NEW YORK—Superstorm Sandy left a swath of damage throughout New York City. Although devastating, it now provides opportunities to improve city infrastructure and the ability to better handle natural disasters. From political leaders to industry professionals and academics, all had their say this week as to what happens next.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn outlined both short- and long-term proposals for the path forward in a speech delivered at the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) Tuesday. The plans included strategies for New York City’s buildings, energy and sewer systems, mass transit, and gasoline distribution.
The plan proposes speeding up research in a number of areas and develop detailed strategies that could address these areas. The speaker and the Bloomberg administration have commissioned two studies to be completed by April 2013. The studies will analyze risks to the city and the best ways to protect it. Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Schumer aims to utilize the Army Corps of Engineers to analyze weather protective structures such as storm surge barriers that guard against flooding.
After experiencing both power outages and a shortage of gasoline, Quinn proposed erecting structures around flood prone power plants and substations for energy systems and similar structures for oil refineries and storage facilities to protect gasoline supplies.
The urge for better storm proofing was called for across the entire infrastructure of the city including amending building codes for future development. “The future of our planet, the world our grandchildren inherit, depends on what we do in the months and years ahead,” said Quinn.
Industry and academic experts have been anticipating severe weather displays for years. In a panel discussion titled New York City and Post Sandy Infrastructure, held at Cooper Union Monday, experts gathered to offer suggestions for the road ahead.
Professor Albert Appleton, architect, and former commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection offered a simple but bold solution to the power outage problem. He recommended following the European model that relocates the power lines underground.
Professor Susannah Drake, architect and principal of DLANDSTUDIO at Cooper Union, agreed. A proposal from 2010 suggested bundling various services together in waterproof channels deposited under sidewalks.
In the same proposition, Drake, offers a substantial solution to the second problem, flooding. The scheme, focused on the southern tip of Manhattan, offers an alternative to traditional storm surge barriers and recreates a natural edge to the island. Laden with vegetation including reeds, the edges would in parts reach into the city. They would provide a graduated edge to buffer the storm surge. “If you’ve ever been in the ocean and experienced the breaking waves, you will know how forceful they are,” said Drake. “However, closer to the shore in the shallow waters, the force eases.” Her plan would have a similar effect.
In addition, the vegetation that would reach into the city would provide porous surfaces that act similar to a sponge by absorbing water. When the water rises beyond those levels, it would be directed into holding streets until later when it recedes.
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