Last week Mayor Bloomberg released a Report titled “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” providing over 250 specific recommendations to make the City more resilient in the face of the rising sea levels and increased storm activity associated with climate change. The product of a Special Initiative formed in December 2012 in response to Superstorm Sandy, the Report covers a wide variety of measures ranging from beach nourishment and wetlands restoration to increasing the resiliency of the City’s transportation and healthcare systems and responding to insurance concerns.
Adaptation to protect residents and infrastructure from extreme storm activity is a critical issue for the City. With a 520-mile coastline, longer than those of Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco combined, the City’s population includes nearly 400,000 residents living in the newly revised FEMA Preliminary Work Maps Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) (the area that will be inundated by a flood event having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year, also sometimes called the base flood elevation or 100-year floodplain).
Notable proposals provided throughout the Report include:
- Providing bonus grants to accelerate cleanup of brownfields in the SFHA ;
- Identifying cost-effective measures to safeguard exposed hazardous substances in the SFHA and creating a catalogue of best practices;
- Installing cogeneration equipment at wastewater treatment plants around the City, which will generate backup electricity from the methane produced by the treatment process itself;
- Protecting the city’s 14 wastewater treatment facilities, all of which are located along the waterfront and are at risk in the event of a coastal storm;
- Increasing the capacity of parks to absorb floodwaters and the driving impact of surge-related wave action by restoring beaches and redesigning bulkheads in coastal parks;
- Creating a local storm surge barrier at Newtown Creek and at the mouth of the Gowanus Canal, both Superfund sites; and
- Constructing a multi-purpose levee with raised edge elevations to protect much of the East River shoreline below the Brooklyn Bridge and create a new area for commercial and residential development (called “Seaport City” and based off of Battery Park City along the Hudson River).
The report estimates that, should only the 37 highest priority “Phase 1 initiatives” be implemented, expected losses from a future storm like Sandy could be reduced by up to 25 percent, or $22 billion. These Phase 1 initiatives include such measures as: studying storm surge barriers at Newtown Creek to reduce “back door flooding”; launching a global design competition for integrated flood protection systems; and developing a one-stop website for all City and State waterfront permitting information.
For more information about climate change adaptation, please contact Michael Bogin.