As Floods Beckoned, Much of New York’s Catch-Basin Trucks Were Offline

Seven months after New York City was inundated by more than eight inches of rain in late September, an investigation found that the city’s public communications were, in some cases, “woefully limited” and its infrastructure inadequate to the challenges of extreme weather.

The 44-page investigation by the office of Brad Lander, the New York City comptroller, noted that 63 percent of the Department of Environmental Protection’s 51 specialized catch-basin cleaning trucks — a key part of the city’s arsenal to prevent floods — were out of service when the storm hit.

And though city officials began monitoring the storm a week ahead of its arrival and activated its “flash flood emergency plan” the morning before it hit, that “proactive approach was not as effectively extended to public communications,” the report reads.

The mayor did not hold a news conference on the storm until nearly three hours after the heavy rains began. The Department of Education did not directly communicate “any information” to students’ families about the weather in advance of the storm, according to the comptroller.

While the city’s opt-in emergency alert system sent out notices, most New Yorkers do not subscribe to the flash flood warnings: “Only 2.7 percent of New Yorkers over 16 years of age (185,895 people) received Notify NYC emergency alerts for the flash flood event on Sept. 29,” according to the report.

The investigation comes amid continued scrutiny of New York City’s emergency response efforts. When an earthquake rattled the city early this month, it took emergency officials 26 minutes to issue an alert. The deluge that accompanied the storm in September came less than four months after Mayor Eric Adams faced criticism for failing to adequately warn New Yorkers about the toxic air wafting in from Canadian wildfires.

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