New York should forget about surge barriers for most cost-effective resiliency plan, say researchers

Massive barriers too expensive; city should focus on protecting infrastructure

May 19, 2014 |
Photo: New York National Guard via Wikimedia Commons

Massive storm surge barriers would be too costly for the potential benefit to protect New York City from violent storms like Hurricane Sandy, researchers say.

U.S. and Netherlands-based researchers ran 549 simulations of storm surges of varying intensity for a cost-benefit analysis of different approaches for New York to defend itself against flooding including the construction of massive surge barriers in lower New York Bay and Long Island Sound.

While the barriers would have a positive impact, the more cost-effective option is to allow floodwaters to surge into the city while protecting critical infrastructure near sea level, such as airports, the researchers concluded. The study was published in the May 2 issue of Science.

The most cost-effective scenario had no surge barriers are at the outer limits of the city.

Rather, building codes would be made tougher for low-lying parts of New York and New Jersey, and there would be a focus on protection of critical infrastructure and “moderate enhancement protection” along parts of the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts.

This plan would cost $10 to $12 billion and, the report suggests, could be paid for through a tourist “resilience fee.”


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