Infrastructure protectionProtecting New York City from storms, surges

Published 6 November 2012

Almost a week after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City; people are still picking up the pieces of their former lives; for New York officials, the next step is decide how best to protect New York City from a similar disaster in the future; there are many ideas and proposals, ranging from moveable sea gates, to expanding protective marshlands and wetlands, to creating a system of artificial reefs in the channel along the Red Hook and Gowanus neighborhoods of Brooklyn, made out of rocks, shells, and fuzzy rope that will promote the growth of oysters

Almost a week after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, people are still picking up the pieces of their former lives. For New York officials, the next step is how to protect New York City from a similar disaster in the future.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said last Wednesday that elected officials have a responsibility to consider new and innovative plans to prevent similar damage in the future. “Climate change is a reality,” Cuomo told the New York Times. “Given the frequency of these extreme weather situations we have had, for us to sit here today and say this is once in a generation and it’s not going to happen again, I think would be shortsighted.”

The Times reports that weather scientists and disaster experts say that there are efficient alternatives to prevent flooding which do not include building high flood walls, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg agrees.

“I don’t think there’s any practical way to build barriers in the oceans. Even if you spent a fortune, it’s not clear to me that you would get much value for it,” Bloomberg told the Times.

Klaus Jacob, a Columbia University seismologist and expert on environmental disasters, says events like Hurricane Sandy could go from a once in a 100-year incident to an annual occurrence by 2100. “We know what we have to do,” Jacob, who in a 2011 report predicted last week’s tragedy with eerily prescient detail, told the Times. “The question is when do we get beyond talking and get to action.”

Some changes include small revisions to building codes, such as banning electrical systems and boilers in basements, but three architects have come up with plans to help low-lying areas around the city.

Lawrence Murphy, an engineer for CDM Smith, wants to build a dam-like structure with suspension towers that span the Arthur Kill, the tidal strait that separates Staten Island from the mainland New Jersey. Tidal gates below the surface would open and close if needed.

The design would protect against waves for up to twenty-two feet and a system of locks and drawbridges would accommodate the large number of commercial ships that run through the kill. The barrier would be outfitted with tidal generators which would use the Kill’s strong tides to produce electricity. The design would also allow for recreational possibilities.

“The concept design of the Arthur Kill Storm Barrier has been made with a focus on aesthetics to create a destination,” Murphy wrote in