In the darkness of Monday evening, October 29th, Hurricane Sandy’s nearly 14′ high storm surge flowed up and over and into the homes and businesses of coastal New York City, wreaking havoc on its most essential infrastructure: Power, Transportation, Communication. The human impacts were even greater–lives lost, homes destroyed, and many people isolated and cut off from food, water, medicine. The Lower East Side was among the hardest hit neighborhoods of Manhattan, especially along the shore, where large campuses of high-rise public and subsidized housing stand on low-elevation fill, barely above sea level.
This storm event gives us all pause, especially in thinking about the long-term sustainability of our waterfront community and the deeper level of planning and design necessary to keep residents in place and safe in this neighborhood.The short term recovery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side is going to be hard, but the longer term planning and approaches to urban design of the neighborhood will be much more complicated. Two Bridges Neighborhood Council has been thinking deeply about this ever since last year’s Tropical Storm Irene flooding, when we first recognized the vulnerability of the neighborhood to sea level rise and storm events.
When the emergencies have subsided, we will continue to push to engage the city in dealing meaningfully with issues of stormwater & storm surge in the neighborhood. In the meanwhile, here is a link to an article written this summer about the issue, complete with a sadly accurate storm surge map: