New York’s resilience plans not taking long-term view, critics charge

Continued waterfront development may be regretted later this century.

July 27, 2016 |
New York’s resilience plans not taking long-term view, critics charge

Flooding in New York City during Hurricane Irene in 2011. Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons.

Critics charge that New York City’s approach to resiliency in the face of climate-change-induced sea level rise is shortsighted.

New development in Manhattan and Columbia University’s new Manhattanville campus will be at risk in 50 to 80 years, they say. Mayor Bill de Blasio is focused on “an election time scale,” not a more realistic timetable given the challenges the city faces, critics assert.

In the end, the only reasonable approach to city planning over a longer time scale is “managed retreat” to higher ground, according to engineers focused on resiliency. One of the main drivers of "managed retreat" is likely to be the rising costs of flood insurance.

Congress has failed to reform the National Flood Insurance Protection, which is now $23 billion in debt. If property losses increase as expected, reform and insurance rates will go up to the point where people will choose to live in lower risk areas in New York and other coastal areas.

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