Photo credit: Chris Ford via Flickr
A decade ago, an Atlantic hurricane-turned-superstorm named Sandy caught ready-for-anything New York City completely off guard as it raged up the East Coast from the Caribbean to Canada. On October 29, 2012, the city was blindsided by an unanticipated storm surge that flooded streets and subway tunnels and cut power. It took some areas weeks to get the lights back on and, in the best of cases, open for business, and years to rebuild (an effort which is still ongoing). It goes without saying that the city would like this disaster to be the first and last of its kind, but predictions of future environmental impacts are front-page news daily. To that end, experts and innovators in architecture and engineering, government organizations, regulators, and planners have dedicated their efforts–and billions of dollars–to protect the city in a post-Sandy world. But what has really been accomplished–and is the city safer?
Storm clouds, silver linings, but few solutions
Red Hook after Sandy; Photo by Michael Fleshman on Flickr
Seven years after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, a majority of the city’s public housing developments damaged by the storm have not been repaired. Of the 35 NYCHA complexes wrecked in 2012, totaling roughly 200 buildings, upgrades have been completed at just two of them, THE CITY reported Tuesday. The slow recovery at sites in Red Hook, Coney Island and the Lower East Side stems from a lack of federal funding and shady contracts. Details here
Via Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office
Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled on Thursday a $10 billion plan to extend the coastline of Lower Manhattan as much as 500 feet to protect from future floods. The Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency project is the result of a study that looked at ways to build resilience in low-lying neighborhoods like the Financial District and South Street Seaport. The study found the only feasible measure for these areas would be extending the shoreline about two city blocks into the East River by adding a new piece of land at or above 20 feet from current sea level.
Rendering of original sea wall plan via Governor Cuomo’s office
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, United States Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, and United States Congressman Max Rose announced today that funding has been secured for the Staten Island Levee project. The news gives the green light for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to build a long-awaited 5.3 mile sea wall that would protect waterfront communities in Staten Island from future storms.
Good news for Staten Island
Via US Army Corps
In response to intensifying hurricanes that have hit the New York and New Jersey coastal region in recent years, the U.S. Army Corps is proposing a handful of measures to reduce the risk of storm damage. The proposals include constructing barriers, either in-water or land-based, and floodwalls that would stretch over 2,000 square miles across New York Habor to protect the area’s waterfront neighborhoods.
The barriers, already being used in cities like Stamford, Conn. and London, would have gates that remain open to let ships pass, but close when a hurricane is advancing (h/t WNYC). After completing a study that looked at nine high-risk areas, including 25 counties in NY and NJ, on the Atlantic Coast, the Corps this month will present the proposals at public information sessions across the two states.
A Howard Beach home after Hurricane Sandy, photo courtesy of Pamela Andrade’s Flickr
For the first time since 1983, the Federal Emergency Mangement Agency is redrawing New York’s flood maps, taking into account the consequences of climate change like rising sea levels and stronger storms. With hundreds of miles of coastline and a growing number of developments sprouting along its waterfront, New York has more residents living in high-risk flood zones than any other city in the United States, according to the New York Times. FEMA’s new map, while still years away from completion, could have a profound effect on the city’s future developments and zoning regulations. It could place more residents and buildings in high-risk flood zones, requiring pricey flood insurance as well as tougher building codes and restrictions on new developments.
More this way
Photo courtesy of the MTA on Flickr
On Friday, the MTA unveiled custom doors designed to protect the city’s subway system from future floods. In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy crippled Lower Manhattan, as well as most other parts of the city, with a 13-foot surge of water. Now, five years later, the MTA is installing custom-made, marine doors, equipped with inflatable gaskets to seal out water to be installed at the bottom of the subway’s stairwell (h/t WSJ). In addition to these doors, other stations will get metal hatch doors below street subway grates, fabric curtains to block flowing water and a system of interlocking stop logs at the entrance of some stations.
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6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Orestes Gonzalez shares his series “Dark Sandy,” photos he took five years ago when lower Manhattan lost power during Hurricane Sandy. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
“Never had I seen Manhattan in such darkness… I had to get over there and experience this dark phenomenon with my camera,” says Orestes Gonzalez of his series of photographs taken the night Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. As we now approach the fifth anniversary of the Superstorm, the photos are a reminder of how far we’ve come, and in some cases, how much work still needs to be done. In fact, 20% of the 12,713 families who enrolled in the city’s Build it Back program are still waiting for construction to wrap up or for a property buyout. But despite some of the post-storm issues, in the wake of the disaster, Orestes remembers the “sense of camaraderie” he experienced during those dark times, a trait that New Yorkers have come to be known for.
Hear from Orestes and see the full series
Flooded Battery Park Tunnel after Hurricane Sandy. Image: Timothy Krause via Flickr.
With the October 29th anniversary of superstorm Sandy approaching and storms leaving the world’s coastlines waterlogged, 6sqft recently covered a new report predicting rising sea levels and a growing flood risk. Now a new study, published Monday, found that New York is almost halfway through a 500-year span of rising seas that began in 1800–and the worst is yet to come. But according to the Washington Post, this increased likelihood of flooding has a silver lining.
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Density of population and infrastructure in the projected 2050 floodplain. Image: RPA.
Hurricane season is impossible to ignore, and as the October 29th anniversary date of Superstorm Sandy approaches, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) has released a report titled “Coastal Adaptation: A Framework for Governance and Funding to Address Climate Change” that warns of the imminent threat of rising sea levels and outlines a strategy to protect the many vulnerable stretches of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. According to the report, 59 percent of the region’s energy capacity, four major airports, 21 percent of public housing units, and 12 percent of hospital beds will be in areas at risk of flooding over the next 30 years. RPA research found that even in light of these projections, the region’s climate change planning tends to be reactive and local rather than pro-active and regional–and it’s not nearly enough.
Find out more about who’s at risk and what can be done