New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio, proposed a $ 10 billion plan to push the Manhattan coastline with less than 500 feet (or two city blocks) against floods that are expected to become more frequent as Earth's temperatures rise.
The project would protect the South Street Seaport and the Financial District, along the eastern edge of Lower Manhattan, an area just 2.4 m above the waterline, the Blasio said. Parts of the vast land are located at 20 feet above sea level. The city cannot build flood protection on existing land because it is too busy with utilities, sewers and metro lines, he said.
"The new land will be higher than the current coast and protect the neighborhoods against future storms," the Blasio plan announced on Thursday. "Extending the coastline to the East River is the only viable way to protect these vulnerable and vital parts of the city."
The area was flooded in 2012 by a storm tidal wave from Hurricane Sandy, which caused $ 19 billion in property and infrastructure damage. The area includes Wall Street, the center of one of & # 39; the world's financial capitals, $ 60 billion in real estate, 75 percent of the city's metro lines, 90,000 residents and 500,000 jobs. The extension will secure the lowest Manhattan against rising seas until 2100, de Blasio said.
"It is one of the core centers of the American economy, the world's financial capital, and it should be a national priority. But the fact is, it isn't," said the Blasio, who said he had a 2020 run for president. "This should be a case where the federal government asks us how it can help. That just doesn't happen."
President Donald Trump's skepticism that climate change is the result of carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels means that the city cannot count on federal funds unless someone else occupies the White House, de Blasio said. Climate scientists consider overwhelming emissions as the driver of rising temperatures on Earth.
The extension would protrude into the East River north of the Brooklyn Bridge, the east side to the Bowery. It would be part of an overall Lower Manhattan resilience plan that includes a $ 500 million project to strengthen the area with a U-shaped outstretched grassy verge and removable flood barriers that can be anchored in place as storms approach, Blasio said.
On Staten Island, which has also experienced storm destruction, the city has received $ 615 million in federal funding to create a protective sea wall on the east bank. Other reinforcements have been installed along the southern shore of the Queens in the Rockaways, including a boardwalk that will also act as a barrier to tidal waves.
Tim Dillingham, director of the New Jersey-based American Littoral Society, who advocates protecting coastal environments, said he is concerned about the impact of the proposal on the marine biotope.
"We very rarely accept the reasoning that you can sacrifice the environment for economic development," Dillingham said by telephone on Thursday. "We would like to see alternative ways to do that."
Ideas for building a kind of seawall around Lower Manhattan have been circulating for years, including one proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2013. The former mayor is the founder and majority shareholder of Bloomberg News, Bloomberg LP.
That plan, also called & # 39; Seaport City & # 39; mentioned, included the development of the large private sector, which would take more time to implement it, de Blasio said. This project is focused on resilience, de Blasio said.
Although the Blasio should be praised for "big thinking," his proposal does not contain a rigorous cost-benefit analysis compared to other proposed mega-engineering resilience projects, said Roland Lewis, president of the Waterfront Alliance, a New York advocacy group. It also has insufficient regional coverage to take into account other equally sensitive areas, he said.
"All options must be on the table, but we must have a good understanding of the compromises," Lewis said. "The most important thing is that there is no time. Solutions based on the best analysis with powerful and real public input are needed to address the urgency of today."
Jesse Keenan, a faculty member and researcher at Harvard Graduate School of Design who advises governments on climate resilience and adaptation, said the instinct to stop climate change with walls and other infrastructure projects can sometimes create a false sense of security at high costs and for a limited time. But New York City is an exception.
"I can't think of anything else in America where there would be a stronger incentive to make this type of investment," said Keenan, who co-authored a 2014 study on the protection of the South Manhattan coast that came from the idea of the Seaport City. "Given the height and total amount of economic output and productivity of this part of the country, we really have no other alternative."
That does not mean that De Blasio's proposal will be easy. The main drawback, Keenan said, is the amount of hassle that the city has to clean up.
"When you talk about going into the water, you're talking about a level of coordination with the American Corps of Engineers, and probably with Congress and other environmental actors, who could significantly prolong and complicate it," Keenan said. "But maybe that's inevitable. Maybe we shouldn't run away from that. & # 39;
The process would also include years of local hearings with land use and environmental impact studies that could delay construction until 2025 or later, de Blasio said. The mayor said that residents who have experienced Sandy & # 39; s destruction may want changes while the concept is supported.
"After Sandy you won't find many deniers of climate change in New York City," de Blasio said. "This is the existential threat, the core issue that we must all be confronted with as quickly as possible."
-With the help of Stacie Sherman.
Copyright 2019 Bloomberg.