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Mayor to Unveil $10 Billion Lower Manhattan Flood Protection Plan

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The scene along the East River Esplanade during Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Virginia Jones.
The scene along the East River Esplanade during Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Virginia Jones.

The mayor this morning is announcing his revamped plan to protect Lower Manhattan from climate change.  At 10:30 a.m., he’s scheduled to appear at the Metropolitan College of New York, 60 West St., to unveil the proposal. He also writes vaguely about the city’s latest scheme for, “filling one of the biggest gaps in our coastal defenses” in New York Magazine.

In the article, de Blasio hints about building out into the East River, a development first reported last week by Gothamist. The mayor explains:

It will be one of the most complex environmental and engineering challenges our city has ever undertaken and it will, literally, alter the shape of the island of Manhattan… The plan we’re announcing will invest a half-billion dollars to fortify most of Lower Manhattan with grassy berms in parks and removable barriers than can be anchored in place as storms approach. But there’s one part of this area that will prove more complex, and more costly, to defend than all the others combined. South Street Seaport and Financial District, along the eastern edge of Lower Manhattan, sit so close to sea level — just eight feet above the waterline — and are so crowded with utilities, sewers and subway lines that we can’t build flood protection on the land. So we’ll have to build more land itself.

The mayor’s plan calls for building out into the river by as much as 500 feet in some places. The plan would cost a whopping $10 billion.

After a long community-driven planning process, the city scrapped an earlier version of the East River resiliency plan. Residents have been mobilizing against new proposals from city hall which would “bury” East River Park.

More to come…


The New York Times reported following the mayor’s announcement:

Mr. de Blasio’s plan and an accompanying study were short on details, and the mayor said the city did not have the estimated $10 billion it would take to pay for it. It would also have to go through environmental reviews and would be subject to input from the community, all obstacles that could alter or block the plan. The mayor said the project should be financed by the federal government, which he said was unlikely as long as President Trump was in office, given Mr. Trump’s skeptical view of climate change.

 The Times noted that the mayor, who’s dreaming of running for president, wrapped his plan “in the cloak of the Green New Deal.”  His predecessor, Michael Bloomberg floated a similar proposal, which would have been partially financed by private real estate development. De Blasio said

In a statement City Council member Margaret Chin noted that full funding had been secured for the east Side Coastal Resiliency Project, which covers the area above Montgomery Street. But she expressed concerns about funding for the larger plan:

In the years since Sandy hit, we have struggled through the grueling process of recovery, made all the more difficult by the knowledge of how vulnerable our neighborhoods remain in the face of the next storm. With this plan to provide protection for the entire coastline of Lower Manhattan, we now have a roadmap to a more resilient and sustainable future. However, this more resilient future cannot be paid for by private real estate development that would destroy the waterfront neighborhoods that we are trying to protect. With thousands of precious lives, as well as homes, businesses and vital infrastructure, on the line, we cannot fail at our duty to protect and strengthen our city for decades to come.

In its morning newsletter, Politico observed:

…the mayor has not appeared in a hurry thus far to protect the neighborhoods most vulnerable to rising seas, even when he had a more friendly president in the White House. Plans have been underway since 2014 to start reshaping Manhattan in preparation for the next Sandy-like storm. Designs have been debated, scrapped and delayed. And nearly seven years after that fateful storm paralyzed the city, if another one hit today we’d likely be little better off.

Here’s a link to the study released by the city yesterday.


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