On Tuesday night, Urban Green Council held the first public Building Resiliency Task Force event since its unveiling with Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn on June 13. A sizable crowd met at the Con Ed building to see Building Resiliency Revealed, a panel discussion with Jeff Brodsky (Related Management) as moderator.
The exciting news about the Task Force is that 18 of its proposals will be brought to a public hearing of the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings tomorrow. But the panelists had much to say about what it will actually take to get improved resiliency implemented citywide – especially for proposals that are best practice recommendations, not requirements.
Angela Pinsky (Real Estate Board of New York) sees widespread adoption of best practices in Class A space and beyond, as there is great interest post-Sandy in being better prepared for the next “big one.” Fiona Cousins (Arup) explained how this is a time when designers and owners are doing something new – considering multiple events at once. Buildings are designed to cope with a fire, or a flood, but not necessarily both at the same time. However, the events of last October make it much easier to envision two or more issues occurring simultaneously, and people are beginning to take that into account. And Michael Schrieber (Cassena Care) spoke from the perspective of health care providers, an industry that is already heavily regulated. While recognizing the need for resiliency in these critical facilities, he advised carefully considering what additional requirements might be placed upon this building sector.
For me, the most stirring comments came from Robert LiMandri (Commissioner, NYC Department of Buildings). While the leadership in city government is impressive, he pointed out that ultimately it is the people of New York who benefit from resiliency and thus can be its strongest advocates. He reminded all of us that going to Community Board meetings, calling our Council Members and state and federal elected officials has a big effect. The Commissioner cited the famous quote, “don’t let a good crisis go to waste,” and I believe he’s right: in the end, Sandy is an opportunity both for our city to improve itself and for citizens to be deeply involved in the process.