Advocates and officials are rethinking New York's infrastructure in the wake of devastating flooding. And while climate change is a global problem, it's one with statewide reprecussions for New York after storms have led to damaging floods around the state.
"We've had these massive storms that have hit Long Island, they've hit the Adirondacks, they've hit the Capital Region," said Jessica Ottney Mahar, the New York policy and strategy director of the Nature Conservancy.
Flash flooding like the damage seen last week in the Hudson Valley and New York City will only get worse as the climate changes and as the infrastructure in place for water and sewer systems is not built to withstand it. Officials from Gov. Kathy Hochul to President Joe Biden have framed the issue too as one that boosts construction jobs in the process.
Hochul has been in support of spending for these projects so the state's infrastructure can withstand future flooding.
"There's work going on across the state to do things like upgrade our transportation infrastructure, our culverts, which are our pipes that flow beneath our roadways, so they can handle more water," Mahar said.
Now advocates and state officials are calling for even more major upgrades to infrastructure in order to withstand the kind of flash flooding seen last week.
"As we rebuild these things, we have $80 billion worth of need for water system upgrades in New York state," she said. "So we can't just put it back the way we found it. We need to improve it for the future."
Money is already expected from the federal government, and voters next year will consider a $3 billion bond act to upgrade water and sewer systems — hidden infrastructure that is nonetheless crucial.
"It's not enough. we need more, and we have enough to get started," Mahar said. "So we need to get on the case right away."
The price tag is a steep one, but Mahar says the cost of inaction is even higher: More flooding, more property damaged, and more lives lost.
"It's an abstract problem," Mahar said. "It's something off into the future. And then we see events like we saw last week, which are very concrete predictions of our future."