New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed flood walls around much of lower Manhattan, a 15- to 20-foot levee to guard Staten Island and the construction of dunes in vulnerable areas as part of a nearly $20 billion plan that even he called “incredibly ambitious” at its unveiling Tuesday.
The mayor said the plan was to transform how the city girds itself for storms and global warming, according to the Associated Press.
Bloomberg's proposals include building dunes in Staten Island and the Rockaways, firming up the shoreline with bulkheads in various neighborhoods and considering building a levee and a new "Seaport City" development at the South Street Seaport that would echo nearby Battery Park City.
The mayor also is suggesting giving $1.2 billion in grants to property owners to flood-proof their buildings and $50 million to nursing homes to improve theirs; making hospitals even in rarely flooded areas upgrade their pumps and electrical equipment; and expanding beaches and marshes, among other ideas.
"This plan is incredibly ambitious," Bloomberg said in a speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, acknowledging that much of the work would extend beyond the end of his term this year. "This is urgent work and it must begin now."
Fueled by the city's blow from Hurricane Sandy last fall, the sweeping proposals represent a huge step up in scale and urgency for a mayor who has for years emphasized the threat he thinks climate change poses to the nation's biggest city, which has 520 miles of coastline.
It remains to be seen how the ideas will fare in a future mayoral administration and what kind of support — financial and otherwise — they might ultimately get from the federal government and other entities that would be involved, not to mention New Yorkers themselves.
Bloomberg acknowledged that some of the ideas could block views and otherwise prove controversial, but "if we're going to save lives and protect the lives of communities we're going to have to live with some new realities," he said.
Bloomberg said city and federal money already allocated for Sandy relief would provide $10 million for the projects, and the city believed it could get at least an additional $5 million in federal money.
The recommendations draw from updated predictions from the New York City Panel on Climate Change, a scientists' group the city convened.
The average day could be 4 degrees to nearly 7 degrees hotter by mid-century, the panel estimates. A once-in-a-century storm would likely spur a surge 5 or more feet higher than did Sandy, which sent a record 14-foot storm tide gushing into lower Manhattan.
And with local waters a foot to 2-1/2 feet higher than they are today, 8 percent of the city's coastline could see flooding just from high tides, the group estimates.