Menendez's Senate Subcommittee Hearing Highlights Need for Storm Preparedness in NJ/NY Housing and Transit Systems Affected by Superstorm Sandy

Menendez's Senate Subcommittee Hearing Highlights Need for Storm Preparedness in NJ/NY Housing and Transit Systems Affected by Superstorm Sandy

Officials testify that entire $60.4 billion Sandy Relief Package needed to protect against future storms

WASHINGTON - A day after Senate Republicans released an underfunded, piecemeal approach to Superstorm Sandy recovery, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today held a hearing of the Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee of the Senate Banking Committee, on which he serves as chairman.

A major point made at the hearing was the importance of passing the pending $60.4 billion Sandy Relief Package in its entirety, as the subcommittee focused on the parts of the package that pertained to reconstructing public transit systems and providing for housing in storm-affected areas in New Jersey and New York.

"I want to stress the importance of investing now so we don't have to pay again the next time this happens. Where tracks need to be raised, we should raise them. Where subway stations need to be reinforced against floodwaters, we should reinforce them, and where electrical substations need to be protected and elevated, let's protect and elevate them," said Senator Menendez. "This is not just about helping a few states. This is about helping an entire nation. New York and New Jersey are critical economic engines for the nation, employing 10 percent of the nation's workforce and accounting for 11 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. That's 12.7 million workers and $1.4 trillion in productivity. And that productivity will be severely hampered, dragging down the whole nation's economy, if we do not provide adequate funds to rebuild it."

The pending $60.4 billion Sandy Relief Package includes $10.8 billion appropriation for the repair and restoration of public transit systems in the areas most affected by Superstorm Sandy. This funding would also support projects that make transit systems better able to resist future storms.

Peter Rogoff, head of the Federal Transit Administration, testified that the funds provided under the Republicans' amendment to the Sandy Relief Bill amount only 1/3 of the Obama Administration's request. Rogoff also said that this amount would not even be enough to cover basic transit system repairs and leave nothing to make the system more resilient against the next storm.

NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein also testified that restoration costs to NJ Transit would climb into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Under the Republican amendment, repairs to NJ Transit simply wouldn't be made.

Thomas Prendergast, president of New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority said that it would take $5 billion to restore the MTA.

Also appearing before the committee were Yolanda Chavez, deputy assistant secretary for grant programs for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.