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The De Blasio Climate Plan Is Big, Ambitious, and Very Vague

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During Manhattan’s first couple of centuries, water was always a short stroll away. Tall masts swayed at the end of the block, the newest houses sitting on moist soil that had only just been wrested from marshland. Over the years, the island was fattened, its edges pushed out by filling the shallows with dead horses, broken carts, household refuse, and rubble from ceaseless street-grading projects. Much of this extra land sat just inches above high tide; waves slopped over piers and quays and hurricanes barreled through every once in a while, but each time the city dried off and rebuilt. Now the waters are coming back to stay.

Superstorm Sandy gave New Yorkers a preview of the future in 2012, yet it’s not just mammoth waves that will dampen the city’s future but the slow-moving, inexorable advance of the seas. In the coming decades, the tides will find New Amsterdam’s original coastline, lapping the corner of Wall Street and Pearl Street, at times even rushing up to Bowling Green. Left to its own devices, the Financial District will look like a high-rise Venice, its spires in the clouds and its feet in the brine. Which is why Mayor Bill De Blasio has produced a new plan to keep lower Manhattan dry. It’s a combination of makeshift barriers and megaprojects: hilly waterfront parks, higher esplanades, floodwalls that can be deployed when a storm is bearing down, and even a new chunk of the city slung out into the East River. “It will be one of the most complex environmental and engineering challenges our city has ever undertaken and it will, literally, alter the shape of the island of Manhattan,” the mayor wrote.

If that portentous tone sounds familiar, it may be because in 2013, then mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a similarly sweeping and urgent, $20 billion proposal: “we refused to pass the responsibility for creating a plan onto the next administration,” he declared. Well, here we are, six and a half years after Sandy, just barely getting started. True, the city has moved a few inches off square one. The Bjarke Ingels Group, one of the participants in the new study,........

© Daily Intelligencer