Skip to Content
Morning Spew

Report: Mayor Adams Was Not, Strictly Speaking, ‘Ready’ For 8 Inches of Rain in September

And more links to clear out of your catch basin.

Mayor Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams briefs New Yorkers on the flooding on September 29, 2023 (Screenshot)

Remember last September 29, when New York City was deluged with eight inches of rainfall in a 24-hour period, and the subway shut down, and the flooding brought our existence to a standstill and endangered the lives of New Yorkers, and then hours into the natural disaster, and hours after he attended a "birthday" fundraiser in his honor, Mayor Eric Adams held a groggy press conference, assuring us that he was "ready"?

Would you believe that Mayor Adams was, not strictly speaking, "ready"?

A new report from City Comptroller Brad Lander investigated the administration's response to the rain brought by Tropical Storm Ophelia, and found serious flaws. Namely: 63 percent of the 53 trucks used by the Department of Environmental Protection to clean out the catch basins—those drains on the street that allow water to flow directly into the sewage system—were broken and out of service. "Catch basin cleaning is one of the City’s best tools to prevent localized flooding before heavy rains," the report notes. "DEP only had a third of its fleet available to clean catch basins at the time of the storm. By the end of 2023, the portion of trucks out of service rose to 77 percent."

And while the administration had activated its Flash Flood Emergency Plan the day before, the report notes that "this proactive approach was not as effectively extended to public communications." 

Yes, NotifyNYC alerts were blasted out to cell phones across town, but as the report states, "very few New Yorkers subscribe to NotifyNYC." Just 2.7 percent of all New Yorkers over the age of 16 got an alert about the flooding. People living in basement apartments, where 11 people drowned during Hurricane Ida in 2021, are supposed to get a special notification from NotifyNYC, yet just 2,378 people are on the list to get one, which represents less than 1 percent of New Yorkers living in subterranean units across town.

With electronic notifications only reaching a tiny fraction of New Yorkers, the report states that it's up to the administration to get the word out, which they did far too late: "Broad and high-profile public communications were not issued until after the storm was already well-underway." 

In the aftermath of Ida, the City was supposed to designate an Extreme Weather Coordinator to…you know, coordinate all of the above. According to the report, Adams did not have one, and only recently tapped Chief of Staff Camille Joseph Varlack to the post. "In addition to real-time coordination, she is also responsible for conducting after-action reviews to correct weaknesses in the City’s emergency management, as well as organizing and leading tabletop exercises as practice run-throughs of emergency scenarios," the report states. "However, to date there has been no public announcement of her appointment, and it is unclear what, if any, communication has been provided to City agencies."

Thankfully, no New Yorkers were killed by the floodwaters in September, but serious flooding is only going to become more common. While the City has made strides in building the infrastructure necessary to keep us safe (flood sensors, integrated flood protection systems, sponge streets), the report reminds us that we're still far behind where we need to be.

"A majority of DEP’s stormwater infrastructure projects are delayed and over-budget," the report says. "A review of the capital plan shows that half of DEP's $10.3 billion stormwater investments are not anticipated to be complete until the next decade." 

Here are some more links to clear out of your catch basin:

Already a user?Log in

Thanks for reading!

Give us your email address to keep reading two more articles for free

See all subscription options

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Hell Gate

MAGA Loons, Drill Rappers, and Unlikely Voters: The Never-Ending Trump Rally Comes to the South Bronx

"If Trump is here, and he's asking for a second chance, I can't judge that."

May 24, 2024

Finally, NYC Gets the Bird We Deserve

All hail our new beady-eyed queen, Astoria the wild turkey! And more news to take you into the long weekend.

May 24, 2024

Is the NYPD Solving Crimes? Who Knows—Their Last Published Clearance Data Is From 2022

City law requires the NYPD to report its clearance rates quarterly. Under the Adams administration, it just…stopped.

See all posts