Archive for the tag 'climate change'

Source: nyc.gov

Part of Bloomberg’s Proposed Plan (Source: nyc.gov)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ambitious and massive $20 billion storm protection program that seeks to safeguard New York City from future extreme weather catastrophes faces some serious obstacles before it becomes reality. The New York Times is reporting that the plan will have to pass through the ringer of City Hall, Albany, Washington, government agencies, zoning panels and community groups before construction ever begins.

Yesterday we reported on the stark climate data that inspired Bloomberg to come up with a massively detailed storm protection plan, that if enacted, would be his greatest legacy. The plan, which calls for massive construction projects and the placement of a network of seawalls and bulkheads across the city’s coastline, would dramatically alter the look and landscape of the city. The $20 billion price doesn’t figure in estimated billions more needed for the project as it will inevitably grow in size and scope. But the cost and construction would represent only the final hurdles of the ambitious plan.

Andy Darrell, New York regional director of the Environmental Defense Fund explained the key of bringing the plan together.

“Many of these solutions will require an unprecedented level of cooperation,” Darrell told the Times. “We know how to do these things. What we have to do is clear a path.”

Columbia geophysicist Klaus Jacob agreed with Darrell’s assessment.

“A plan is a plan is a plan,” Jacob told the Times. “But there will be a hard reality of how to put this into action. Many of the infrastructure systems that the city depends on are not under city control.”

With Bloomberg serving out his final term, part of the problem will be how much leadership the future mayor invests in the project. While candidates like Council Speaker Christine Quinn support the project, others, like Public Advocate Bill de Blasio raised questions.

“Many questions remain. As we review the plan, we must ensure that it truly serves the needs of low-income residents without a safety net, many of whom suffered the worst and longest-lasting impacts from Superstorm Sandy,” de Blasio told the Times.

Source: Jacinta Quesada via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Jacinta Quesada via Wikimedia Commons

Rising temperatures, more hurricanes and torrential flooding; these are the increasingly extreme weather factors that New Yorkers are expected to live with over the next 50 years. The New York Times is reporting on the statistics released by the Bloomberg administration that indicate the onset of climate change and its effects on the city’s coastline in the coming decades.

The study released by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office states that the number of city residents living in the 100-year flood plain will nearly double from 398,000 currently estimated to be at risk, to 800,000 by the year 2050. Another disturbing statistic points to how future New Yorkers should expect more scorching summer days and rising sea levels:

Administration officials said that between 1971 and 2000, New Yorkers had an average of 18 days a year with temperatures at or above 90 degrees. By the 2020s, that figure could be as high as 33 days, and by the 2050s, it could reach 57, according to data collected by the New York City Panel on Climate Change…

In 2009, it projected that sea levels would rise by two to five inches by the 2020s. Now, the panel estimates that the sea levels will rise four to eight inches by that time, with a high-end figure of 11 inches. Between 1900 and 2013, sea levels in New York City rose about a foot, administration officials said.

Based on these numbers, it may become pointless for the city’s elderly to retire to Florida as New York becomes a sweltering tropical swamp by the middle of the century.

To fight this encroaching environmental nightmare, Bloomberg also laid out his $20 billion plan to protect the city’s 520 miles of coastline with a network of flood walls, levees and bulkheads. The ambitious plan would also cover improvements to the city’s power grid and infrastructure and making city bridges hurricane proof. Bloomberg was adamant that work on the project begin quickly.

“This plan is incredibly ambitious — and much of the work will extend far beyond the next 203 days — but we refused to pass the responsibility for creating a plan onto the next administration. This is urgent work, and it must begin now,” the Times reported Bloomberg saying.

To put the $20 billion price tag in context, the entire New York City annual budget is approximately $70 billion.

With over 250 recommendations, the large plan is only likely to grow in cost and scope if enacted. An example of this is the proposed construction of “Seaport City,” which would be built just south of the Brooklyn Bridge. The purpose of Seaport City would be to remodel Battery Park City and protect lower Manhattan from flooding. The cost of Seaport City is not figured in the initial $20 billion estimate but is expected to cost billions more.

