Experts Say Structure To Prevent Flooding Should Be Considered, Bloomberg Disagrees
Mayor Bloomberg gave a major policy speech Thursday detailing his plan to better protect the city against future storms -- but one of the most ambitious ideas some speculated of is apparently off the table. NY1's Bobby Cuza has more.
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Barriers to keep out floodwaters already exist in London and other European cities, but here in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has repeatedly thrown cold water on the idea.
“Over the past month, there’s been a lot of discussion about seawalls," Bloomberg said Thursday. "It really would be nice if we could stop the tides coming in. But King Cannute couldn’t do it, and neither can we.”
He reiterated the sentiment on his Friday radio show.
“Remember, most of our damage was done on the south coast of Staten Island, Coney Island, Breezy Point and the Rockaways," he said. "That’s not where you could build a barrier, unless you wanted to start build a barrier from the Florida Keys to Newfoundland.”
But more feasible concepts do exist.
One plan, which creates swing gates in the Arthur Kill between Staten Island and New Jersey, was one of several presented at a 2009 conference on the topic.
Another would create a $6.5 billion barrier just north of the Verrazano Bridge.
While there’s no consensus that a seawall is the way to go, scientists and urban planners say it's imprudent to take the option off the table.
“He’s setting the stage now for this discussion," Allan Frei of the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities said. "I don’t feel at the early stages of this discussion some of these options should be ruled out.”
“I think we need to look at all of these options," Regional Plan Association President Robert Yaro said. "There are some things that we can do to keep the water out.”
Climate scientists acknowledge that in addition to being expensive, seawalls come with their own set of problems. Building a barrier to protect New York harbor, for instance, could actually make flooding worse in other parts of the city -- like Staten Island and the Rockaways -- and have an unintended impact on marine life.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signaled he's open to the idea. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is not only open to it, but supports it.
“It’s now crystal clear that we need to build protective structures,” Quinn said.
Sen. Charles Schumer is pushing for an Army Corps of Engineers study that hasn't yet received the green light