By Holly Dutton
Former New York Governor David Paterson is aiming to unite real estate leaders to help the city better prepare for disaster.
As the moderator of a high-powered panel discussion taking place tomorrow (Thursday) Paterson said it is time to stop playing the guessing game when it comes to people’s safety.
“The issue of disaster is something that New Yorkers probably have expertise in because we were probably hit by the greatest attack on our country in on 9/11 and the second major hurricane, in terms of damage to our country, after Katrina,” said Paterson.
“There are a few issues it raises, one, preparedness, were we prepared?”
Paterson believes the Metropolitan Transit Authority was right to close the transit system down in advance of what turned out to be a lacklusture Hurricane Irene last year.
He said, “Preparation isn’t about guessing right, it’s about making the most arrangements to limit loss of life and property as much as we can.
“Hurricane Sandy really proved that the buses and trains and commuter transit should have been shut down.”
Scott Reichler, vice chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority and a Long Island property owner, will also be part of the panel, as well as Thor Equities CEO Joseph Sitt, one of the region’s largest property owners, and developer Steve Witkoff of the Witkoff Group.
With some property owners such as Sitt suggesting proposals to better protect Lower Manhattan, which took the brunt of Sandy’s wrath in the city, Paterson is looking to see what the panel thinks about spending money on building infrastructure like flood barriers in the midst of a national economy with a nearly $60 billion deficit.
“Maybe in the 90’s when we were overspending budgets but getting great returns on taxes and profits from Wall Street,” said Paterson. “Maybe it’s something to consider, but at this point, we couldn’t put in the resources to take that based on the deficit achieving a $60 billion dollar level.”
Witkoff echoed Paterson’s sentiment, saying officials should think practically about prioritizing the state’s needs.
“It was a once in a lifetime storm,” he said. “How do you underwrite preparing yourself for a storm that comes once every 75 years? It’s a difficult thing to do. It’s nice to talk about how to do that, convene panels, talk about could we put barrier up — but we’re a state that has other economic needs, we really are. And in the midst of a budget crisis, that’s the practical end of this thing.”
The free forum is being hosted by accounting firm EisnerAmper and Real Estate Weekly and will take place on Thursday, December 13, from 8 to 10:15 a.m. at the NYC Bar Association, 42 West 44th Street.
For information on this free event, contact Harry Dublinsky, CPA, program chairman at 212-891-8781 or firstname.lastname@example.org