What Should New York City Do to Prepare for the Next Sandy?

After Hurricane Sandy, New York City will likely begin more seriously considering severe storm mitigation efforts

Tides rise in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, as Hurricane Sandy approaches. Photo: WarmSleepy

Until recently, most New York City residents lacked the impetus to demand infrastructure changes that would make their city more storm-proof. After the beating the city took from Hurricane Sandy, however, that may soon change.

Some improvements are already in motion, according to the New York Times Green Blog’s Mireya Navarro. Officials with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the electricity supplier Consolidated Edison say they are incorporating flood-protection measures, such as more highly elevated transformers and other equipment. The city is expanding wetlands to serve as natural barriers to encroaching waters, too.

Still, some complain that the city is spending too much time planning and not enough time acting.

For example, the Storm Surge Research Group from Stony Brook University, amongst others, calls for sea gates that could close during a storm and block surge from the Long Island South and the Atlantic Ocean. The research group recommends installing movable barriers at several points along the East River. Though these gates could, in theory, prevent an abnormally high tide from flooding the city, they come with an approximately $10 billion price tag. Other less costly mitigation strategies include increased pumping capabilities in subway stations and designing floodgates to block water from entering the city’s many underground tunnels.

By midcentury, the waters surrounding the boroughs’ 520 miles of coast will likely be two feet higher. Climate scientists say New York can count on only more and more severe flooding events such as this one, with the city’s potential flood zones likewise expanding with the rising sea levels.

More from Smithsonian.com:

What Makes Transformers Explode? 
Safe From Sandy? Help a Hurricane Researcher 

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