To reach the minimum $20 billion cost of the project, the city would have to raise $5 billion. As much as $15 billion is already covered by federal and city money already allocated via the Sandy aid package approved by Congress. Bloomberg believes that the cost to protect New York now will far outweigh the cost of restoring New York after a future storm 30 years from now, which he estimates could cost the city upwards of $90 billion. Superstorm Sandy cost the city an estimated $19 billion.

More locally, the city would be planning to install a series of wetlands and tidal barriers to Coney Island, illustrated below.

Source: nyc.gov

Source: nyc.gov

All in all, if enacted, Bloomberg’s plan would radically alter the landscape of New York City, transforming its landscape and coastline. The cost would be enormous, but given the extreme weather changes facing the city in the coming decades, the investment might be well worth the cost and effort.

You can read the entire plan here.

Source: 401(K) via Flickr

With the threat of climate change and redrawn flood zone lines leading to skyrocketing insurance rates, you’d think the only thing that is certain to rise along the Southern Brooklyn waterfront would be encroaching flood waters and not property taxes. Well, property taxes have been hiked for Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay and other coastal areas like Coney Island and the Rockaways, according to a report by the New York Post.

The rise in property taxes comes as a cruel blow to homeowners who have already shelled out thousands on home-repair following Sandy. According to the Post, the news of the tax hikes doesn’t sit well with local residents:

“This is totally insensitive and heartless,” said Ira Zalcman, president of the Manhattan Beach Community Group, which has received more than 30 complaints from residents about the hikes.

“We just sustained one of the worst national disasters in our nation’s history, and now the city is delusional, claiming our property values went up.”

Zalcman said that since Sandy, he has spent roughly $100,000 repairing the basement of his Dover Street oceanfront home, for which he pays more than $7,000 a year in property taxes.

According to Zalcman, the rise in assessed property values do not match market realities. While his home was assessed to be worth an additional $79,000, pushing it over the $2 million mark, he claims he’d be lucky to get $1.5 million should he decide to sell.

Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn was also vexed over the increase in property taxes for storm ravaged homeowners. She has vowed to hold an emergency oversight hearing on February 26 to address the issue.

“It raises real doubts about whether [the Finance Department] is doing enough to ensure fair and accurate assessments …” Quinn told the Post. “As New Yorkers work to rebuild their homes and lives, we cannot allow them to be hit twice.”

There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding why property taxes have gone up in the worst hit regions. City officials told the Post that the property assessments were made before the storm, despite the city’s website claiming they were made on January 5.

Mayor Bloomberg insisted that the rise in beach-front property value represented the overall national trend:

“Prices continue to go up in spite of these things,” he said.

But many local real estate brokers say property values in Big Apple neighborhoods affected by Sandy — such as Manhattan Beach and Coney Island in Brooklyn, the Rockaways and parts of Staten Island — have fallen due to storm damage and prospective buyers now leery of living in high-risk hurricane evacuation zones.

Have you been hit with higher property taxes? Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, who along with Councilman Michael Nelson and many other local pols has spoken out against the hikes, included in a recent e-mail blast information on how to file appeals on increased rates and how to apply for assistance through the Finance Department’s Hurricane Sandy Property Tax Relief Program. Relevant details from Cymbrowitz’s press release are listed below.

Property owners who oppose the hikes have until March 15 to appeal to the city Tax Commission before rates are finalized in May. To print a copy of the form you need, click here.

You also have until this Friday, February 15, to apply for assistance through the Finance Department’s Hurricane Sandy Property Tax Relief program. (The deadline was originally February 1st but was extended.) Download the necessary Property Damage Reporting Application form here.

My office also has hard copies of both forms that we can send you. Feel free to call us at (718) 743-4078, email me at cymbros@assembly.state.ny.us or stop by and visit us at my temporary district office located at 2658 Coney Island Avenue (between Avenues W and X) and we’ll be happy to help you with this or any other issue. We’re open Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., and Fridays until 5 p.m.

