Thursday, October 17, 2013

NYC | Protecting against Future Hurricanes

NYC from POV of a Hurricane Heading North.
My Chelsea friend Bob Trentlyon, former publisher of our neighborhood newspaper, this week sent me his latest thoughts on the New York Bight.

The Bight is the large area of water encompassed within the two arms of Long Island and the New Jersey Coast, which make an angle slightly more obtuse than 90 degrees (see map at right).

As Trentlyon says:
These two arms ... have helped guide major storms to New York City, whether Northeasters or hurricanes, that have traveled north on the gulf stream from the Caribbean. Storms have descended on NYC since the last ice age. They have become fiercer and more frequent. NYC, located between Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean is practically defenseless. 
Trentlyon passes along a long list (prepared by John Rentoff) of serious hurricanes that have swept down on New York since the year before the founding of Harvard College:
August 1635, August 1638, October 1723, August 1788, September 1815, September 1821, November 1861, September 1869, September 1874, August 1879, September 1882, August 1893, October 1894, September 1904, September 1938 Long Island Express, September 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane, August 1954 Carol, September 1960 Donna, August 1976 Belle, September 1985 Gloria, 28 August 1991 Bob, 16 September 1999 Floyd, 27-28 August 2011 Irene, 28-29 October 2012 Sandy. 
What lessons does Trentlyon have for us?

  • Don't build on the flood plain. Build on higher ground away from the shoreline. Much of NYC is high enough above the water level not to be affected for a very long time, possibly forever. However, he says, the waterfront is extremely vulnerable.
  • Protect Manhattan. Trentlyon thinks "it would be smart to protect much of Manhattan, Brooklyn and parts of Queens by building a five-mile storm surge barrier from the Rockaways to Sandy Hook." He also favors a smaller surge barrier at Throgs Neck to protect from flooding and storm surges in the East River.
  • He thinks that closing off the entryways when storm surges or flooding threaten makes a lot more sense than building endless miles of walls.

Earlier reports by Trentlyon are here and here.

I hope that Bill de Blasio, once he is elected Mayor, will obtain the advice of the Army Corps of Engineers and local environmental experts to build on the hurricane planning of the Mayor Bloomberg to consider carefully the most cost-effective way of  reducing the risks to NYC of future hurricanes.