Off the keyboard of RE
Discuss this article at the Frankenstorm Table inside the Diner
As most people are aware by now, most of the damage caused by Sandy came along the shoreline due to an impressive Storm Surge over a very long stretch of coast, one of the most densely populated coastlines on any continent.
Numerous iconographic Beachfronts were hit, the Boardwalk in Atlantic City basically destroyed and I suspect the newly renovated Coney Island Amusement Park did not fare much better. The beach in the Rockaways where I made Sand Castles as a kid was hit hard, and many homes and biznesses in this aging beachfront community were simply washed out to sea.
Sandy didn’t just hit the poor and the middle class though, she was equally destructive of the multi-million dollar Mansions in the Hamptons where the Masters of the Universe go to play each weekend, sutffing themselves with Canapes and 500 year old bottles of Pinot Noir while they stuff the noses of Ford Models with coke prior to doing Channel Stuffing they practice on the Stock Market during the week.
Although there is no Beach on the Southern Tip of Manhattan Island, it’s not much more above sea level than the typical Beach is and also went under water for several hours, long enough to fill some Subway Stations and Tunnels with seawater, along with the basement Safes of some Securities firms holding $trillions$ in Stock Certificates in them, with some estimates putting the value of this Toilet Paper in the $36T range.
Hindsight is always 20-20 Vision of course, and after the fact here all the talk is about how to Build it Bigger and Better for Next Time, robust enough to fend off the worst that Mother Nature can throw out.
In terms of Large Public Works Projects, some impressive ones are being bandied about. One is to build a huge underwater Seawall around lower Manhattan and the Port of NY/NJ that would deflect most of the energy of a storm surge. Said Seawall would have some breaks in it that Tanker Ships could pass through.
This of course is similar to the Dykes built around the Netherlands holding back the Sea there, and overall on the engineering level this is some pretty impressive stuff for sure. In the Dutch case though, the Dykes were built up over many Centuries of time and the marshy areas which were reclaimed were not very deep. Although I am sure with modern heavy equipment, lots of Fuel and GOBS of Money the Army Corps of Bozos probably could build something like this it sure would not happen overnight, even if they do Print new Debt Money to do it. The estimate on cost I read for this brainstorm is around $6B, but I am sure that estimate is made with the assumption Oil stays at $100/barrel for the decade it would take to complete it.
Thing is here, while this might prevent the worst Storm Surge from overrunning Wall Street, the deflected water is going to go somewhere, likely the Jersey shore to the left and the Brooklyn shore to the right. So they will end up WORSE off after it gets built.
Another somewhat more reasonable Infrastructure Improvement I read about was to put Storm Doors on all the vulnerable Subway entrances and Air Vents and create “plugs” or “corks” to stuff in the ends of tunnels which exit into low lying areas. Apparently Bangkok has such a system in place which allowed their subway system to keep running even during the regular and heavy flooding events they have been subject to the last few years.
Again though, nobody really explains where all the MONEY is going to come from to make all these improvements or how it would ever be paid off if you issue Debt to do it. In the case of the Subway improvements, how high do you have to hike the Fare the Straphangers pay to actually pay this stuff off and then maintain it? The subway system is ALREADY subsidized heavily, by you guessed it BROKE Goobermint. The reason the system never gets Upgrades is BECAUSE it doesn’t pay for itself already.
Although little Newz is trickling out from the devastated Beachfront communities along the Jersey Shore and Long island, the pictures alone tell you that the rebuild costs are Unimaginable, and Goobernator Chris Christie has already said it will be “a long time” before these communities get their lights back on. He should have added, “if ever”.
So, SHOULD people actually be LIVING so close to the shore in such vulnerable spots to the destructive Power of Mother Nature? On the surface Common Sense says no, but there are many reasons why MOST of the population of Homo Sapiens does in fact live close to the shore.
