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  • Joseph Dolman

Waiting for the storm next time

On Sunday the skies were clear, the winds had eased and the waterfowl had resumed their patrol of the East River shoreline, pecking in the sand for tiny bites to eat or diving crazily into the surf for heartier fare.

Downtown residents, meanwhile, had resumed their routines of biking or jogging or fishing or tai chi along the East River Esplanade, relieved that Hurricane Joaquin was finally roaring out to sea and not aiming at us.

Count me among them. Because despite what the politicians say about the progress we've made since Hurricane Sandy, the truth is that New York can't handle another massive storm, at least not yet.

We're still struggling with the last one.

To cite just two examples: The MTA is trying to rebuild the new South Ferry subway station on the No. 1 line that Sandy ruined in 2012. And Amtrak has yet to repair the flood damage that Sandy wreaked in its 105-year-old Hudson River tunnels into Manhattan's Penn Station.

When Amtrak does start this crucial work, chaos will reign for years. What the carotid arteries are to the human heart, those two old tunnels are to America's passenger rail service. At the moment, they move 450 trains a day into and out of Midtown Manhattan.

The tunnel rehab will cut that number in half. Meaning: The reconstruction will make a hash indefinitely of New Jersey Transit commuter schedules and Amtrak timetables, putting more cars on the road, making commuter-bus runs slower and generally transforming streets and highways in Jersey and Manhattan into a perpetual honking hell.

It's hard to push ahead when we're so far behind. But what choice is there?

Here's one morsel of good news. The city announced in August that it will build a $100 million system of levees, flood walls and extended parkland around the tip of Lower Manhattan, from Battery Park City to the Lower East Side.

What's not so clear is when the project will be completed.

So for now, we're vulnerable. We're still repairing Sandy damage and we're slogging through yet another hurricane season. But we do get lucky sometimes. We dodged a lethal bullet named Joaquin.

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