Almost five years after Hurricane Sandy, some are returning to a call for storm surge barriers — essentially huge walls in the water to block floods. Barriers are finding new support among some, although not all government officials. NY1's Josh Robin has the exclusive details.
Beautiful views off Breezy Point in the Rockaways could change; Connecting Queens all the way to Sandy Hook, New Jersey could be a barrier to shelter the city from flooding.
"This would save lives," said Bob Yaro of Storm Surge Working Group. "It will save tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars over its life in avoided flooding and disruption of the economy in the region."
Yaro's group calls not just for a barrier in the outer harbor, but also tying Queens to the Bronx near the Throgs Neck Bridge.
The group notes that New York lags behind London, the Netherlands, and even Russia.
"We're kind of standing down on the beach with our pants down around our ankles," Yaro said. "This is not how we want to protect this great city from these dangers."
And in a sign of its influence, a conference on the "urgent need for a regional barrier" is co-sponsored by the Port Authority.
But building a barrier isn't easy. The whole harbor system could cost $25 billion.
A rendering, seen in the video above, shows laying a highway on top to help pay, if it's given a permit.
Complicating matters further, Breezy Point is a private, gated community, whose residents aren't seen as exactly eager for interstate traffic to come through.
The group pushing the barrier says it's just an idea. Others question whether the barrier is needed at all.
"I haven't seen much research done on it so far," oceanographer Philip Orton said.
The Stevens Institute of Technology oceanographer says action on climate change could reduce worst-case predictions for sea-level rise.
"So people are seeing Sandy, and they think, 'Well, we have to prepare for these kinds of floods occurring all the time,'" Orton said. "But Sandy was the highest flood in New York City's history."
The de Blasio administration says barriers should be studied, but it isn't committing.
"We agree that the barrier could provide potential protection to storm surge, but there are other risks that New York City neighborhoods face," said Jainey Bavishi of the Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency.
The city plans a smaller barrier for Jamaica Bay. The Army Corps of Engineers, which would be responsible, says it plans to study all "potentially feasible measures."