On March 14, 2019, the City of New York released the Lower Manhattan Climate Resilience Study, a comprehensive look at current and future climate risks and impacts on Lower Manhattan as a part of the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency (LMCR) project.
With the findings of the study, the City has identified approximately $500 million worth of adaption projects and developed an overall strategy, of both capital projects and additional planning, for the climate resilience of Lower Manhattan.
Because Lower Manhattan is a critical economic, cultural, and civic hub for New York City and the region, the impacts of climate change on Lower Manhattan will extend far beyond the District.
New York City, like many other cities around the world, is facing the complex reality of climate change and its severe impacts on the urban environment. In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, flooding 17% of the city’s land, claiming 44 lives, and causing $19 billion in damages and lost economic activity. In Lower Manhattan, the impact of Hurricane Sandy was devastating, causing two deaths and damaging thousands of homes.
Major reports in 2018 have solidified the scientific consensus that, absent significant action, climate change will produce devastating global consequences at a faster rate than previously thought. A plan for action is needed to ensure that Lower Manhattan’s vitality and growth continues in this century and into the next.
What is the Lower Manhattan Climate Resilience Study?
The Lower Manhattan Climate Resilience Study builds on past efforts and leadership by the Lower Manhattan communities and the City after Hurricane Sandy, and lays the path forward for the next phase of climate resilience planning towards Lower Manhattan’s future. The study, which was funded by both the City and State through federal post-Sandy disaster appropriations, and led by the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) evaluated dozens of adaptation measures and identified a set of strategies to build resilience in Lower Manhattan.
The study assessed a broad range of climate hazards, including:
The study found that by 2050, 37 percent of properties in Lower Manhattan will be at risk from storm surge. By 2100, with over 6 feet of projected sea level rise, almost 50 percent of properties will be at risk from storm surge, and 20 percent of Lower Manhattan’s streets will be exposed to daily tidal inundation. Groundwater table rise is projected to put 7 percent of buildings at risk of destabilization and expose 39 percent of streets with underground utilities to corrosion and water infiltration.
In response to these risks, the City has identified approximately $500 million worth of investments in climate resilience and developed an overall strategy that includes both capital projects and additional planning for increasing the resilience of Lower Manhattan.
Resiliency Strategy Projects
Two Bridges Coastal Resilience
In the Two Bridges neighborhood, the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) will install a combination of flood walls and deployable flip-up barriers to protect the neighborhood from a 100-year storm surge in the 2050s, while also maintaining access to the waterfront. NYCEDC is currently leading final design for the $200 million investment and DDC will start construction in 2021.
This project will protect thousands of residents, including many living in affordable housing, while continuing to preserve views and access to the waterfront. These deployables will be permanent underground infrastructure, hidden until they are flipped up in event of a storm. The location of the flood walls and posts was determined to minimize conflict with subsurface infrastructure and to maximize integration with existing waterfront uses such as open-air seating, fitness, and athletic courts.
The Battery Coastal Resilience
In the Battery, NYCEDC, in partnership with NYC Parks, Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), and the Battery Conservancy, will invest $165 million to elevate the waterfront esplanade and integrate a grassy berm at the back of the park. This design will preserve the look and feel of the existing park while protecting it and the neighborhood from a 100-year storm surge in the 2050s. Construction will begin in 2021.
This project leverages the urgent need to repair and harden the esplanade as well as the ample open space in the park for adaptation to both projected sea level rise and storm surge. The City will also coordinate with the Battery Park City Authority to create a seamless line of protection from Battery Park City into the park to protect the communities behind it from flooding at the significant breach point that sits in the Battery. This design concept integrates climate adaptation with preservation of the park’s historic character and active waterfront uses.
Interim Flood Protection Measures (IFPM)
In the Seaport and parts of the Two Bridges and Financial District neighborhoods Emergency Management (EM) will spend $3.5 million to deploy a combination of just-in-time Tiger Dams and pre-deployed HESCO barriers by the 2019 hurricane season as temporary measures in advance of a permanent solution. These temporary interventions, including “just in time” water-filled dams to be deployed in event of a storm and pre-deployed sand-filled barriers, will be employed along an alignment of just over a mile and protect against a 10-year flood.
The Financial District and Seaport Climate Resilience Master Plan will bring a targeted focus to closing a gap in climate protection for the District in the long-term. These neighborhoods represent a unique convergence of high climate risk and few adaptation options due to a highly constrained waterfront that lacks the physical space needed to implement most large-scale adaptation projects. In the face of these unique conditions that make constructability of on-land adaptation measures infeasible, the City is recommending expanding Lower Manhattan’s shoreline into the water to deliver comprehensive protection from climate hazards and significant public benefits. Over the next two years, ORR and NYCEDC will complete the Master Plan, which will include a comprehensive design for the shoreline expansion and establish a new public-benefit corporation to finance, construct, and manage it.
Beginning in spring 2019, the City will establish a robust community engagement process to discuss the study, its strategies, dedicated investments, and further planning. Dedicated community outreach will take place for each of the advancing capital projects, as well as the Financial District and Seaport Climate Resilience Master Plan. Community engagement for the master planning process will determine the extent of the shoreline expansion and topside programming and identify a first phase project.