Safeguarding the City Against Extreme Weather

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It is Monday today. We’ll see what Hurricane Ida told climate experts and urban planners in New York about infrastructure that wasn’t built for torrential rains. We would also wish Waldorf Astoria a very happy birthday as it turns 90.

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For years, climate scientists and meteorologists have warned that extreme weather was coming, storms that were more destructive and floods that were coming more frequently. We got a bad taste of how intense it could be when the remnants of Hurricane Ida exploded over the York area. “It’s not like the rain we knew,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said after the flood killed 13 people, most of them trapped in basement apartments.

The storm was thundering so fast that it took almost everyone by surprise, to officials and residents alike. I asked my colleague Anne Barnard how prepared New York really is.


What have recent storms uncovered about the city’s infrastructure?

The main thing these storms showed us was that we have to be prepared for more rain. We had a wake-up call from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but that was different. At the time, experts conveyed the idea that we not only have to prepare against a storm coming from the ocean with a big storm like Sandy, but that we also have to be prepared for rain where more water comes from. Compared to the sky we are used to in a short time. With rising temperatures, this is going to happen.

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Because of Sandy, a lot of political bandwidth and money went first to work on the really thorny problem of shore ing the beach. Much work was also done on reducing emissions to get to the root cause of climate change. But after Sandy, the public may not have felt the same urgency about the cloudburst.

And the problem with cloudburst is that the sewer system can’t cope with the fast deluge?

this is right. The storm water resilience plan came in from City Hall in May. The Department of Environmental Protection, which looks after most sewers, commits millions of dollars each year to widening gates to slow water runoff and enlarging the catch basin down the road. There are also plans to build large retention tanks near existing sewage facilities, so that storm water can be briefly held until the storm passes and the level drops again.

What about the flood barriers that were talked about after Hurricane Sandy? How many have been made? What about studying how other places protect against flooding?

There is a need for a combination of built barriers and natural solutions such as restoring wetlands along the coast that soak up water, especially flooding from the ocean. In Bangladesh, they have mangroves. With us, it’s swamp grass.

There have been all kinds of proposals, including building a six-mile wall in outer New York Harbor that basically would remain open except when a major storm is approaching. Less dramatic proposals include smaller floodgates on waterways such as Newtown Creek or the Gowanus Canal. The Army Corps of Engineers was working on it but shelved the project. One reason was that experts couldn’t agree on whether it was the best way to protect against storms like Sandy.


It’s a new week, New York. Enjoy plenty of sunny and partly cloudy days in the high 70s with temperatures in the mid-60s.

optional side parking

effective from today. Suspended yesterday (Shemini Etzeret).

The rapid vaccination-or-common-expiry deadline – and court challenges from skeptical health care workers and teachers – made for a confusing weekend.

The state deadline for health care workers is midnight Monday. As of last Wednesday, there were about 95,000 unvaccinated hospital workers and nursing home workers in the state. It was impossible to know how many people would have received the shots since then. Governor Kathy Hochul said on Saturday she was considering calling in the National Guard to help make up for a potential staff shortfall.

The city’s mandate for teachers and others working in schools was halted after a federal appeals court on Friday granted a temporary injunction. City officials said they expected the mandate to be upheld eventually.

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The Waldorf Astoria Hotel hired Hugh Weir as an apprentice in the banquet department in 1958, when he was in his 20s. He rose through the ranks and was director of events – senior banquet manager – when he retired in 1994.

He worked there for less than a third of his life.

That too was a little less than a third of his life, as he and Waldorf are almost the same age.

The hotel is six months old. It opened 90 years ago this week, October 1, 1931—a few months after an even taller icon, the Empire State Building.

Ballrooms and suites where presidents, princes and princesses attended are off limits to everyone except construction workers at this time. Waldorf closed for renovation in February 2017. It is expected to reopen in 2023 with fewer hotel rooms and new apartments – with condominiums starting at $1.8 million.

Waldorf always had long-term tenants, but they were tenants. From the beginning, Waldorf Towers, accessed through a separate entrance from the hotel, was home to residents such as former President Herbert Hoover, songwriter Cole Porter and gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell. She brought luminaries to parties like April at the Paris Ball. It was held neither in Paris nor in April: it was a social-calendar fixture of the Fall.

Waldorf’s long history also includes Eggs Benedict and Waldorf Salad, both made there. Andrew Miller – chief executive of Dajia US, named for the remains of Chinese insurer Anbang, which added Waldorf to its portfolio of properties in 2014 for $1.95 billion – said the Waldorf was probably the only hotel that not only had archives but a Archivist.

What’s in the Archives? Items like Frank Sinatra’s lease. Sinatra paid $1 million a year for a six-room apartment in the 1970s, “which he wanted,” Miller said, “especially because it was Cole Porter’s apartment.”

As if Waldorf doesn’t have enough history, it is celebrating its 90th by exploring more. it is running oral history project Called Waldorf Stories that will preserve the memories people have accumulated. The hotel will select a winner for a weekend stay when it reopens.

Weir (pictured above, in his Manhattan apartment) has the most Waldorf memories. He met his wife Chaque in Waldorf – she also worked there – but had their wedding reception in the Persian Room in the Plaza. “I wanted it there because my wife and I used to date there,” he said. In addition, he knew the bandleader. And he knew Jerry Cravat, the pianist there at the time. Cravat was later the bandleader at Waldorf for New Year’s Eve broadcasts following the death of Guy Lombardo in 1977.

When Waldorf opened, Hoover welcomed it with a White House speech. And, according to “New York 1930: Architecture and Urbanism Between the Two World Wars,” the owners probably felt that no hotel could surpass what they built. The Waldorf opened as the largest, tallest and most expensive hotel in history.

“Surely,” wrote the three authors, “they remembered that the contract to proceed with the $42 million project had been signed the day the stock market crashed, October 29, 1929.”

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Metropolitan Diary

Dear Diary:

someone was singing
and our hearts,
to a decimal
of time, broke open.

The men stepped
for windows,
And women, are listening.

because there is
for so little
no joy –
Even for the rich man.
for anyone.

i bowed down
on the lamppost,
listening and listening
I dare not stir
until the singer is finished.

roly anderson

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could be here together. see you tomorrow. – jb

ps today is mini crossword And spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero, Jeffrey Ferticella, Rick Martinez and Olivia Parker contributed to New York TODAY. you can reach the team [email protected].

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