It’s Time to Rebuild the American Dream with a Green WPA

Holly Lynch New Yorker

It’s Time to Rebuild the American Dream with a Green WPA

Holly Lynch: Citizen Advocate
September 11, 2018

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As Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria stormed our coasts last year, memories of Superstorm Sandy flooded back. Even today, in 2018, our infrastructure can’t handle Sandy 1.0, let alone 6.0. 

When Joni Mitchell sang: "they paved paradise to put up a parking lot," she basically predicted the Sandy-Effect caused by people like Robert Moses who, starting in the 1920s, paved over trolley-tracks, farmland, and much of Long Island to accommodate the highways and car lobby, making us vulnerable to unfathomable storm surges. All I can say is thank God they didn’t pave over Central Park!

But our history isn’t just of building a city, it’s of a relentless commitment to the American Dream and its economic, cultural, and technological future.  We’ve never stood still, not even after 9/11 or Sandy.
So, we can’t idle now, when we’re 6 years OVERDUE for another disaster.
Even as I write, Congress hasn’t passed an infrastructure budget. And NYC doesn’t have functioning subways, roads, tunnels, sea walls, or an emergency disaster team.

In 2015, the American Society for Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report Card gave us a C-. That was 3 years ago. Today, the Center for an Urban Future estimates it’ll cost NYC $47.3+ billion JUST to repair current infrastructure -- not expand needed sewers or transit-lines. 
So, what can we do? 

If Trump won’t help, let’s build a Green WPA-like public/private partnership. This first-ever disaster-preparedness and relief initiative would get our infrastructure back on track while setting a nationwide standard for what can be done to rebuild the country and its dream of working-class job-security.

Here’s how it could work:

The estimated $50 billion needed, is available. Accenture has estimated that Baby-Boomers will pass $30 trillion to their children– 45% of whom, plus GenX, are already investing in key sustainability efforts, not charities. Additionally, corporations like Citibank are investing profits and guiding employee monies into steady-growth Social-Impact Bonds. 

There are better, affordable ways to rebuild sustainably. The Natural Resources Conservancy’s NatureVest provides municipalities with funds for Green Infrastructure -- a cost-effective way to manage contamination caused by flood-water run-off. Doing that benefits communities and their wallets by harvesting clean water while lowering developer costs.

It’ll create jobs. The March 2017 Report: Exploring the Green Infrastructure Workforce and video, predicts that Green Infrastructure will create an estimated 239,000 entry level jobs nationwide, enabling long-term careers that put people to work, building a sustainable storm-resistant infrastructure. NYC needs its coastlines and green spaces fortified. What a great opportunity for the nearly 172,000 NYC youths that Jobs First NYC estimates are out of school and out of work.

We also need highways, and the electrical grid rebuilt. Who better to re-employ than the, engineers and energy-workers who built the city and country? But this time they’ll build sustainably. Our job is clear. Here’s how to support NYC’s efforts, the dreams of a future workforce, and a new U.S. infrastructure:

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Holly Lynch New Yorker