By Mary Frost
June 11, 2013
Mayor Bloomberg on Tuesday unveiled an ambitious $20 billion plan designed to protect the city against future devastating hurricanes and other natural disasters. The plan includes offshore breakwaters, wetlands, floodwalls and tide gates, elevated homes, green infrastructure and new high-level sewers, among other measures.
The far-reaching plan has been under development since Hurricane Sandy blasted the city last October.
The Mayor’s 430-page report called “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” released at a conference at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, contains more than 250 specific recommendations to “fortify the city” against climate events.
These include erecting barriers in Red Hook, Brooklyn and at specific spots in Manhattan and the Bronx -- along the FDR Drive, north of East 23rd Street, on the Lower East Side, along the financial district and more. On Staten Island, the plan calls for a system of permanent levees. Bulkheads would be built in Greenpoint in Brooklyn and other low-lying areas.
The Brooklyn/ Queens Waterfront received its own set of recommendations, as did Southern Brooklyn. These include gates and levees, restoring and maintaining beaches, including emergency beach renourishment in Coney Island, installing a storm surge barrier at Newtown Creek, installing a tidal barrier along Coney Island Creek, completion of a Plumb Beach breakwater, protecting Con Edison’s Farragut Substation and much more.
"The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce applauds Mayor Bloomberg for his plan to protect New Yorkers from the threat of rising sea levels and storm surges along the city's extensive coastline," Carlo Scissura, President & CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement on Tuesday. "Brooklyn's residents and business know well the damage a storm can cause after Hurricane Sandy battered the borough's coastline last year. The mayor understands that as these storms become more frequent and more powerful, the city needs to respond in ways that will minimize future damage."
The plan calls for the city’s hospitals to meet higher elevation guidelines, as well as ensure their electrical equipment and water pumps are protected.
If all goes according to plan, power, fuel, telecommunications, transportation, water and wastewater, healthcare, and other networks “will operate largely without interruption, or will return to service quickly when preventative shutdowns or localized interruptions occur,” the Mayor said.
Mayor Bloomberg did not promise that New York City will be “climate-change proof,” but said it will be “far safer and more resilient than it is today.” Much of the proposal would be carried out after he leaves office.
“This plan is incredibly ambitious -- and much of the work will extend far beyond the next 200 days – but we refused to pass the responsibility for creating a plan onto the next administration,” Bloomberg said. “This is urgent work, and it must begin now.”
The coastal protection strategies described by the Mayor focus on fortifying and expanding natural protections, rather than retreating from the increasingly important waterfront.
These strategies include measures that can be implemented immediately, as well as a number of additional “full-build” projects to protect much of the most vulnerable sections of shoreline. These additional projects are not included in the $20 billion estimate. Other proposals building building code and insurance changes, and $1.2 billion in loans or grants to building owners to complete flood resiliency measures. The City will also make up to $50 million available to qualifying nursing home and adult care facilities that invest in mitigation retrofits.
While $20 billion sounds expensive, Sandy alone caused about $19 billion in damages. Rising sea levels and ocean temperatures mean that by the 2050s, a storm like Sandy could cause an estimated $90 billion in losses. According to Mayor Bloomberg, implementing the plan could reduce expected losses in the 2050s by up to 25 percent.
Not everyone believes the Mayor's plan has the city covered. "Bloomberg’s plan includes many worthwhile proposals, but insufficiently addresses the needs of the hardest-hit families and communities," said Emmaia Gelman, a spokeswoman for the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding (AJR), a coalition of community, labor and faith organizations.
AJR believes funds should to go towards correcting “long-standing disparities in mass transit access, economic opportunity, housing, and healthcare . . . that resulted in disproportionate hurricane-related devastation in low-income, immigrant, and other vulnerable communities.”
In 2008, Mayor Bloomberg convened the New York City Panel on Climate Change to develop local climate change projections. Their findings, released in a report in 2009, described the climate impacts New York could expect in the future -– which include increased heat and more frequent and intense downpours. Following Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg re-convened the panel.
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