New York plans to protect itself behind a gigantic anti-flood wall to try to avoid the effects of disasters seen in the past ten years. To that effect, the city embarking on a massive renovation plan. The urban giant is surrounded by water and threatened by climate change.
Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and storms Ida and Henri this summer caused the death of dozens of residents and billions of dollars in damage in the largest city in the United States. With its particular geography, the Big Apple is extremely vulnerable to bad weather and has adopted in recent years a titanic plan called “climate resilience” with a cost of 20 billion dollars.
The city is investing more than $20 billion in climate resilience with a multi-layered strategy to protect our coastline.Jainey Bavishi, New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate Resilience
Experts fear a rise in water levels of 20 to 75 cm by 2050, which would threaten New York with submersion, particularly the island of Manhattan, which is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the East River and the Hudson River. The megalopolis of more than 8.5 million inhabitants has 836 km of coastline. In the south-east of Manhattan, work has begun on a wall and dikes against flooding, with a budget of 1.45 billion dollars.
At the construction site, wedged between the East River and the expressway that runs alongside it, the plan is to elevate the park in the area near the waterfront, where some 110,000 New Yorkers live. Over four kilometers, the green space will be completely raised by three meters and the erection of an anti-flood wall should help avoid catastrophic damage caused by hurricanes and storms that form over the Atlantic.
Authorities in New York became aware of the risks already in October 2012, after the shock of Hurricane Sandy, which caused the death of at least 44 people, $19 billion in damage and the absence of electricity for weeks. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Sandy was the first disaster that accelerated our approach to climate change.
Except for the giant green lung of Central Park, Manhattan will also replant thousands of trees of different species around the construction site and improve underground sewer, drainage and power systems.
City planners are also looking to improve housing, one of New York’s Achilles’ heels, particularly because of the number of basement dwellings exposed to flooding and the poor quality of construction and thermal and sound insulation in the homes. “There are a million buildings in New York City. We’re retrofitting them wherever possible,” said Bavishi, touting “one of the most resilient building codes in the world.”
New York and its “climate resiliency” program could even be part of the environmental component of President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion plan, voted on in Congress, to invest massively in infrastructure in the United States. And thus benefit from federal funds to carry out these projects.