As we prepare for the inevitabilities of climate change, waterfront protection is the largest unmet challenge so far. New York has 500+ miles of coastline, making us exceedingly vulnerable to sea-level change and major storms. Climate scientists estimate that by 2050, we’ll see another 11-21 inches in the core sea level rise, and climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of coastal storms, putting all of our coastal areas at risk of destruction from another climate event. This is a very real problem in our borough. Across Manhattan, over 110,000 people live in the 100-year flood plain. But despite massive influxes of federal funding, we still haven’t completed a single functional segment of the coastal resiliency projects in that area – even a decade after Hurricane Sandy.
One of the biggest reasons is that there are 11 city agencies that play a role in the coastal resiliency projects currently underway in Manhattan. This alphabet soup of overlapping bureaucracies is slowing these projects down considerably, and it’s one of the reasons why there is $4 billion of federal Sandy recovery money that is still unspent a decade after the storm.
This is why our office released a plan to establish the NYC Waterfront Protection Agency – a single, unified agency that can lead the design, construction, management, and governance of our coastal resiliency projects. This new agency would be given a mandate to focus on the waterfront resilience infrastructure that’s the hardest to build and maintain and where no agency has clear jurisdiction. It would also help get our communities more involved in the vital work of protecting our coastlines. With just one agency, communities will have a single destination to provide input and demand accountability for the management of these sites once they’re open.
The need is compelling. The next Sandy could happen at any time, and we are not ready yet. Creating a NYC Waterfront Protection Agency has been called for by experts for years, in and out of government. It’s time to make it happen.