Assemblymember Niou Appointed Chair of Assembly Subcommittee on Catastrophic Natural Disasters

March 2, 2018

New York: Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou was appointed Chair of the Subcommittee on Catastrophic Natural Disasters. A subcommittee under the Assembly Standing Committee on Insurance, this committee focuses on improving state policies on insurance coverage in the event of a disaster in New York.

“My district, lower Manhattan, was greatly impacted by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The storm wreaked havoc on the buildings and infrastructure of lower Manhattan and water flooded commercial and residential buildings. My district is still recovering. Small businesses with storefronts in South Street Seaport are still coming to me seeking support for damages caused by Sandy. All along the lower Manhattan coastline, we are working on coastal resiliency projects aimed at reducing flood risk due to coastal storms and rising sea levels. However, in addition to building flood barriers and keeping our communities safe in the event of a natural disaster, we must consider the economic cost of hurricanes, ice storms, and superstorms, on individuals and small businesses.

The cost of damage caused by Superstorm Sandy is estimated at over $30 billion. Businesses, homeowners, and communities relied heavily on insurance companies to rebuild. Insurance companies experienced high customer demand, and some individuals and businesses experienced difficulties filing claims caused by Sandy. The process was often complicated, and after Sandy, Manhattan Community Board 1 testified to the Subcommittee on Catastrophic Natural Disasters that small businesses did not have the time or resources to cope with the disaster. Businesses and individuals alike struggled to make sense of the insurance process, which often left them in the dark regarding their financial standing as they tried to rebuild and recover. It also became abundantly clear how important it was to ensure that consumers have access to affordable insurance coverage that meets their needs, especially ahead of the next natural disaster.

These are issues that must be resolved as we prepare for future natural disasters. Whether it be a hurricane, heat wave, ice storm, or flood, it is critical for us to support New Yorkers during the recovery process. We are responsible for helping our communities to rebuild, and that cannot be done without consumer-friendly insurance coverage for everyone in our State. As chair of the Subcommittee on Catastrophic Natural Disasters, I pledge to continue advocating for our communities as we bolster our state’s preparation against future catastrophes," said Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, the newly appointed Chair of the Subcommittee on Catastrophic Natural Disasters.

“Since her appointment to the Assembly Insurance Committee, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou has been an important partner. Speaker Carl Heastie's appointment of Assemblymember Niou as Chair of the Subcommittee on Catastrophic Natural Disasters will position her to be a prime legislator to protect consumers and homeowners at their most vulnerable time,” said Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill, Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Insurance. “Superstorm Sandy made many New Yorkers reflect on the coverage available in their insurance policy.

Representing Lower Manhattan, Assemblymember Niou is well aware of the impact this disaster had on small businesses and homeowners. We have to start to expect and prepare for these catastrophic events, as we now do with so many other aspects of our environment until we finally address the climate change problems that we are experiencing on this planet. The Subcommittee on Catastrophic Disasters under Assemblymember Niou’s leadership stands ready to help ensure individuals have appropriate access to insurance and that companies are responsible, ethical and responsive during these ‘regular emergencies.'”

Anthony Notaro Jr., Chair of Manhattan Community Board 1 said, “CB1 is excited to see our Assembly Member assuming more leadership in Albany. This new role should provide more value to our district especially after our experience with Superstorm Sandy. We look forward to working with Yuh-line.”

"Having Lower Manhattan's Assemblymember as Chair of this vitally important subcommittee is an appointment that benefits us all enormously,” said Jessica Lapin, President of the Alliance for Downtown New York. “Our neighborhoods are on the front line of resiliency issues and we are excited that Assemblymember Niou will be in a position to exercise leadership on the set of critical matters that will come before this subcommittee."

"We are absolutely delighted that Assemblymember Niou will now be involved in this critically important area of the natural disaster coverage and protection,” said Wellington Chen, Executive Director of Chinatown Partnership. “As have been said many times, it is no longer a matter of if, but when! The time to prepare is now."

“Investing in community resilience, renewable energy, and energy efficiency improves our safety, health, and quality of life,” said Julian Morales, a lead organizer at Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES). “The value of resilience is measured by the avoided costs related to health care, business losses, and other losses associated with a disaster. Investments in resilience results in workforce development, local jobs, and economic revitalization. Insurance companies gain by avoiding costs from disaster claims.”

Catherine McVay Hughes, community advocate and former Chair of Manhattan Community Board 1 said, “Water surrounds Assemblymember Niou's district east and west and Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the district, should be a warning of what could happen for us with rising sea levels and storm surge. More than five years later and the rebuilding isn't finished yet. Yuh-Line Niou is on the front lines of this looming threat and has the knowledge, determination, and commitment to her constituents to make the difference we urgently need.”

Capt. Jonathan Boulware, Executive Director of the South Street Seaport Museum and member of the Manhattan Community Board 1 Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Task Force praised the appointment. "Our Museum, our neighborhood, and our city were hit very hard by Superstorm Sandy; in fact, the effects are still being felt. Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou's work on this Subcommittee will meaningfully advance our efforts in the resiliency of New York City and will support and protect our businesses, communities, and cultures. I applaud the New York State Assembly for this appointment and the effort it represents."

"Save Our Seaport is excited to hear the news of [Assemblymember] Niou's recent appointment as there is a need for New York State oversight on how New York City rebuilds after a natural disaster. For example, the South Street Seaport Museum’s electrical system was damaged by floods from Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. The museum has just now received FEMA money so that they can rebuild and reopen their galleries and their exhibits,” said Michael Kramer a Steering Committee Member. “Again, it comes back to the City, because the Economic Development Corporation is the master leaseholder. All the money that they received from FEMA should have gone into fixing the South Street Seaport district. Instead, they fixed Howard Hughes’ corporate portion of it, but they didn’t fix the museum’s portion.”

The Subcommittee on Catastrophic Natural Disasters provides input to the Assembly Standing Committee on Insurance. This includes examining the settlement practices of insurers when dealing with claims, coverage available to residents of New York State and insurance options to deal with future disasters.