Source: Daniel Schwen via Wikimedia Commons

For many of us, Hurricane Sandy was a wake up call. The storm smashed our businesses, flooded our homes and disrupted our lives, showing how fragile we all are so close to the sea. While scientists, engineers and residents all grapple with questions concerning the future of the city and how to best protect it, politicians and real estate developers are going full speed ahead in developing expensive real estate projects in vulnerable flood zones.

A story in the IBO web blog details the plans, the costs and the risks facing these projects in the face of a changing environment brought on by the reality of climate change.

While acknowledging that City Hall, led by Mayor Bloomberg, have put the science of climate change and its impact on the city front and center, in the form of the 2011 report Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, the city has given the go ahead to multi-million dollar projects right in the middle of Zone A evacuation areas.

Such projects include a $500 million dollar complex on the North Shore of Staten Island, which will feature the world’s largest Ferris wheel. Locally, the city approved an even bigger investment for Coney Island. City Hall rezoned the area to allow for more housing, hotels and a brand new amusement park. The city also wants to pump $400 million into the area to upgrade the sewers, acquire new land and improve the lighting and boardwalk.

While IBO notes that the city is making an effort to meet the guidelines and codes laid out by the Federal Emergency Agency, they might not be be enough in the face mega-storms that may become the norm in the coming future. Citing Yale University’s Environment 360 website:

“The storm easily overwhelmed many of the relatively minor adaptations that New York had already put in place.”

For example, Brooklyn Bridge Park, where another large development project is planned, was created with what are called “soft edges.” These are supposed to help reduce the force of waves and accommodate rising tidal levels. While these edges may work in many instances, they were no match for Sandy, which swamped the park and sent water lapping at the structure housing the newly installed carousel.

America is known for racing as fast as the forces of commerce will take her, especially in the world of real estate, but such speed may need to be tempered in this new world where Mother Nature’s power trumps progress. The question remains as to how many lessons we will have to learn before we fully heed the limits the natural world lays before us.

Source: Jacinta Quesada via Wikimedia Commons

In a frightening, yet somehow fun, new interactive map, the New York Times presents a grim portrait of the city’s future in the coming centuries, a future that wipes Sheepshead Bay off the map in a few hundred years.

The map’s data, based on a 2012 study from the journal Science, predicts that in 100 to 300 years, assuming the world’s nations continue on their course of making only moderate cuts to pollution, the oceans will rise five feet, swallow LaGuardia Airport and flood all ports. This level of flooding will contribute to the disappearance of seven percent of the total city.

Things get much worse after 2300. By then, the oceans will have risen 12 feet, sinking JFK airport, Coney Island, the Rockaways and all neighborhoods along Jamaica Bay. Obviously this includes our beloved Sheepshead Bay. Who knows, perhaps our descendants will all be living in the sky like the Jetsons, or in underwater domes like true Atlantians. Either way, at that point, nearly a quarter of the New York City we know and love will be submerged forever.

For those really looking to imagine a brave new world, or at least one where no effort whatsoever was taken to cut pollution or build massive sea walls, projections into the deep future are also given. For example, 39 percent of New York City will have vanished, with Manhattan only existing north of 34th street. The oceans will have risen a staggering 25 feet, and our only hope for survival will be developing unsightly gills like Kevin Costner did in Waterworld and sailing aimlessly around the globe in a vain effort to find some kind of land-based oasis.

How’s that for a cheery article about our future generations?

Unless radical “hover home” technology gets developed in the latter part of the 21st century, the New York Times has a warning for you: the thousands of coastal communities dotting the edges of New York City are going to be washed away by the expanding catastrophic flood zones brought upon by the predicted continued erosion of the polar ice caps.

While Mayor Bloomberg has commissioned extensive research studies on the effects of climate change, and what it means for the city, critics have pointed to the crippling chaos Hurricane Irene unleashed on the city’s infrastructure last year as a sign that long-term plans to protect the city are moving too slowly.

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New York State’s future will hold hotter summers, snowier winters, severe floods and a range of other symptoms of an environment in flux, according to the latest climate change predictions. That could mean disaster for waterfront communities like Sheepshead Bay.

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