By Orlando Lee Rodriguez
In somewhat of an about face, Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday (Tuesday) laid out his $20 billion plan to protect the city from flooding through a series of flood walls, levees and sand dunes.
The Mayor, speaking at the Duggal Greenhouse at Brooklyn Navy Yard, unveiled the city’s plan to tackle rising sea levels and coastal flooding from more potent storm surges.
“In December, I asked Seth Pinsky, the president of the City’s Economic Development Corporation, to lead a team of people – including Marc Ricks and Tokumbo Shobowale – who would develop a comprehensive plan to prepare our city for the climate risks we face,” Bloomberg said.
“Today, as a result of all that work, we’re releasing a 400-page report detailing over 250 concrete recommendations for how to confront the risks we face, and build a stronger, more resilient City. These include comprehensive plans for strengthening 15 critical areas, like coastal defenses, buildings, utilities, fuel and food supply, healthcare, transportation, and telecommunications.”
The plan calls for the integration of flood walls and levees to be integrated into either existing infrastructure, like boardwalks and highways, or the creation of new neighborhoods, like Battery Park City, built to be flood resistant.
Under the Mayors plan, Newtown Creek, which separates Brooklyn from Queens, would get a surge barrier that would double as a community park. Coney Island would get a tidal barrier and wetlands, while South Beach in Staten Island would get a levee that would double as a boardwalk.
Lower Manhattan would have an entirely new neighborhood – “Seaport City” – built as a barrier to protect the Financial District from the kind of flooding that shut down many buildings completely.
“During Hurricane Sandy, the East Side of Lower Manhattan was badly flooded – while the Hudson riverfront south of Chambers Street and north of the Battery held up pretty well,” Bloomberg said. “What made the difference? Battery Park City. In fact, Battery Park City would have protected inland areas – including the World Trade Center – had floodwaters not been able to penetrate low-lying coastline to the north and south. When it was built in the 1970s, Battery Park City was designed to withstand major flooding – and for the most part, it did.
“We can achieve the same thing on the East Side of Lower Manhattan. We can build it out, raise it above the flood level – and develop it. Call it Seaport City. Yes, it would be expensive to build. But over time it could prove to be a great investment, just as Battery Park City has been.”
During the speech, the Mayor used power point slides to show how sand dunes at Beach 56th Street in the Rockaways protected the boardwalk and beach from destruction, while the area around beach 94th Street, which didn’t have dunes, was destroyed by water.
The mayor also used slides of flood maps, interchanging between the 1983 FEMA 100-year flood maps, 2013 revised maps and future projections from 2020 and 2050 that show entire areas of Brooklyn and Queens under water.
“We expect that by mid-century up to one-quarter of all of New York City’s land area, where 800,000 residents live today, will be in the floodplain,” Bloomberg said. “If we do nothing, more than 40 miles of our waterfront could see flooding on a regular basis, just during normal high tides.”
The embracement of barriers is the opposite position than the Mayor took last December when he envoked a fable of real life Anglo-Scandinavian King Canute. Canute, Bloomberg said, could not stop the sea and “neither can we.”
But it is clear however, that the Mayor’s “cannot stop the sea” viewpoint is clearly a thought pattern of the past.
“We can do nothing and expose ourselves to an increasing frequency of Sandy-like storms that do more and more damage, or we can abandon the waterfront,” Bloomberg said. “Or, we can make the investments necessary to build a stronger, more resilient New York – investments that will pay for themselves many times over in the years to come.”