Bruce Stutz

What New York Can Do to Protect Itself From Future Storms

The scenario might have been different: As weather reports confirmed that an incoming nor’easter would drive Hurricane Sandy inland, New York City would have begun watching the rising waters and preparing to respond. When, as predicted, the storm surge showed signs that it would begin to inundate the shorelines of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, the emergency system would have kicked in: Across the Verrazano Narrows entry to New York Harbor, across the upper East River, across the entrance to Jamaica Bay, the floodgates would have begun closing.

Like massive garage doors between pilings 10-stories high, the gates would have fallen into place. In the Verrazano Narrows at the mouth of the harbor, huge gate-like storm barriers, through which ships normally pass, would have pivoted slowly together. Within an hour, the surging seas would have been shut out. Rains and winds would cause their damage, but New York City would have been protected from the storm surge that ended up inundating its vulnerable infrastructure.

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New York City Is Getting Ready for Rising Sea Levels and Hotter Temperatures

While computer-generated visions of floodwaters sweeping across Wall Street and inundating Manhattan island have come to represent apocalyptic predictions of climate change, the reality is that it won't take an apocalypse for rising sea levels to threaten the integrity of the complex infrastructures that provide New York and the world's major coastal cities with water, sanitation, transportation, power, and communications.

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