First off, going right back to Ancient Civilizations which first used Boats for fishing and then trade, a large portion of the population has always made its living from the Sea. So you naturally get towns and cities forming up at locations where boats can port up in relative safety, and in fact the Port of NY/NJ is one of the best protected harbors in the whole world on a geographic level. That is WHY the Dutch dropped the settlement in New Amsterdam at the bottom of Manhattan Island.
Prior to the Railroads, once you got interior to a land mass to any great degree, any trade goods from other places became quite scarce and expensive. Evne once you HAVE Railroads though, you need to have substantial numbers of people at the terminal end near the Seaport. Still, you probably could organize it so only a Skeleton Crew of people are at the shoreline, and most of the people are far enough inland that they won’t get nailed with a Storm Surge.
The problem here is that people LIKE the Ocean. they like swimming in it, surfing on it, tanning on the beach and Ogling the Girls in their Bikinis also. Recreation is BIG BIZNESS, and there are Seaside Resorts in just about every Country and Island in the WORLD, and Seaside Communities that grow up around them to service the Tourist trade. For some places like Hawaii, this Recreational tourist Trade is pretty much the only real economic driver they have, you just don’t earn all that much FOREX growing Pineapples and Macadamia Nuts.
Even for pitiful and aging Seaside Communities like Atlantic City, the Boardwalk and the Beaches are what set it apart from the Indian Reservation Casinos and Las Vegas. In terms of Tax Revenue, it was a main source for New Jersey and that revenue is not coming back anytime too soon, and not until NJ spends a small fortune to do a rebuild. Can they ever recoup what the spend in Taxation of a refurbished Atlantic City? Highly unlikely of course.
Probably the most important econonomic driver for our Industrial Societies centered along the coastlines are all the Refineries and offload points for Tankers carrying the Crude from underneath the Desert Sands of Saudi Arabia and off the shore of Brazil and Venezuela. The VLCC Super Tankers require specialized deepwater ports like the LOOP to function, and moving heavy unrefined crude through pipelines from them is costly on EROEI. The closer you can make the Refinery to the offload point for the crude, the more profitable it is. So you have many FSofA refineries near the shores of Lousiana and Texas, and on the Jersey shore also. You need workers for those refineries who live nearby them, and again communities sprout up in vulnerable locations.
Trying to move all this infrastructure away from the shorelines is an impossibility as long as you want to maintain this sort of Industrialized culture, and overall most people who live inside such societies want them to continue onward as they have known them. They want Lights On in their McMansions, they want Running Water in their Toilets. They want the I-pads, Plasma TVs and SUVs too, but they at LEAST EXPECT that they can live in a heated home with running water.
While it does appear that the NY Shity Subway System has been brought back online for the most part, underplayed in NEWz Reports to date is just how much OTHER infrastructure has not been brought back yet. As the Major Financial Hub of the Empire, Wall Street is the first one to consider on the Economic Loss level here. Even though CONedison has brought Power back to Lower Manhattan, MANY Coomercial and Residential Skyscrapers can’t accept that power. Why? Because their basements were not hardenned against such a massive Flooding even tlike the Subways are, and most of their Electrics and Heating mechanisms are housed in their BASEMENTS, which in many if not most cases WERE Flooded Floor to Ceiling. These include buildings like 125 Maiden Land & 55 Water Street, which houses offices for companies like S&P and services like UNICEF and Planned Parenthood:
At 125 Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan, a 17-story building not far from the East River, a disaster recovery company official involved with work on the building said that it would be months before it could reopen. Like many other buildings in the vicinity, he said, it was flooded and would need new transformers, boilers and other equipment.
Tenants include the United States Fund for UNICEF and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
At 55 Water Street, where Standard & Poor’s has offices, the “restricted use” sign listed “severe flooding in basement, no fire alarm, no power, damaged face brick at loading dock.”
On Sunday night, water gushed from hoses that snaked inside the shuttered towers. Workers scrubbed and mopped lobbies.
Brookfield Office Properties, which operates One New York Plaza near Battery Park, where Morgan Stanley is a tenant, estimated that it would be three to six weeks before the building reopens.
These towers are not all strictly Bizness either, some are residential, often housing Eledrly people:
Many of the residential buildings in Lower Manhattan without heat house significant populations of elderly people, including Smith/Vladeck Houses and Southbridge Towers, a Mitchell-Lama building, according to Julie Menin, former chairwoman of Community Board 1.
A rapid Cleanup for many of these buildings is unlikely, because besides the damage to the electrical and heating systems, they also have been contaminated with Oil and Gas Seepage from Sunken Carz:
Because cars and other vehicles were submerged, gasoline, oil and other chemicals poisoned the waters that entered the buildings. As a result, the buildings themselves will have to undergo special cleanups before people are allowed in. These cleanups could take weeks.
Precisely where the Management Companies for these buildings is getting the MONEY to do this Cleanup remains unclear. Also unclear is whether Commercial or Residential Tenants inthese buildings will continue to pay Rent/Mortgages on spaces they can’t Work or Live in.
Larger companies in NY Shity have Multiple Office Spaces distributed through many Towers, so these companies are no doubt shuffling people around to some other spaces they have “doubling up”. For the smaller companies though, they have to quickly find alternate locations to workout of, or else go Outta Biz.
So beginning with Wall Street on the Economic Level, you have huge hits here in 3 areas, Clean Up cost, Insurance Liability and Payout and Lost Tax Revenue. Those spaces don;t come cheap, and there are a lot of them “underwater” here now, around 400 large buildings in this Nabe “Yellow Tagged” by the Department of Buildings as Unsafe.
While Individually not as costly, the AGGREGATE cost of all the Residential and Comercial Real Estate that went Underwater on Long Island and the Jersey Shore, along with the Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island Real Estate is likely much GREATER than even the cost of Out-of-Service Wall Street buildings. An important factor to consider is how many people will continue to Pay Mortgages on housing and commercial structures which either no longer EXIST, or have been declared so Unsafe as to be Uninhabitable now. Would YOU keep paying your mortgage on a McMansion so damaged you cannot live in it anymore? Many if not most of these folks will eventually here walk away from these Properties.
Calculating the precise total here of lost revenue, lost taxes and cleanup costs is basically impossible at this point, and true Numbers as they come in will certainly never be reported. The $50B “estimate” for damage here is a crock of shit, it is WAY higher than that, even NOT taking into account the possibility of $Trillions$ in Securities being “lost” in some Basement Safes.
One thing you can be certain of as the Money to Rebuild is distributed out, it will NOT be distributed out to the Individual Homeowners and Small Bizmen who lost their homes and livelihoods here. The Money will be distributed out to Well Connected Corporations, Big Bizmen & Contractors with good Political Connections who get Cleanup work. A bit of this will Trickle Down to J6P Construciton Worker who has been UE for a while and now will have Cleanup work for a few months, but once done those jobs will disappear as fast as they appeared here. Those New Jobs are more than balanced out by the many people who LOSE their jobs here because their workplaces no longer EXIST at all, or the companies they work for are not on the Gravy Train to get the Big Loans to “rebuild”.
What many people on the Jersey Shore and Long Island just found out is that you CAN’T expect that Electric Power and Heat for your Biz or Domicile will remain in place, just as a whole bunch of people found that out when NOLA got hit by Katrina. If you are not Well Connected enough to get the Big Money Handouts from Da Federal Goobermint to “rebuild” you are basically SOL here. I am quite SURE S&P will be floated a $100M or $1B Loan from Helicopter Ben to repair THEIR Building, I seriously DOUBT Emilio or Mohammed gets a $100K loan to repair his Bodega.
