Hochul, Biden tour Queens amidst storm damage, vowing to fight climate change

Photo by Don Pollard, Office of the Governor

Gov. Kathy Hochul toured devastated neighborhoods in Queens this week with President Joe Biden, who recently approved an Emergency Disaster Declaration for New York following the flooding from Hurricane Ida. 

“This is my second week on the job… and my third visit to this street, because we had an extraordinary circumstance, which happened less than a week ago,” Hochul said Tuesday. “The volume of water that came down in a one-hour period from 8:51 p.m. to 9:51 p.m. last Wednesday night broke all the records, and literally the records had been set 10 days before.”

Hochul is focused on helping build back from the damage, but she expressed concern that a storm like this can occur again in the near future. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, that is the definition of a climate crisis,” Hochul said. “We’re experiencing a climate crisis as we speak, but more than … that, it’s a humanitarian crisis.”

New York experienced its third-wettest July in recorded history this year, with a whopping 11.09 inches of rainfall, according to Spectrum News NY1. Furthermore, most of the observation sites that are covered by the New York National Weather Service all experienced one of their five wettest months in recorded history. These sites include Central Park, Newark, N.J., Bridgeport, Conn., as well as the John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. 

Legislative Gazette photo by Christopher Welsh

Hochul continued, “We’re also working with FEMA and the White House in our delegation to ensure that we get everything that New Yorkers need.” At her request, FEMA will work with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to assess the damages caused by the flooding. The emergency response assets provided by state agencies are helping with cleanup and restoration efforts.

She later added that being prepared to handle these disasters and rebuild after them “…takes partnership with the federal government, getting the infrastructure bill through that President Biden and Senator [Chuck] Schumer… and others are fighting for.” 

She elaborated, “As downstate areas recover from this extreme weather event, I have requested and secured an Emergency Disaster Declaration from the federal government that will help provide localities with funding and relief in the initial restoration efforts.She said in the meantime, ” [I] will continue to urge the federal government to expedite the damage assessment process to provide all the federal resources available to ensure New Yorkers get what they need to recover from this historic storm.”

This week, Biden toured Queens and parts of New Jersey, to survey the damage caused by Hurricane Ida. He spoke in Queens and gave remarks on his administration’s response to the hurricane. 

The president spoke about fighting climate change in general, stating “… we have to take some bold action now, to tackle the accelerating effects of climate [change].” He continued, “Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy… the threat is here and it’s not going to get any better” and added, “We are determined … to deal with climate change.” 

He further explained,“… this summer alone, communities with over 100 million Americans… have been struck by extreme weather.” This is implying that climate change has been noticeable across the country. “We can look around the wreckage, and the ruins and the heartbreak from so many communities to feel it.”  Biden commended the NYPD, FDNY, and NYC Sanitation Department and other first responders for their actions during and after the flooding. 

He then described his “Build Back Better” agenda, explaining, “When I talk about building back better, I mean you can’t build it [how] it was before this last storm. You [have] to build better so if the storm occurred again, there would be no damage… The storms are going to get worse and worse and worse.” 

Legislative Gazette photo by Christopher Welsh