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New York City Initiates $1.5 Billion Flood Resilience Project after Hurricane Sandy

City of New York

Manhattan, New York, NY

After Lower Manhattan suffered significant damage during Hurricane Sandy, New York City developed plans to establish flood-protection zones, including the building of 10 miles of protection around Lower Manhattan, to raise the resilience of the area’s infrastructure against storms and flooding.

Topics Covered

Coastal & Tidal Flooding
Hurricanes & Severe Storms
Sea Level Rise
Stormwater Management

Cost

Initial: 816 Million USD

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Grants

Bonds & Loans

Taxes & User Fees

Project Status

In Progress/Under Construction since 2016

Problem Addressed

Sea level rise, flooding and severe storms caused the city to strengthen infrastructure that would protect the dense residential hub and economic powerhouse from these climate-related impacts.

The devastation New York City suffered as a result of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was significant. The storm resulted in the deaths of 44 City residents and inflicted an estimated $19 billion in damages and lost economic activity. The low-lying waterfront area of Manhattan, which stretches from West 57th St down to The Battery and includes the Financial District, is particularly vulnerable to flooding and also suffered significant damage. Of lower Manhattan’s population of 220,000, the hurricane affected 95,000 low-income, elderly, and disabled residents, as well as damaging infrastructure within a 10-mile perimeter and leaving thousands without power or running water.

Faced with rising sea levels and the risk of flooding or severe storms, the city looked to strengthen the infrastructure in the area to protect this dense residential hub and economic powerhouse from these climate-related impacts.

Solutions Used

In collaboration with BIG (Bjark Ingels Group), along with many others, New York City developed the BIG U proposal as part of HUD’s “Rebuild by Design” competition.

The competition was aimed at rebuilding areas affected by Hurricane Sandy and focused on resilience, sustainability, and livability. The project will serve to protect Lower Manhattan from future flooding and storms and is estimated to cost $1.5 billion.

The BIG U project proposed building 10 continuous miles of protection around Lower Manhattan, with the area broken into compartments to provide separate flood-protection zones. BIG U is made up of 5 compartments incorporated into a 2-stage project, with all compartments designed to work together to protect and enhance the city. The first phase of the project is titled East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) and includes the East River Park compartment. The second phase of the project is titled Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency (LMCR) and includes compartments for Montgomery St to Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge to the Battery, Battery Park, and Battery Park City.

When asked to describe the project, Bjarke Ingels, the founder of BIG, stated “What if we could envision the resilience infrastructure for lower manhattan in a way that wouldn’t be like a wall between the city and the water but rather a string of pearls of social and environmental amenities tailored specific neighborhoods, that also happens to shield their various communities from flooding.

Within the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Phase and the East River Park compartment, the plan is to bury East River Park under landfill raising the height of flood protection around East River Park to between 8-9 feet above the existing grade. Raising the height of the park above the grade provides flood protection for the park itself, as well as 150,0000 residents and a power sub-station nearby. The project was designed to withstand sea-level rise levels projected for the year 2100. Further storm surge protection comes from several floodwalls and 18 flood gates incorporated into the project’s design.

In developing the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency (LMCR) Phase, the city gathered community feedback through outreach tools like an interactive Open House. Some of the mechanisms used to increase resilience against sea-level rise and flooding are flip up and roller gates, extending the city’s shoreline into the East River, elevating Battery Park’s waterfront esplanade so it can withstand rising sea levels, and building a continuous flood barrier extending out from Battery Park.

Outcomes

1

New York City increased flood resilience for future decades while creating new space for community planning, like bike paths.

2

Feedback from the community through tools like an Open House was used to inform the planning process

3

New York City’s BIG U project will protect Lower Manhattan, a residential hub and financial powerhouse, from future climate disasters.

Something Unique

BIG U was selected as one of the winners of the US Department of Housing & Urban Development "Rebuild by Design" contest in 2016.

Who Should Consider

Cities looking to strengthen flood resistance by incorporating infrastructure into the existing landscape.

Last Updated

Mar 18th, 2022
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