So across the board here, we at the very LEAST are looking at a version of Jimmy Kunstler’s Long Emergency, and incremental Spin Down of the quality of life for MANY formerly Middle Class people in the NY Shity Nabe. Staten Island is QUINTESSENTIAL “Middle Class” Working Man territory in NY Shity, probably half the NYPD, Sanitation Department and NYs Bravest Firefighters live on Staten Island. These are not “Welfare Leechfucks”, they were hard working people who bought into the Amerikan Dream, now turned Amerikan Nightmare. Now they ALSO are the Underclass, and will be left Hung Out to Dry as the Big Money is passed out to Big Corporations in the Capitalist system to “rebuild”.So it has always been here in the FSofA, since Alexander Hamilton openned the First Bank of the FSofA, since Andrew Jackson tried to “Kill” the Second Bank of the FSofA and since Paul Warburg and Nelson Aldrich SUCCEEDED in resurrecting said Banking System for the Illumati on Christmas Eve of 1913 with the passing of the Federal Reserve Act after Secret Meetings on Jekyll Island. Anyone who believes that “Freedom” & “Dmocracy” have EVER existed inside the borders of the FSofA is seriously deluded, victim of 300 years of solid and continuos BRAIN WASHING.
The thing is, once the Coastal Shities fail, the Interior Shitieshere in the FSoA will also FAIL, though not necessarily from the direct attacks of Mother Nature from Hurricanes and rising Sea levels with bigger Storm surges. They will fail as the energy supplies they need to operate fail to reach them from the coastline. They will fail as the huge ports which service the Container Ships are damaged and destroyed by Mother Nature.
Here in Alaska the Port of Anchorage is aging and decaying, it hasn’t been rebuilt or even maintained all that well since the Big Quake in ’64. Next decent quake we get there, it’s all rubble and I seriously doubt will be rebuilt.
The small Fishing Boats and Kayaks will last a while longer though, and people will still live and work near the Sea, from which ALL LIFE comes, until the Sea itself has life no more. A dangerous place to be for sure as Mother Earth becomes more Geologically and Atmospherically unstable, you never know if you picked the WRONG day to go out Dip Netting the Kings when the run and a Tsunami comes your way here on the Ring of Fire.
If you do see the tide run out real fast though, drop the dip net, drop the fish and RUN LIKE HELL for the High Ground. At least it slopes up pretty quick here in most places and you can get up 30 meters pretty quick. Not so true on Long Island, where you gotta get inside a good mile from the shoreline to be up more than a few feet above Sea Level.
Anyhow, you can second guess all you like all the people who lived once on the Jersey Shore and in Coney Island and Rockaway Beach and on Fire Island too, but who will live there no more even if they did escape with their lives this time. While you are at it, you might also second guess all the folks who live in Tornado Alley on the Texahoma border. Not to mention all the folks who live in the Flood Plain of the Mighty Mississippi. Not to mention all those folks living on top of the San Andreas Fault or in range of Sparks from tinder dry Forests in New Mexico and Colorado. Wherever you are, eventually the Odds catch up with you, and you never know the day the Big Show will Come to a Theatre Near You. The odds don’t appear to be improving here either, apparently 500 year floods now arrive 2 or 3 times a decade, and we get a new “Freak” event all the time like “Derechos”, “Haboobs” and “Frankenstorms”.
Perhaps the most IMPORTANT Second Guessing to be done here is WRT the Nuke Plants distributed out worldwide in ALL of these vulnerable locations. Nuke Plants need a HUGE amount of Water for cooling, so they are always nearby major rivers or near the coast. The cities and Ag Land these Nuke Plants provide energy for quite often are over geological fault lines and/or subject to drought or flooding. There is nowhere “safe” to put something that has toxins that will last for Millenia, on a Millenial Timescale just about EVERY neighborhood gets hit with some kind of major disaster.
All Nuke Plants need to be Decommissioned, and all the spent fuel collected and sequestered off where it can do the least damage, perhaps in Antarctica or perhaps by sinking it into a subduction zone around the Marianas Trench, but it MUST be moved BEFORE, not AFTER the disaster strikes.
Will we have to sacrifice the Lights and the Flush toilets? Most probably so, but at least perhaps then we will survive as a species and eventually come up with some better ways to manage the resources of the Planet we live on, and which gives us ALL life. Its the only one we got, and we ain’t making out to any Exoplanets anytime too soon either.