The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

New York City Flooded … Again

Oct 2, 2023

It was total chaos in New York City on Friday, September 29, when remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia brought heavy rain to the city.

City streets turned into rivers. On highways, stranded drivers had to be rescued from cars inundated with water rising up to the cars’ windows. Water cascaded down the stairs of subway stations, where the train system came to a halt. Flood waters entered buses, causing panic among passengers. A terminal of the LaGuardia Airport was shut down for hours because of flooding.

These were some of the scenes that viewers across the country watched on TV. All the authorities had to say to people was, “Stay at home—it’s a life-threatening situation out there.” But what choice did the tens of thousands of workers have who found themselves in this life-threatening situation when they left work to go home? And what choice did the thousands of residents who live in basement apartments have other than running away and letting their homes be completely flooded?

And this wasn’t even the first time. In fact, over 50 people died in New York in similar flooding just two years ago, when remnants of Hurricane Ida hit the city in September 2021. And many of those victims were people trapped in windowless basement units.

After the flooding two years ago, officials, from the city’s mayor all the way to President Biden, pledged that New York City would be better prepared next time. Some of these officials even named particular problems—clogging of the sewer system, for example.

Yet, it certainly doesn’t look like anything was done to fix those problems. And it’s certainly not enough to blame it on climate change. Yes, when two “once-in-a-millennium” floods hit New York City in two years, it is probably a sign of climate change. But is it really an excuse that the city was so unprepared?

Climate change or not, very little has been done across the country for decades to maintain and upgrade the infrastructure. Politicians who run the government at all levels have let the infrastructure deteriorate by cutting the funding from maintenance and upgrades so they can shovel more taxpayer money to big companies and boost their profits.

It’s the working class and poor that pay the heaviest price for the cutbacks and neglect. How many people have lost their windowless basement dwellings—the only ones they can afford—to flooding? How many have died? “No deaths,” authorities were quick to report on the day of the flooding. But is it true? Or will they “find out” days later that there were deaths also?