Background

OneNYC: A Resilient City

Flooded Street
David Shankbone / CC BY 3.0

Though Southern Manhattan's location within New York Harbor protected it from the destructive wave impacts felt in areas along the open Atlantic coast, Hurricane Sandy's surge arrived in the area with great force and height. In fact, at the peak of Sandy's surge, the tide gauge at the Battery registered water heights of more than 14 feet above Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW), eclipsing the previous highwater mark from Hurricane Donna in 1960 by nearly four feet. The surge overtopped bulkheads all around Southern Manhattan, sending floodwaters racing inland.

Across the area, flooding typically reached one to two blocks from the coastline at depths of two to three feet. In certain areas, though, the waters extended farther inland and to far greater depths. In Southern Manhattan, the greatest extent of inland flooding was along the borough's eastern edge. There, the surge from the East River breached the bulkhead running from Kips Bay to Chinatown. Floodwaters not only inundated the East River Park esplanade, ball fields, and plantings, they traversed the FDR Drive, covering streets and encompassing buildings. In parts of the East Side the water traveled nearly 2,000 feet inland, almost reaching Avenue B, with floodwaters up to two feet deep along portions of Avenue C.

Most building damage in Southern Manhattan was to critical building systems, business inventory, and personal property. Since so many of these buildings' systems were located in basements or sub-basements, even in areas where floodwaters reached only one to two feet, elevators, water pumps, fire- and life-safety systems, heating and cooling systems, and lighting were compromised, making conditions for those in the floors above challenging or untenable. In the face of climate change, rising sea levels, and increasingly frequent coastal storms, the City is taking steps to prepare for the future.

The ESCR Project is the result of years of planning and cooperation among city, state, and federal agencies, culminating in a $335 million federal grant which will fund design and construction.

In April 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio released One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just New City (OneNYC). Originally released in 2007 under the name PlaNYC, OneNYC is a groundbreaking effort to address New York City's long-term challenges: the forecast of 9 million residents by 2040, changing climate conditions, an evolving economy, and aging infrastructure.

OneNYC envisions how the physical city should be shaped to address a range of social, economic, and environmental issues while building on New York City's strengths. It draws upon best practices when appropriate, but also proposes innovative solutions for our most vexing challenges. The plan calls on regional partners to join us on our path to the City's fifth century, and sets goals and targets that are both aspirational and achievable, encompassing both short-term actions and ambitious plans for the future.

OneNYC contains four visions for New York City: Growth, Equity, Sustainability and Resiliency. The Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR) is responsible for implementing the goals laid out in the Resiliency chapter, which reinforces the commitment to the initiatives laid out in PlaNYC: A Stronger, More Resilient New York (June 2013), including the initiative to implement an integrated coastal protection project for the East Side of Lower Manhattan.

The broader resiliency goals are:

  • Neighborhoods: Every city neighborhood will be safer by strengthening community, social, and economic resiliency;
  • Buildings: The city's buildings will be upgraded against climate impacts;
  • Infrastructure: Infrastructure systems across the region will adapt to enable continued services; and
  • Coastal Defense: New York City's coastal defenses will be strengthened against flood and sea level rise.

For more information, visit OneNYC, or download the report.