New York Flood Control Plan Takes Lessons From the Dutch

The Netherlands has a long history of flood mitigation. U.S. cities, threatened by coastal flooding and erosion, are taking note.

2 minute read

December 24, 2023, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Concrete flood control infrastructure under construction in New York City.

Placement of precast esplanade pieces in December 2023. | New York City Department of Design and Construction / East Side Coastal Resiliency

Writing in Yale’s E360, Andrew S. Lewis outlines New York City’s effort to fortify its shoreline to prevent flooding and erosion. The project, dubbed East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR), is “the largest urban resiliency project currently underway in the United States. Over the next three years, at a total cost of $1.8 billion, ESCR will reshape two-and-a-half miles of Lower Manhattan’s shoreline.”

The project is part of a “$2.7 billion initiative called the BIG U — a series of contiguous flood resilience projects that runs from Asser Levy, near 25th Street, around the southern tip of Manhattan, and up to Battery Park City, along the Hudson River. When finished, the BIG U will amount to 5.5 miles of new park space specifically designed to protect over 60,000 residents and billions of dollars in real estate against sea level rise and storm surges.”

While the project takes some lessons from flood control systems in the Netherlands,“Unlike the kind of permeable buffers championed by the Dutch, the raised park would function more like a hard barrier.” Around the country, other cities are looking to the Dutch model to shore up their own coastal defenses.

Advocates like Henk Ovink, former Netherlands Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, acknowledge that “Adaptation is still lagging behind massively, and so is mitigation,” but “when it comes to the concept of living with water, the knowledge gap between governments, businesses, and local communities is gradually narrowing” as environmental threats become more apparent.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023 in E360

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