Ambitious plan to protect lower Manhattan from Climate Change

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a $10 billion plan to protect lower Manhattan from the growing threat of sea level rise. It includes adding 152 metres of coastline to the East River - which will literally alter the shape of the island of Manhattan.

In an article he wrote for Intelligencer, de Blasio said “we don’t debate global warming in New York City. Not anymore. The only question is where to build the barriers to protect us from rising seas and the inevitable next storm, and how fast we can build them.”

Because Lower Manhattan is a critical economic, cultural, and civic hub for New York City and the region, the impacts of climate change on Lower Manhattan will extend far beyond the District. Photo credit: Lower Manhattan Resilience Study

Because Lower Manhattan is a critical economic, cultural, and civic hub for New York City and the region, the impacts of climate change on Lower Manhattan will extend far beyond the District. Photo credit: Lower Manhattan Resilience Study

“It will be one of the most complex environmental and engineering challenges our city has ever undertaken.”

Six years ago, Hurricane Sandy crushed New York, submerging 132 square kilometres of it in water. Forty-four people died, and 17,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. It was an unprecedented natural disaster which left many in no doubt just how vulnerable the city was to global warming.

Mayor de Blasio announcing the resiliency plan

Mayor de Blasio announcing the resiliency plan

The newly announced Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Plan will protect the South Street Seaport and the Financial District along the eastern edge of lower Manhattan, which sits just 2.4 metres above sea level. De Blasio says the city can’t build flood protection on existing land because it’s too crowded with utilities, sewers and subway lines.

The new land will be higher than the current coast, protecting the neighbourhoods from future storms. Extending the shoreline into the East River is the only feasible way to protect these “vulnerable and vital parts of the city,” the plan noted.

Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.  Photo credit: Lower Manhattan Resilience Study

Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. Photo credit: Lower Manhattan Resilience Study

The extension will secure lower Manhattan from rising seas through 2100, de Blasio says.

Also included is a $733 million project to fortify the area with a U-shaped expanse of grassy berms and removable storm barriers that can be anchored in place as storms approach.

Lower Manhattan is home to Wall Street, one of the world’s financial capitals, $88 billion of property, 75 percent of the city’s subway lines, 90,000 residents and half a million jobs.

“Across this country cities are grappling with the same existential threat. But nowhere in the $4.75 trillion budget President Trump just proposed is there any approaching a plan to protect our coastal cities from rising seas.

“This is a national emergency without a national policy. That has to change.

“Time is not on our side. This country has wasted too many years pretending it had the luxury of debating climate change.”