Can New York City beat a hurricane?
More than seven months after Sandy ripped through New York City, Mayor Bloomberg today is unveiling his plan to improve New York City's chances against a major storm.
From our Josh Robin's reporting, we already know that the mayor won't propose building the kind of storm defenses that have done such a good job protecting Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Instead, we're going to hear about removable walls guarding lower Manhattan, barrier islands for Staten Island and new sand dunes to protect the Rockaways. While all of these ideas are positive first steps, it's unclear to me if they'll be enough should a category two or category three hurricane slam into the city.
Bloomberg administration officials yesterday previewed the mayor's speech by painting a scary picture of what global warming will mean for New York – with the number of residents living in a flood plain doubling to 800,000 by the 2050's. Temperatures in the city by then are also expected to soar with our climate mimicking the current Alabama heat of Birmingham. And, they say, sea levels could rise nearly a foot by the end of the next decade.
So if these Hollywood scary-movie predictions are true, what's a sand dune going to do to stop a storm like Sandy? Looking out my window here in the Rockaways this morning, I can see the tide already nearly touching the areas of some new construction along the beach. It's going to take a lot more than sand to fortify some areas against the tide in a storm. I'm not sure that this neighborhood is safe for another tropical storm tomorrow, let alone for the higher tides and hurricanes in the coming decades.
Regardless of what the mayor proposes, much of the job of improving the city's storm infrastructure will be left to his successor who takes over in a little more than six months. It will be very interesting to see what the mayoral candidates will have to say in response to Bloomberg's speech. After all, it's all about planning for the long run. But -- as the economist John Maynard Keynes once wrote-- in the long run, we're all dead.