Is New York’s Plan to Fight Rising Sea Levels a Model for Other Cities?

Read the full story in Governing.

A chorus of questions greeted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio when he announced in March that he wanted to make the island of Manhattan bigger by extending it 500 feet into the East River, in order to better protect the Financial District and nearby areas from sea level rise.

What, people wanted to know, would go on the new land? Why does de Blasio favor this approach, after scuttling previous plans to build a berm at the edge of East River Park? How will the city avoid such a massive project from getting bogged down in environmental reviews, community hearings and inevitable lawsuits? Would protecting Manhattan come at the expense of Brooklyn and Queens? Above all, they asked, how would New York pay for the $10 billion project?

But Corinne LeTourneau, the former director of special projects for New York and now the head of North American operations for the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program, says she was struck by the project’s “boldness.” That’s something she says is in short supply these days, as cities start coming to the realization that their neighborhoods and infrastructure will be affected by climate change. “I hope this isn’t a New York-only solution,” she says. “They’re trying to think from a new perspective. My hope is that we’ll see more of this boldness, even in cases when many, many, many other solutions and things that have been studied will not work.”

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