Why New York Must Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Water

Justin Davidson argues that New York's ability to adapt to the effects of climate change will rely on the city learning to embrace nature rather than vainly trying to fight it.

How should New York plan for a more resilient city in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy? Build massive barriers as Governor Andrew Cuomo and experts have suggested? "Like most cities, New York is built to beat back the sea's spasms of violence, not to absorb them," says Davidson. But what if, instead, New Yorkers, like Venetians, learn to become comfortable with the occasional flood?

"Imagine, instead, a city that learns to embrace nature rather than vainly try to fight it," suggests Davidson. "The streets of low-lying areas are paved with permeable surfaces, allowing floodwaters to seep through rather than slosh into basements. Tall grasses dance in a spongy buffer zone of marshland, stretching from the built edge out into the waterways. Scattered in the Upper Bay are archipelagos of tiny artificial islands and floating piers - speed bumps for a storm surge. Beneath the waves, submerged reefs made of old subway cars and oyster beds help diffuse hard-charging currents, and at the same time host an abundance of marine life. In that New York, we will watch the sea come in, serenely confident that it will make an orderly retreat, leaving our vital systems unmolested and our streets unbesmirched."

Full Story: New York’s Wet Future: How the City Could Live With the Sea Rather Than Fighting It

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