SINKING SOLUTION

A frightening thought: a massive storm surge completely knocking out a third of lower Manhattan within the next 30 years. The possibility is real and so is a solution.

Aired on March 20, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> CLIMATE CHANGE MAKES HEADLINES DAILY BUT IF CURRENT PREDICTIONS ARE TO BELIEVED, ONE-THIRD OF LOWER MANHATTAN WOULD BE OVERRUN BY A STORM SURGE IN 30 YEARS.

ACCORDING TO A NEW STUDY THIS CAN HAPPEN IF NO STEPS ARE TAKEN TO PROTECT THE DISTRICT AND POINTS NORTH.

SINCE HURRICANE SANDY FLOODED LOWER MANHATTAN AND THE POWERFUL STORMS THAT HAVE FOLLOWED, MAYOR de BLASIO WANTS TO BE READY.

HE IS PROPOSING BUILDING AN ADDITION TO THE LOWER MANHATTAN COASTLINE BY 500 FEET TO FORTIFY AND PROTECT IT.

TONIGHT, WE'RE TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THIS PROPOSAL AS PART OF OUR SERIES ON THE CHALLENGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

JOINING ME IS ANNIE McDONOUGH FROM CITY AND STATE NEW YORK.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

SO FIRST LET'S START OFF WITH THIS PROGRAM THAT THE MAYOR PRESENTED TO NEW YORK AND TO THE WORLD LAST WEEK.

QUICK SYNOPSIS AGAIN, WHAT IS IT THAT HE WAS PROPOSING?

SURE.

SO IT'S THE STUDIES RELEASED LAST WEEK WHICH FOUND BY 2050, 37% OF PROPERTY IN LOWER MANHATTAN WOULD BE AT RISK OF STORM SURGE.

THAT BY THE YEAR 2100 IT WOULD BE ALMOST HALF OF PROPERTY IN LOWER MANHATTAN.

SO THE CLOCK IS REALLY TICKING FOR BUILDING UP RESILIENCE MEASURES IN LOWER MANHATTAN.

AND THESE HAVE BEEN TALKED ABOUT FOR A WHILE SINCE HURRICANE SANDY.

BUT THE REAL HIGHLIGHT OF THIS PLAN THAT THE MAYOR INTRODUCED IS SORT OF A BIT RADICAL.

IT'S TO BUILD OUT A SECTION OF LOWER MANHATTAN AROUND FINANCIAL DISTRICT IN SOUTH SEAPORT.

ABOUT 500 FEET OF EXTRA LAND BASICALLY.

WHICH IS EQUIVALENT TO TWO SMALL CITY BLOCKS AND IT WOULD BE ELEVATED LAND UP TO 20 FEET AT THE HIGHEST POINT WHICH IS WELL ABOVE THE SEA LEVEL RISE AND IDEALLY THAT IS WHAT WOULD PROTECT THE PART OF THE CITY FROM STORM SURGE.

AND THE REST OF THE MEASURES ARE A BIT MORE TRADITIONAL.

SORT OF AROUND THE TIP OF LOWER MANHATTAN, BUILDING UP FLOODBAT LIKE THAT.

HOW IS THIS AT LEAST RECEIVED BY ENVIRONMENTALISTS, SCIENTISTS, ENGINEERS WHO WOULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR PUTTING THIS INTO ACTION?

SO I THINK PART OF THE PRISM IS THE PROCESS OF DECIDING THIS IS THE ONLY VIABLE OPTION FOR THIS PART OF THE CITY WHICH IS FINANCIAL DISTRICT AND SOUTH STREET SEAPORT.

IS THAT THE PROCESS -- THE CITY HAS ENGINEERS AND CLIMATE SCIENTISTS WORKING ON IT, BUT IT'S NOT CLEAR IT'S THE BEST PROGRAM.

IT IS PARTICULARLY LOW, IT IS ABOUT EIGHT FEET ABOVE THE CURRENT SEA LEVEL WHICH IS LOWER THAT UP THE REST OF LOWER MANHATTAN.

AND THERE ARE OTHER SORT OF BARRIERS, LIKE SUBWAY TUNNELS.

SEWERS, OTHERTI BUILDING BARRIEF THE EXISTING LAND DIFFICULT.

BUT I MEAN, AS FAR AS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS AND GROUPS, THEY'RE WELCOMING THIS RADICAL ACTION THAT'S WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN CALLING FOR FOR A LONG TIME.

IT'S A MATTER OF WHETHER IT WILL GET DONE.

LET'S GET DOWN TO THE DOLLARS.

THIS IS A MULTIBILLION DOLLAR PROJECT AND THE THING THAT CAUGHT PEOPLE'S ATTENTION THE MAYOR INTENDED TO DO IT WITH FEDERAL DOLLARS.

THIS ADMINISTRATION HAS ALREADY PRETTY MUCH PUT THE BRAKES ON DOING A BRAND-NEW TRANSHUDSON TUNNEL FROM YOU KNOW THE TUNNEL FROM NEW JERSEY TO NEW YORK SO IF THEY CAN'T GET THE THE TUNNEL, WHY WOULD THIS ADMINISTRATION KICK IN BILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO REBUILD LOWER MANHATTAN?

I THINK THAT'S WHAT YOU SAW THE MAYOR SAY, THE MONEY HAS TO COME FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BECAUSE LOWER MANHATTAN IS SUCH A CENTRAL BUSINESS AREA FOR THE COUNTRY AND THE WORLD.

BUT HE ALSO SAID BASICALLY THE NEXT BREATH THAT IT'S NEVER GOING TO COME FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP.

SO IT PRESENTS SORT OF A TOUGH SITUATION.

IF IT DOESN'T COME FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, IT COULD COME FROM PRIVATE DEVELOPMENT WHICH IS A TOUGH AREA TO BEGIN BECAUSE THAT WOULD EXTEND THE PROCESS AND, YOU KNOW, PRESENT A LOT OF COMMUNITY CONCERNS.

SO THERE'S SORT OF A HINT THAT HE IS PLACING HIS BETS ON CHANGE IN OFFICE IN 2020 BECAUSE HE GETS ASKED ABOUT THAT QUITE A LOT.

EVERYBODY WANTS TO KNOW WHAT HE'S GOING TO DO FOR 2020.

SURE.

HIS OTHER SORT OF OPTION THAT HE FLOATED IS EVEN IF PRESIDENT TRUMP WINS A SECOND TERM, IF THE SENATE CHANGED IN 2020.

AND CHUCK SCHUMER THE PRESUMPTIVE LEADER OF THE S SENATE, THAT COULD HELP IN SECURING SOME FEDERAL FUNDS.

WELL, SO FAR IT'S JUST A PLAN.

BUT WE OF COURSE WILL SEE HOW THIS DEVELOPS AND WHAT ACTUALLY COMES INTO EXISTENCE IN THE NEXT 10, 20 YEARS.

ALL RIGHT.

WELL, LISTEN, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU FOR HELPING US GET A BETTER GRIP ON WHAT WE MIGHT BE SEEING TO HELP PROTECT NEW YORK FROM THE NEXT BIG HURRICANE.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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