A Decade After Sandy, Comptroller Says Downtown Is Farther Ahead Than Other Communities, But Still Lagging
A map pointing to an increase in the average sea level for Lower Manhattan (exclusive of flooding caused by high tides and extreme-weather events), spiking by as much as ten inches in the years ahead.
A report from New York City Comptroller Brad Lander released late last week says that resiliency plans for Lower Manhattan are farther along than the rest of the City, but still less than halfway to completion.
“Lower Manhattan has seen roughly $3 billion of committed capital funds for coastal protection (not to mention a master plan that calls for another $5-7 billion to build a new shoreline in the Financial District) while some neighborhoods have no defined resiliency capital commitments or plans at all,” the Comptroller’s report Ten Years After Sandy notes.
The passage about a “new shoreline in the Financial District” was a reference to a plan that would extend the waterfront in the South Street Seaport between 60 and 200 feet into the East River, with a series of interlocking berms, platforms, and floodgates, all designed to hold back waters from climate change, sea-level rise, and extreme-weather events.
At its farthest extension into the river, this network of barriers would be roughly five feet higher than the current waterfront promenade along South Street. But the interior sections of the complex (closest to the contemporary shoreline) would be up to 18 feet above the present-day streetscape.
This plan (which is projected to cost some $5 billion, none of which has yet been allocated), will require rebuilding several pieces of infrastructure currently located on the riverbank, including the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, the Wall Street Heliport, and several piers. The City’s vision also calls for preserving in place the historic (and landmarked) Battery Maritime Building, but discontinuing its use as a ferry terminal, which currently serves Governors Island.
Comptroller Lander’s report notes that 67 percent of the City’s open space and outdoor recreation areas and waterfront park is in the 100-year floodplain. “From Battery Park to the Rockaways, the City’s iconic waterfront parks serve a local and citywide purpose—drawing tourists and visitors from across the City.” Another key finding shows that in the decade since Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, market rate values of New York City real estate in the 100-year floodplain have increased to over $176 billion, a 44% increase.
The analysis cites data indicating that all of the Lower Manhattan waterfront falls within the current 100-year flood plain, while much of Downtown lies in the catchment of future floodplains (in the 2050s and 2100s), during which time frames flooding is predicted to become more severe and more frequent.
These findings are consistent with a report released in September by the Army Corps of Engineers, which notes that Lower Manhattan faces some of the highest risk of any area within the New York area, acknowledging that “the average tidal range is greatest at the Battery, in southern Manhattan,” at 4.4 feet. And these fluctuations are slated to become more intense, with Army Corps projections for the Battery ranging “from an increase of 0.7 feet for the low scenario, increase of 1.8 feet for the intermediate, and up to 5 feet for the high scenario through 2100.”
Mr. Lander’s report also relies on a separate data set that points to an increase in the average sea level for Lower Manhattan (exclusive of flooding caused by high tides and extreme-weather events), spiking by as much as ten inches in the years ahead.
All of these projections are supplemented by a set of three rainfall-based flooding maps released in July by the City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which anticipate future risks of inundation throughout the five boroughs, under various scenarios and time frames.
For Lower Manhattan residents, the maps illustrate moderate stormwater flooding scenarios under current and future sea level rise conditions, as well as an extreme stormwater flooding scenario under future conditions.
The first scenario depicts “Moderate Stormwater Flood without Sea Level Rise,” meaning that it refers to current ocean levels. This hypothetical imagines approximately two inches of rain in one hour, an outcome that currently has a 10 percent chance of occurring in a given year.
These circumstances predict scattered “nuisance flooding (greater or equal to four inches)” or “deep and contiguous flooding (one foot or greater)” at a handful of locations: on Broad Street (between Water and Beaver Streets) in the Financial District and on West Street (between Vesey and Barclay Streets, where water reaches inland for half a block on each) in Tribeca. In the Seaport, flooding is expected to accumulate along South Street (between John and Dover Streets), extending as much as a block inland (to Front Street) at each intersection, as well as at the crossing of John and Pearl Streets
The second contingency envisions a “Moderate Stormwater Flood with 2050 Sea Level Rise,” which translates into the same two inches of rain in one hour, with the same probability 10 percent chance in a given year, but couples this with ocean levels that are 30 inches higher than today (currently the high end of estimates for the mid-century).
Separate data indicate that all of the Lower Manhattan waterfront falls within the current 100-year flood plain, while much of Downtown lies in the catchment of future floodplains (in the 2050s and 2100s), during which time frames flooding is predicted to become more severe and more frequent.
These assumptions yield a slightly more sobering set of conditions. In addition to the flooding outlined above (plus new wet patches at Chambers and West Streets, Cedar and West Streets, and Whitehall and Water Streets), the Moderate 2050 projection shows high tides touching the edges of the Battery Park City Esplanade and most of South Street, while also intruding upon Piers 25 and 26 (in Tribeca), as well as the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, the Battery Maritime Building, and the Wall Street Heliport, along with Piers 11 and 15 on the East River.
