Virtually every big rainstorm in New York now seems to be accompanied by a flash-flood alert sent to cellphones. And scientists recently reported that a vast section of Antarctica’s ice sheet, now melting, might bring on as much as a 10-foot rise in the world’s sea levels in the coming decades.
While the nation debates the appropriate response, the coastal cities threatened most by climate change — particularly New York — must somehow address the problem themselves.
New York, at least, has begun. After Hurricane Sandy’s catastrophic impact in late 2012, it became obvious that the city must be able to minimize the serious damage caused by future climate “events” and bounce back.
The first step has been to ensure that the city’s existing infrastructure can survive severe storm surges and subsequent flooding. But planning is now moving forward on a far more ambitious program, in which the city’s very shape adapts to the new realities.
The federal government recently announced it would provide more than a third of a billion dollars to fund an array of initiatives that would strengthen New York’s resilience, including a “U”-shaped necklace of landscape projects around Lower Manhattan. Tens of billions more in private and public financing would be needed for an even larger proposal — a 1.3-mile-long, mixed-use “living barrier” of housing, office space and waterfront amenities along the East River, called “SeaPort City,” to protect the Financial District.