New York City’s (Lack of) Resilience

Posted by on Sep 11, 2012

Raised subway ventilation grates in Lower Manhattan that were installed to help prevent flooding during a storm surge. Photo: Michael Kamber, New York Times.

There’s a great article in today’s New York Times, “New York is Lagging as Seas and Risks Rise.” In a nutshell, with 520 miles of shoreline, New York City is highly vulnerable to rising sea level and storm surges, and the City isn’t doing enough to address its vulnerabilities.

The City is already working to expand protective wetlands, install green roofs to limit runoff, encourage property owners to elevate mechanical equipment, and elevate subway ventilation grates (see photo). I was actually involved in the City’s Green Codes Task Force a couple years ago to address such measures—and many more.

But some suggest that the City is not doing nearly enough. The waters around New York have been rising, says the article, by about an inch per decade, but at a rate that is accelerating. By mid-century, it could be two feet above today’s level and by 2080 four feet higher.

Experts at the Storm Surge Research Group at Stony Brook University on Long Island suggest building massive sea gates to protect the City from surges—as Providence, Rhode Island has done.

The article paints a great picture of the complexity of grappling with adaptation to climate change in a large coastal city. Definitely worth a read!

Along with founding the Resilient Design Institute in 2012, Alex is founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. and executive editor of Environmental Building News. To keep up with his latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feed.



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