Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Storm-weary New York City needs to adapt faster to climate change

Jim Hall in the Guardian (UK): ...In 2007 [New York City] embarked on a programme to address changing climate, population growth and ageing infrastructure, as well as improve residents’ quality of life. It covers investment in green infrastructure, including energy, transport and housing, up to 2030.

New York City has also been working to tackle the realities of flooding and offer solutions that keep the city moving in spite of its storms. After flooding in 2007 a weakness was identified with the subway network in Queens and other low-lying areas. Storm water had repeatedly gushed through street-level ventilation grates into the subway network below, flooding numerous stations throughout the borough and paralysing portions of the city’s transport network. Responding, the MTA raised the subway grates up off the ground and double-purposing them as street benches and other outdoor furniture. Not only does this enhance resilience to flooding, but enables residents to go about their lives even during heavy storms.

In response to Sandy and its devastation to the north east of the US, the federal government awarded $335m last year to the City of New York to build the first stage of what is being called “The Big U” project. Essentially a large storm protection berm around lower Manhattan, it will extend for 10 miles, and aims to protect an incredibly dense, vibrant and low-lying urban area. The proposed system will not only shield the city against floods and storm water, but also aims to provide social and environmental benefits to the community..

New York City’s approach to climate change adaptation was one of the first in the US that not only considered how one policy area affects another, but also how agencies can work together effectively.

However, despite its plans, our research at the Institution of Civil Engineers suggests that the city itself has built comparatively few resilience projects. It is important to get decisions right, so time spent on analysis and design is time well spent. But impending sea level rise, hurricanes and storms warrant action sooner rather than to later....

The Queens Midtown Tunnel flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Shot by the MTA, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

No comments: