On the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (and with the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy looming), Mayor de Blasio has announced an additional $100 million in funding for flood prevention in lower Manhattan, from Montgomery Street on the Lower East Side, around the tip of the borough, and up through Battery Park City.
"I saw with my own eyes what this community went through after Sandy," de Blasio said yesterday. "Some areas were flooded directly and some... didn’t have electricity. You’ll remember there wasn’t enough food, there wasn’t enough water. For people in this community, it’s very vivid what it means that there is still a threat out there."
This is the same swath of the city that got $15 million back in March, for early-stage but official-sounding tasks like "environmental review" and "first-phase flood protection design." At the time, Community Board 1 Chair Catherine McVay Hughes pointed out that this was the neighborhood's first significant injection of resiliency money since the storm, despite the federal government's $4.21 billion post-Sandy package.
The latest cash injection, in addition to fortifying the coast against ocean swells with earth berms and "deployable" flood walls, will go towards updating downtown apartment buildings, and NYCHA complexes in particular, to better withstand flooding.
"The impact we saw here in Lower Manhattan really spanned from lives lost, to damage to our infrastructure, to our NYCHA complexes being out of power and flooded... people being stranded in their top floor apartments... a whole range of impacts that we don’t want to see again," said Recovery and Resiliency Director Daniel Zarrilli.
NYCHA was hit particularly hard by Sandy, as detailed in a meticulous and upsetting report from the NYTimes in December 2012. The paper documented how 402 NYCHA buildings lost electricity and elevators in the storm, and 77,000 residents lost heat and hot water, for weeks. Then-Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said at the time, “We need a longer-term plan. The city emergency evacuation plan works great for huge numbers. But it does not look much past three or four days."
Boiler rooms in many NYCHA apartments had not been flood-proofed as recently as this March, prompting FEMA to make its largest ever grant—$3 billion for 33 NYCHA developments.
The mayor is hoping that extra funding downtown will give NYC an edge in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition which, according to the mayor's office, offers prize money to the tune of $500 million for disaster prevention.
Last October, on the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the city released a progress report on repair work that it hopes will brace the five boroughs against future hurricanes of similar magnitude. At the time, 4.15 million cubic yards of sand had been added to beaches across the city, and 26,000 linear feet of dunes had been packed on Staten Island. 10,500 linear feet of bulkhead repairs had been made city-wide.
A very alarming report issued in February by the New York City Panel on Climate Change details how sea level in NYC will rise between 11 inches and 21 inches by the 2050s, between 18 and 29 inches by the 2080s, and between 22 and 50 inches by 2100.