NYC proposes $ 5B Waterfront project to protect Lower Manhattan

Photo via NYCEDC

Reproduction by NYCEDC

New York City thinks big to protect Lower Manhattan from climate change.

A new proposal from the city’s economic and climate leaders calls for a two-level, kilometer-long esplanade that will protect 140 acres of low-lying land in FiDi and the seaport from rising seas and storm surges, the Commercial Observer reported. If built, the project would extend the coastline by 110 feet into the East River and create open public space along the coast.

The lower level of the esplanade would sit just three to five feet above the river, forming a direct path between the battery and the Brooklyn Bridge and protecting against rising seas, according to the plan of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the mayor’s office of climate resilience. The upper level, a 13- to 15-foot storm wall, would counteract waves like those seen during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“There is no doubt that climate change is here,” Rachel Loeb, president and CEO of EDC, said in a statement. “If we do not intervene now, residents, businesses and critical infrastructure will be endangered.”

The unfunded waterfront project would cost between $ 5 and $ 7 billion, but would prevent up to $ 1 billion in annual damage when completed in the 2050s, according to plan authors. Contrary to a similar idea called “Seaport City”, which was launched by the Bloomberg administration, the plan unveiled on Wednesday includes virtually no commercial development. A press release mentioned that cafes could be a part of it.

Just one storm that is not mitigated can prove to be hugely costly. After Sandy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency sent more than $ 14 billion to governments and nonprofits involved in recovery work and an additional $ 1 billion in individual assistance. The city expects more than $ 20 billion in flood damage between 2021 and 2100 if nothing is done.

The city is considering several sources of funding, both federal and local. It has already requested funding from FEMA, which could send around $ 50 million. The plan also identified U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and federal transit grant programs as potential benefactors capable of providing up to $ 3 billion and $ 360 million, respectively. The city is also likely to add its own funding.

“It was the East Side that was destroyed during Superstorm Sandy,” Catherine McVay Hughes, former president of Manhattan Community Board 1, told the Observer. “Water went in blocks. It just did not stop at the water’s edge, and it has taken years to rebuild the infrastructure that was damaged,” Hughes said.

About 37 percent of the buildings in Lower Manhattan will be in danger of storm surge in 30 years, according to the EDC.

The plan still faces many obstacles, not to mention a new administration taking office in just two days. They include an environmental impact assessment and a building permit, which alone can take five or more years.

The Seaport City proposal, which is part of a larger series of resilience measures proposed by the Bloomberg administration in 2013, said a dike could both protect the East River coast south of the Brooklyn Bridge and create an area for both residential and commercial development. . “Using the model of Battery Park City, which is designed to withstand major floods, the city will work with communities, businesses and property owners to explore opportunities for a new neighborhood,” the proposal read.

The Blasio administration later went ahead with a much smaller plan to raise East River Park. Local residents tried to stop it but lost their court battle this month.

[Commercial Observer] – Joe Lovinger

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