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Mayor's Long-Term Storm Prep Plan Heavy On Barriers

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg Tuesday outlined a broad, 430-page report on how the city should prepare for the effects of future storms due to climate change.

Speaking at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the mayor said his plan, titled "A Stronger, More Resilient New York," was developed following months of input gathered by a task force he set up after Hurricane Sandy.

"Now, the plan is incredibly ambitious, and much of the work will extend far beyond the next 203 days that we have in our administration, but we refuse to pass responsibility for creating a plan onto the next administration. This is urgent work, and it must begin now," Bloomberg said.

By mid-century, Bloomberg says up to one-quarter of the city's waterfronts will be in the flood plane, effecting some 800,000 residents.

The work the mayor outlined touches virtually every one of the city's 520 miles of coast.

Among the mayor's 250-plus recommendations to prevent storm-driven flood damage are to expand dunes in the Rockaways, including doubling the amount of dunes in the particularly vulnerable area of Breezy Point.

On Staten Island, where more than half the Hurricane Sandy deaths occurred, man-made islands would absorb waves off the southern coastline.

Removable flood walls would be put around other vulnerable areas, including Lower Manhattan, Hunts Point in the Bronx and Red Hook in Brooklyn.

The mayor also said the city must seriously look at the feasibility of constructing surge barriers in some of the most vulnerable areas like Jamaica Bay and Newtown Creek.

"Some of our waterfront protections may be controversial. Some may block views," Bloomberg said. "But the alternative is to get flooded out, or worse. We can't stop nature, and if we're going to save lives and protect the lives of communities, we're going to have to live with some of the new realities."

The most ambitious idea may be "Seaport City", a new neighborhood like Battery Park City that would be created south of the Brooklyn Bridge along the East River shoreline. It would be built into a multi-purpose levee designed to withstand a major flood.

The plan, which would cost an estimated $19.5 billion, also addresses building code and utility improvements going forward, as well as a borough-by-borough look at rebuilding and resiliency plans. It would also include help for homeowners like funding for weather proofing.

Bloomberg said federal money should pay for some of the proposals, but acknowledged more money will be needed.

The big question is whether Bloomberg's successor or successors will be as committed to the same projects. The mayor said much can be done in his remaining 200 days. Observers say pressure will build on candidates to adopt the proposals.

"I thought that the great thing that the mayor did, really, and made clear this time, was how much his team had gone out and worked with the neighborhoods and talked to the communities that really were impacted, and stitched together a plan that was a result of their feedback," said former Port Authority Executive Director Christopher Ward.

It remains to be seen how much of that plan is ultimately realized.

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