With glaciers melting due to rising temperatures, ocean levels are rising too, and this worries coastal cities. With a 520-mile-long coastline, lined with everything from public beaches to skyscrapers, New York City is facing threats posed by rising seas and climate change.
Both big and small changes are being proposed, but planning experts say it’s hard to get public support for projects with uncertain or distant benefits. In the September 11th edition of the New York Times, Mireya Navarro quotes environmental commissioner Carter H. Strickland as saying, "It’s a series of small interventions that cumulatively, over time, will take us to a more natural system" to deal with climate change. The city is hoping to invest over $2 billion of public and private money to environmental projects over the next 18 years.
Navarro quotes water policy analyst Ben Chou as saying, "There’s a lot of concern about angering developers." Some of the things that may anger them are requiring new buildings to be elevated about current flood levels and adding retractable watertight gates for windows.
Despite the $2 billion proposed price tag, many officials don’t think the city is thinking big enough. Only a year ago, the city shut down the subway system and ordered the evacuation of 370,000 people as Hurricane Irene approached the Atlantic coast. Ultimately, it weakened to a tropical storm and the city was spared, but it exposed how vulnerable New York is. Navarro quotes engineer Douglas Hill as saying, "They lack a sense of urgency about this." He (and others) think that city, state and federal agencies should be investing in sea gates that could close during a storm and block a surge from Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean into the East River and New York Harbor.
But just like all the proposals lying for rebuilding our roads and bridges that are lying fallow on the Congressional table, it’s doubtful that the amount of money needed for massive changes can be raised–until it’s too late.