NEW YORK—Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer outlined plans for a storm barrier on the Lower East Side on Thursday evening.
In his final State of the Borough speech, Stringer described the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy while presenting plans for the East River Blueway, a stretch from Brooklyn Bridge to 38th Street that is practically blocked off from the river. Stringer called it “the achilles heel of Manhattan’s flood zone.”
Stringer, Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, and Adam Lubinsky of WXY Architecture + Urban Design, have been studying the area and reaching out to the community for several years.
Although the full plan hasn’t been released yet, it includes:
- A concrete bulkhead beneath FDR Drive from the Brooklyn Bridge to Rutgers Slip would turn into protective wetlands, helping re-direct surges from the next big storm.
- The beach underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, which is both inaccessible to the public and often strewn with trash, would become “an active waterfront destination.”
- A green pedestrian bridge would be built outside of the ConEd plant on East 14th, which is at the water’s edge. An explosion at this ConEd station during Hurricane Sandy was caused by flooding. All of downtown Manhattan’s power went out at the same time.
Stringer and Kavanagh have pledged $3.5 million in capital funds from their offices to construct new wetlands.
“Wetlands like the ones we’re proposing are helping to protect New Orleans after Katrina—and they can do the same for the East Side,” said Stringer.
Hurricane Sandy left much of Manhattan untouched but the lower part of the island and the Lower East Side were hit particularly hard. Water flooded the FDR Drive, which acts somewhat as a barrier between the water and the buildings inland, and in some areas went over the outside barrier.
There’s also a plan for the East River waterfront north of the Blueway portion, which will likely take longer because of complexities due to the United Nations building in the area.
Ideas for storm protection have included retreating from the waterfront and flood gates, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not favor either idea. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently proposed buying land from homeowners in dangerous, flood prone areas, turning them into parkland and a buffer zone against any future storms. Wetlands are another heavily cited option.
Stringer also announced a conference called Start-Up City to be held in April. The conference will focus on how to spur more startups, create more affordable space, and bring more tech classes into schools. It will include a forum with the mayoral candidates about their views on and planned policies for tech.
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