure more weather resistant.
Biden’s motorcade arrived at the Capitol around 11:30 a.m. before he entered the ceremonial Red Room, where Cuomo detailed the state’s intention to significantly bolster its weather-detection system, retrofit the New York City subway system and establish a state college dedicated to emergency preparedness.
The vice president offered praise for New York’s plan, which he said emphasizes rebuilding in a way that will help prevent damage from future storms. The plan relies on federal funds that were approved by Congress last January, after New York and other eastern states were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy.
“We have to rebuild in a way that you cannot be victimized by a similar storm again,” Biden said. “Because if we don’t, then we’re wasting money.”
Cuomo’s plan includes a total of 1,000 projects at a cost of $16 billion, which will largely be paid for by federal funds.
In all, Congress approved about $60 billion in post-Sandy emergency aid. So far, $12 billion has been dispersed, with $6 billion going to New York, according to Biden.
Cuomo’s plan would boost the number of weather stations across the state to 125, up from the current 27. The stations are used to inform the National Weather Service.
The governor expressed frustration with the state’s current system, which he said has been inaccurate at times and has led his administration to send resources to parts of the state that ultimately weren’t hit with severe weather.
“We want to have the best weather detection system in the country,” Cuomo said. “It is essential that we have this kind of information and we believe it will save lives and protect property.”
Cuomo also said he wants to create the SUNY College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cyber Security, a school dedicated to responding to disasters that Cuomo said would be the first of its kind.
In New York City, Cuomo said the state will work to develop a system that will allow it to quickly seal off the city’s more than 500 subway tunnels in the event of an emergency. Many tunnels in lower Manhattan were flooded by Sandy, causing major damage to the mass-transit system.
In upstate New York, Cuomo said he wants to spend some of the federal funds to rebuild or replace 100 bridges to make them more flood-resistant, including one on Route 26 in Whitney Point, Broome County. Much of the state’s Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley suffered significant damage in 2011 from tropical storms Lee and Irene.
Biden said spending on infrastructure creates “economic growth” and “middle-class jobs.” President Barack Obama is calling for an extra $50 billion in infrastructure spending, Biden said.
“The governor knows that we not only have to re-imagine New York for a New York reality, we have to re-imagine America for an American reality,” Biden said. “And the reality is we have to get back on our game.”