We all remember when superstorm Sandy plunged the East Village into darkness after a 14-foot storm surge caused an explosion at the ConEd station (in fact, there’s a movie out Friday set during that very historical moment in 2011). Luckily, we haven’t seen any storms of that scale since, but Mayor Bill de Blasio isn’t taking any chances. Today he announced more funding for the city’s climate resiliency plan as part of the 2017 city budget. The waterfront plans aren’t just going to protect Manhattan from more flooding– they’ll also double as a huge new public space.
The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (dubbed “the Big U” by the design firm, but already in the running for “the dryline” nickname) will cover the coast from Montgomery Street to East 23rd Street. Construction is scheduled to begin next year, so plans are pushing ahead. The initiative already was fully funded with $335 million in federal dollars, and the budget allocates another $170 million for the Department of Environmental Protection to build storm water management infrastructure.
The project, designed by the Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), envisions integrating flood safety with a recreational space accessible to city residents. Meaning, there’ll be nice places to bike and stroll when it’s not storming most of the year (after all, the Dutch have a lot of experience with dealing with floods…and with bike paths). It will likely include a sloping berm and new bridges, as well as pop-up sea walls, possibly deployed only during storms. And if you’re imagining this to be a concrete jungle, don’t worry — there’ll be greenery. Only salt-resistant vegetation will be used in case it has to withstand a flood.
The budget also allocates $27.5 million more for the Two Bridges section of Lower Manhattan Protect and Connect flood protection, which already has $176 million from the federal government and $100 million already secured from the city. This portion of the resiliency plan focuses specifically on preparing the tip of Manhattan for a future storm, and goes beyond storm management benefits to invest in housing resiliency, including the many New York City Housing Authority public buildings.
Ground-breaking is expected next year.
Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that the ESCR hadn’t yet been fully funded. In fact, it had already secured the $335 million necessary. The new funding announced in the budget is for the Department of Environmental Protection infrastructure, a new project complementing ESCR.