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Cuomo, Bloomberg push to protect NYC, cite climate

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday pushed for new and better protection of the nation's biggest city that could include sea walls and levees to ward off what Cuomo fears is an emerging pattern of violent storms.

Cuomo continued his call for better protection of the city from superstorms like Sandy, which he blames on climate change. For the second straight day, Cuomo said the rebuilding after Sandy must include new ways to prevent damage from future hurricanes and other storms.

He said the massive undertaking must begin now, repeating concerns he first made public Tuesday.

"We are vulnerable," he said Wednesday.

Bloomberg, who on Tuesday had declined to comment on any future efforts as he dealt with the immediate aftermath of Sandy, added his support.

Bloomberg, an independent, noted there is a long, raging political and academic debate over climate change that is delaying action.

"Climate change or random chain of events, only time will tell," Bloomberg said.

He noted crop damage from drought, melting ice caps and rising temperatures could be further proof that climate change is real, and he said New York must act.

"It's not the sort of thing you can say for sure, but the consequences of making the decision in one direction is pretty severe," he said. "We have to do a better job ... I think we have done a good job here, but you can always do better."

A state Legislature report form 2010 had urged action to protect New York City and Long Island from rising water levels and tides. The storm, which hit the region on Monday night, washed out beach areas, sent water into subway tunnels, knocked out power to thousands of people and killed more than 30 people in the state.

Cuomo, a Democrat, called climate change "a controversial subject."

"That's a political debate I don't want to get into ... I'm talking about the frequency of extreme weather situations," he said. "I believe it is going to happen again. I pray it does not."

At a news conference with Cuomo, fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand blamed Washington for failing to make climate change a priority.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, also a Democrat, went on an aerial tour of New York City and Long Island with Cuomo and Gillibrand. He said many areas of Staten Island appeared like bombed areas of London and Dresden, Germany, in World War II and his drive through lower Manhattan the previous night was like going through the ghost town many feared after the 2001 terrorist attacks.