Climate Action

This is New York City's $10 billion plan to 'climate-proof' itself

The skyline of lower Manhattan,  as seen from Exchange Place, is mostly in darkness except for the Goldman Sachs building after a preventive power outage caused by giant storm Sandy, in New York October 30, 2012. Millions of people in the eastern United States awoke on Tuesday to flooded homes, fallen trees and widespread power outages caused by Sandy, which swamped New York City's subway system and submerged streets in Manhattan's financial district. More than two-thirds of the U.S. East Coast's refining capacity was shut down and fuel pipelines idled due to Hurricane Sandy. Early assessments show the region's biggest plants may have escaped without major damage. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER ENERGY CITYSPACE TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR BEST QUALITY IMAGE ALSO SEE: GM1E8BU19QD01.  FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO COMMERCIAL SALES WORLDWIDE UNTIL JANUARY 7, 2018. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR CONTACT YOUR LOCAL SALES REPRESENTATIVE”. - GM1E8AU1K3201

Dark clouds loom. Image: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Kristin Houser
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Climate Crisis

Climate proof

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has a plan to “climate-proof” his city.

In an op-ed published in New York Magazine on Wednesday, de Blasio detailed his $10 billion plan to protect Manhattan from the coming rising sea levels and powerful storms that seem almost inevitable in the face of climate change.

“It will be one of the most complex environmental and engineering challenges our city has ever undertaken,” de Blasio wrote, “and it will, literally, alter the shape of the island of Manhattan.”

Predicted sea level rises

$10 billion buffer

To fortify most of Lower Manhattan, de Blasio’s plan allocates $500 million toward the creation of grassy stationary barriers in parks and removable barriers that the city can deploy just prior to a storm.

But those types of barriers won’t work to protect the eastern edge of Lower Manhattan, which de Blasio noted is just 8 feet above sea level — and tightly packed with vulnerable utilities, sewer systems, and subway lines.

The only option then, according to de Blasio, is to build more land — by pushing the coastline of Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Battery up to 500 feet into the East River.

“When we complete the coastal extension, which could cost $10 billion, Lower Manhattan will be secure from rising seas through 2100,” de Blasio wrote.

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National security

Ninety thousand people call Lower Manhattan home, but the need to protect the area is about far more than the local population. Lower Manhattan is also home to New York’s Financial District, which includes the United States’ — and, arguably, the world’s — economic center: Wall Street.

According to de Blasio, climate-proofing this area “should be as much a national priority as a local one — protecting the global center of commerce, the Federal Reserve, the home to a sector of our economy that touches every town and region in America.”

But the threat of climate change isn’t limited to New York — as de Blasio noted, other coastal cities, including Miami, Houston, and Charleston, are also staring down the same alarming fate.

“Preparing for climate change has to be a national priority, backed by tens of billions in federal investment,” de Blasio wrote. “Lives are on the line.”

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Climate ActionSustainable DevelopmentGlobal RisksNature and Biodiversity
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