Six years, two months, and 11 days after Hurricane Sandy swamped Lower Manhattan, Community Board 1 (CB1) is sounding the alarm about the process for developing a resiliency plan to protect the community from future extreme-weather events, which appears to have lapsed into an indefinite hiatus.
At a December 19 meeting, Diana Switaj, CB1’s Director of Planning and Land Use, outlined a resolution, “to commemorate sixth anniversary of Sandy, that chronicles our experience and asks that the process move forward, since it has pretty much stalled out.”
“The next step in the process,” she continued, “was supposed to be for the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency [LMCR] Project to have the next task force meeting. That was supposed to happen in July, and it still hasn’t happened. The Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency [ORR] keeps telling us that they have to wait until they brief the mayor. We don’t know why that takes months and months to do, but we can’t get a straight answer.”
“So this resolution asks that that meeting happen, so we can move forward with this project,” Ms. Switaj continued. “We also ask that LMCR be fully funded, which it is not. And most importantly, because we have unique jurisdictional issues in Lower Manhattan, with the Battery Park City Authority, the Port Authority, the Hudson River Park Trust,” all controlling various parts of the community, “we ask that ORR take responsibility for a resiliency master plan for Lower Manhattan so we can assess how all of these pieces fit together.”
The resolution Ms. Switaj introduced notes that, “at a height of seven feet, Community District 1 experienced one of the highest inundation levels in Manhattan during Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. Two people in our district drowned and the storm resulted in billions of dollars of damage to infrastructure, housing and commercial property and utilities.” It also observes that, “not only is Lower Manhattan surrounded by water on three sides, but all of the edges have been built out on landfill presenting unique vulnerability and engineering challenges.” And the resolution decries that, “there has been a breakdown in communication and chronic delays in scheduling and conducting Task Force and community engagement meetings,” adding that, “the perception of LMCR is that things have stalled and delays are a regular occurrence. This exacerbates already existing doubt, anxiety and fear in our community.”
While some agencies, such as the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have moved ahead with plans to protect specific sites within Lower Manhattan, vast swaths of the community remain as vulnerable today as they were on October 29, 2012, when rising waters breached the shoreline and flooded Downtown.
Funding a massive civil engineering project, such as protecting Lower Manhattan from climate change, is widely understood to be the most difficult part of the equation. But no serious discussion of funding can begin until a plan is in place, and formulating such a plan (though a complex undertaking in its own right) is supposed to be the comparatively easy part of the task. It is on this relatively straightforward component of the process that no discernible progress has been made since the middle of 2018.
The resolution discussed at the December 19 CB1 meeting passed unanimously. In the weeks since, there has been no announcement about a date for the next LMCR meeting that was originally scheduled for last July.
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