The third sequence is the most alarming. This imagines an “Extreme Stormwater Flood with 2080s Sea Level Rise,” which connotes some 3.5 inches of rain in one hour (gauged at a one percent probability in a given year) combined with an increase of 54 inches in ocean levels (currently the upper reach of estimates for 58 years from now).
In this projection, there is flooding of no less than four inches (and in some cases greater than one foot) at each location noted above, with similar torrents on two stretches of West Street (from Battery Place to Liberty Street and from Vesey Street to a point north of Chambers Street). The deluge also comes to the Battery Park City ball fields, the western end of Rector Place, and Washington Street (from Rector to Albany Streets). Also soaked are the foot of North End Avenue, and stretches of Vesey, Barclay, and Murray Streets.
But the worst news is for the East River waterfront, with high tides racing inward from South to Front to Water Streets, at every point between the Battery and Brooklyn Bridge. At a handful of locations, the water is projected to reach Gold Street, William Street, and Nassau Street, all of which are closer to the geographic center of Lower Manhattan than to either of its shorefronts. Further north, vast lengths of West Broadway, Canal Street, Centre Street, and Baxter Streets also appear likely to become at least temporarily unusable.
For Lower Manhattan residents, these dire projections may be tempered slightly, because as the DEP notes, they do not reflect any of “the potential benefits of coastal protection projects currently under design or construction,” such as those currently being designed in Battery Park City.
Got Any Ideas on How to Spend a Million Dollars?
Marte Seeks Suggestions for Allocating Capital Funds to Local Projects
City Council member Christopher Marte (right) is soliciting ideas on how to spend up to $1 million in public funds on Lower Manhattan public infrastructure projects. Read more…
Battery Park City Restaurant Loses Michelin Ranking, But Five New Downtown Eateries Are Honored
The annually updated gastronome’s bible, the Michelin Guide, has released its findings about New York restaurants for 2022, which include several upgrades and one notable demotion for Lower Manhattan diners. Read more…
Monday, October 17
Battery Park City Library, 175 North End Avenue
Walk & writing session in which participants are encouraged to use observations in nature as a way to enhance their writing styles in any preferred mode. Registration required, please email email@example.com
New York City, arguably the world’s Art Deco capital, is well known for its iconic towers. Learn about the myriad ways that Art Deco is drawn in steel, stone, terra cotta, brass, and bronze upon the city’s great buildings. Hosted by the Skyscraper Museum. Free.
Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8am-3pm (compost program: Saturdays, 8am-1pm)
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Broadway & Whitehall St
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8am-5pm (compost program: 8am-11am)
World Trade Center Oculus Greenmarket
The Outdoor Fulton Stall Market
91 South Street, between Fulton & John Streets
Indoor market: Monday through Saturday,11:30am-5pm
CSA pick-up: Thursday, 4pm-6pm; Friday, 11:30-5pm
Outdoor market: Saturdays, 11:30am-5pm
Today in History
This is Le Bateau (The Boat), a paper-cut from 1953 by Henri Matisse, who died in 1954. On this day in 1961, the Museum of Modern Art hung Le Bateau upside down. Forty seven days later, a stockbroker named Genevieve Habert noticed the problem and the mistake was corrected.
1091 – A tornado thought to be of strength T8/F4 strikes London.
1604 – German astronomer Johannes Kepler observes a supernova in the constellation Ophiuchus.
1610 – French king Louis XIII is crowned in Reims Cathedral.
1662 – Charles II of England sells Dunkirk to France for 40,000 pounds.
1771 – Premiere in Milan of the opera Ascanio in Alba, composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, age 15.
1888 – Thomas Edison files a patent for the Optical Phonograph (the first movie).
1907 – Guglielmo Marconi’s company begins the first commercial transatlantic wireless service between Nova Scotia, Canada and Clifden, Ireland.
1931 – Al Capone is convicted of income tax evasion.
1933 – Albert Einstein flees Nazi Germany and moves to the United States.
1941 – A German submarine attacks an American ship for the first time in the war.
1956 – The first commercial nuclear power station is officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in England.
1961 – The Museum of Modern Art hangs Matisse’s Le Bateau upside-down.
2006 – The United States population reaches 300 million
2008 – Iran’s attempt to create the world’s largest sandwich (1,500 metres) fails when crowds eat it before it can be measured
1915 – Arthur Miller, playwright and screenwriter (d. 2005)
1930 – Jimmy Breslin, journalist and author (d. 2017)
1938 – Evel Knievel, motorcycle rider and stuntman (d. 2007)
1972 – Eminem, rapper and movie star
33 AD – Agrippina the Elder, Roman noblewoman (mother of Caligula), dies of starvation at 47
1849 – Frédéric Chopin, Polish pianist and composer (b. 1810)
1979 – S. J. Perelman, American humorist and screenwriter (b. 1904)
1990 – Ralph Abernathy, civil rights leader, dies of a blood clot at 64 (b. 1926)
2019 – Elijah Cummings, politician (Rep-Maryland (D) 1996-2019), dies at 68