How New York City Can Prepare for the Next Catastrophic Floods–Now

The city must take urgent action to mitigate the effects of increasingly damaging rainstorms.

Read Time: 2 minutes

September 6, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Superstorm Sandy

Patrick McFall / Flickr

The flooding caused by Hurricane Ida and other storms signals a new normal for the Northeast, writes Henry Grabar, and cities like New York must prepare for more destructive rainstorms. "Climate change is making more intense rainstorms more frequent, particularly in the Northeast, and the expectations that such a storm would occur once a millennium are now obsolete." Earlier this year, "New York released its first-ever analysis of how to prepare for stormwater flooding," including goals such as to "[i]nform the public about flood vulnerability from extreme rain" and "continue developing a citywide hydrologic and hydraulic (H&H) model to better estimate runoff flow for various climate scenarios to be included in the drainage planning process."

But to date, the city has not taken much action to mitigate the potential effects of floods. Grabar outlines some solutions that could be implemented immediately "to mitigate the effects of extreme rainfall" and reduce the deaths and destruction caused by storms. The suggestions include planting more trees; improving drainage with bigger pipes and trash receptacles to keep drainage pipes clear; elevating vulnerable subway entrances and grates to protect them from stormwater; legalizing basement apartments to improve standards and safety for residents; and, perhaps most importantly, doing all of these things quickly, before another catastrophic storm has a chance to cause more damage. "The next rainstorm isn’t going to wait for the community board, and it’s certainly not waiting 1,000 years."

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