New Report Lays Out Strategy For Post-Sandy NYC

June 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm

In a wide-ranging interview, host Rafael Pi Roman asks Seth Pinsky, President of The New York City Economic Development Corporation, if planning for a changing climate is worth the price tag.

On June 11,  Mayor Bloomberg released the findings of the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR).  SIRR was launched in December 2012 to assess damage across the city from Superstorm Sandy and investigate how to improve the city’s defenses against future storms.

In his speech announcing the findings, Bloomberg outlined a $20 billion plan that he said is not option for a coast city confronting a changing climate.

“Whether you believe climate change is real or not is beside the point – we can’t run the risk,” Bloomberg stated. “And as New Yorkers, we cannot and will not abandon our waterfront. It’s one of our greatest assets. We must protect it, not retreat from it.”

In the report, titled “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” are more than 250 recommendations for hardening infrastructure and building more storm-resistant coastal barriers.

When Mayor Bloomberg called for the study last December, he put Seth Pinsky, President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation in charge and named him director of the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency.

Pinsky told MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman that one of the clearest findings was that well-designed waterfront areas especially those with dunes survived the storm with minimal damage and can serve as a model for new projects.

“You look at a neighborhood like Arverne by the Sea in the Rockaways […] because it was elevated, because it had nourished sand dunes in front of it, because it had a high capacity  drainage system, it emerged almost unscathed,” Pinsky said.

The report also recommends a new development on the east side of Lower Manhattan, dubbed SeaPort City. The development would be modeled on Battery Park City, an area built man-made landfill that received “very little flooding” and helped protect other areas according to Pinsky.

“[W]hat that shows us is that it’s not landfill that’s inherently bad, it’s  landfill that’s built at the wrong elevation that’s the problem,” Pinsky said. “… [I]f you build landfill at the right elevation it can not only provide you with land on which you can develop  but it can also provide a barrier for inland areas.”  Pinsky said that a project like Seaport City could help solve housing shortages and potentially generate revenue for more city projects.

Critics have taken issue with that portion of the plan due to its potential environmental impact, reported The Wall Street Journal.  Pinsky argued that a resilient waterfront is the best option for a coastal city like New York.

“The fact is that we live in a city that has 500 million  square feet in our 100-year flood plain today and we’re going to have more going forward,”  Pinsky said. “We can’t retreat.  We don’t have a choice.”

According to Pinsky, federal funding will pay for most of the $20 billion worth of projects and he said some projects are already underway.