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Bloomberg plan aims to protect NYC from storms, floods

A rendering of the Newtown Creek surge barrier,

A rendering of the Newtown Creek surge barrier, from the report "A Stronger, More Resilient New York." (June 11, 2013) Photo Credit: Handout

The New York City shoreline should be buttressed with a string of walls, levees and sea gates as part of a $20-billion, multiyear program to protect the city from the sort of flooding caused by superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday.

Critical structures -- such as hospitals, power stations, fuel sources and communications centers -- also should be strengthened, Bloomberg said.

The mayor laid out 250 specific recommendations to protect the city from storms. Though the mayor will begin the work during his remaining seven months in office, he said most of the work will be left to his successors. "We refused to pass the responsibility for creating a plan onto the next administration. This is urgent work, and it must begin now," the mayor said during a speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Work is already under way to restore beaches and install protective barriers on Staten Island, he said. Breezy Point, which was badly flooded and ravaged by a fire during the storm, could get a "double-dune" system, as might the Rockaways.

The city will work with the Army Corps of Engineers to begin a study on the feasibility of a surge barrier at the mouth of Newtown Creek to prevent future flooding of neighborhoods in Brooklyn to the creek's south and Queens to the north, he said.

Such a barrier would block seawater from flowing past coastal barriers and creating "backdoor" flooding of neighborhoods, he said. Other "backdoor" access could be blocked by barriers across Coney Island Creek and the mouth of Jamaica Bay. Removable or flexible barriers would be installed along such coastal neighborhoods as Chinatown, Red Hook, Hunts Point and in front of Bellevue Hospital, which was badly damaged by Sandy flooding.

Battery Park City on the Hudson River side of lower Manhattan proved such a successful barrier that the city should look into a development of similar scale along the East River side of lower Manhattan, the mayor said. However, Bloomberg's $20-billion proposal would not pay for this, and its cost has not been determined. "Call it Seaport City," Bloomberg said. "Yes, it would be expensive to build, but over time it could prove to be a great investment."

Ron Shiffman, an urban designer who teaches at Pratt Institute, said the mayor's presentation was "a great opening, but he did not address how you rebuild with a sense of community that does not exclude public housing and working families who live on the flood plains."

About $10 billion of the $20-billion price tag would be covered by existing Sandy-related allocations from the federal government and the city's capital budget, Bloomberg said, and the city might be eligible for another $5 billion in new federal money.He said the city would be working with state regulators to require that Con Ed and other public utilities strengthen their systems. Con Ed said in a statement that it had "already begun making significant investments to protect our infrastructure and our customers from future storms."

With Maria Alvarez

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