In 2009, the New York State Bar Association's Task Force on Global Warming, appointed by then president Bernice Leber, reported:
In recent decades, New York has begun to experience conditions related to climate change in the form of higher temperatures, increased precipitation, extreme weather events, and sea level rise. If GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions continue to increase, which appears inevitable at least in the near term, these conditions will worsen…. The so-called "100 year flood" could become a common occurrence in New York's coastal cities by the end of the century. Sea level rise is also expected to inundate low-lying coastal areas and accelerate erosion, threatening coastal residences and businesses as well as salt marshes and estuaries on Long Island.
Sadly, these predictions came true all too soon when Sandy hit the East Coast in late October with devastating effects on New York City, Long Island, and other communities along the coast and inland at least as far as Westchester County, as well as in other coastal states. Lawyers and law firms were seriously impacted, and many were without essential services and even access to their offices for weeks. Individual lawyers and law firms participated in early relief efforts, and those whose offices were soon back in business provided office space and other assistance to others who were more seriously impacted by the storm.
NYSBA Relief Efforts
The New York State Bar Association quickly secured a toll-free hotline number for the Lawyer Information and Referral Service dedicated to providing legal assistance to persons affected by Superstorm Sandy and coordinated conference calls with other bar associations in the areas most affected by the storm, including the New York City, New York County, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Bronx County, and Westchester County Bar Associations.
On Nov. 15, the NYSBA held a free CLE webcast/live program to train lawyers and law students to provide pro bono assistance to Sandy victims. The live program was held at the Bar Center in Albany and webcast to the New York City, Nassau and Suffolk County Bars (the latter participating with Touro Law Center) as well as approximately 2,000 other registrants. The archived program can still be viewed at www.nysba.org/GuestPassSandyCLE. The NYSBA and bar associations in the affected areas have continued to provide training, clinics and support for pro bono legal services to storm victims; and current listings of these ongoing activities can be found at www.nysba.org/sandy as well as on the websites of the various bar associations. Attorneys can volunteer for the hotline by calling 518-463-3200 or visiting www.nysba.org/DisasterVolunteerSandy. Storm victims still need help, particularly in the areas of FEMA and insurance appeals. We anticipate the need for volunteers will continue into the foreseeable future.
The Road Ahead
As we look ahead, we will revisit the report of the Task Force on Global Warming, which makes 22 proposals in four categories: buildings and energy, land use, vehicles and transportation, and other initiatives. The report is available at www.nysba.org/globalwarmingtfreport. We all can act to reduce GHG emissions, and the NYSBA will be revisiting the report and its proposals. Sandy has made this a priority.
David M. Schraver, President-Elect of the New York State Bar Association, is a partner at Nixon Peabody.