Teachers' Pension Fund Pledges $1 Billion for Post-Sandy Reconstruction

By Jill Colvin on December 14, 2012 7:04am 

HARLEM — The city's teacher pension fund has pledged $1 billion for new infrastructure investments to help communities rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, former President Bill Clinton and city and federal officials announced Thursday.

The $1 billion will be used to fund projects such as bridge repairs, improvements to the electrical grid and rebuilding battered homes more efficiently and safely to help the region recover from the worst storm in recent history, officials said.

The move, approved last week by members of the New York City Teachers Retirement System, marks the first time the pension fund has ever been used for infrastructure improvements.

“Together the work will benefit our future, not only in terms of more efficient buildings and reducing the threat of climate change, but also in the lives of teachers [and] construction workers," Clinton, speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative headquarters in Harlem, said.

He was joined by the United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, City Comptroller John Liu and Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

"This is a remarkable commitment," Clinton added. "[It is] putting us on the path to a sustainable future for New York City."

All of the projects will be chosen for their expected return on investment, said Liu, who noted that several recent projects have yielded returns of about 4 percent.

“This is a chance to not only help rebuild the city but also earn good returns for our pension funds and create jobs at the same time,” Liu said. “It's a winning trifecta."

Mulgrew, whose Staten Island home was flooded during the storm, said more than 10,000 city teachers live in flood Zone A. Immediately after Sandy hit, the educators sprung into action, Mulgrew said.

"The teachers always take care of their communities," he said, urging other pension plans to follow their lead. “Using public pension funds to help the public is something we will hope other unions now will follow."

Clinton, whose foundation office in Lower Manhattan remains without Internet, said the plan has huge potential to create jobs, while helping build a stronger, more resilient city.

“The potential here for a massive return to our economy, in terms of long-term economic growth, is so large it is hard to measure," he said.

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