Cuomo Estimates Sandy Cost $33 Billion in New York State

3:20 PM, Nov 9, 2012   |    comments
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By Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau

ALBANY -- Superstorm Sandy may have caused $33 billion in costs and lost business in New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

Cuomo unveiled the estimate at a Manhattan briefing on the state's response to the storm. In total, the storm may have had a $50 billion impact on the northeastern states, he said.

"The first cost estimate that I have seen has suggested that this storm will cost the region $50 billion in damage and economic loss," Cuomo said at a Manhattan briefing. "State of New York, about $33 billion in damage and economic loss."

In addition, Sandy appears to have had a major impact on the state's upcoming budget, according to Cuomo. The storm has added at least $1 billion to the state's deficit, which already totaled about $1 billion for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The next fiscal year starts April 1.

"I worked for two years to close deficits, a $10 billion deficit, which was all the money in the world," Cuomo said. "We're looking at an additional $1 billion deficit on the state side, maybe higher after what's happened."

Last week, an initial estimate from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli showed Sandy left New York with an economic hit of as much as $18 billion, but his office warned that the estimate could grow significantly.

One expert cautioned against reading too deeply into initial estimates after major natural disasters, warning that they usually increase as officials have time to further assess the situation.

"This is a difficult assessment to make," said Irwin Redlener, director of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness. "The experience in the past has been initial estimates tend to be underestimated."

The total cost of damages from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were about $140 billion, Redlener said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat whose lower Manhattan district was hit hard by Sandy, said it's too early to know how Sandy will ultimately affect the state's budget.

"It is clear the state is going to suffer as a result of the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy," Silver said in a statement. "However, while we are still grasping the full impacts of the storm, it is difficult for us to quantify the extent of the loss to the state treasury at this time."

Redlener said he was "encouraged" by comments made by Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg calling on the state and city to rebuild with natural disasters in mind.

"Maybe one of the silver linings in respect to this superstorm is we will begin paying attention the long-term investments needed to fix the infrastructure and address climate change," Redlener said.

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