As Hurricane Matthew battered Haiti and parts of Florida on Oct. 6, roughly 50 concerned citizens gathered in Lower Manhattan to discuss protecting their city from climate change. Superstorm Sandy’s considerable impact on the area in 2012 shone a spotlight on the lack of adequate planning for severe flooding and damage. In an effort to avoid being caught unaware in the future, the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency project has been hosting workshops for residents and experts. The goal: to collaborate on new and improved protection methods that are expected to begin construction in 2018.
“What about the fact that in the near term, before 2018, there’s a darn good chance that we could get hit with something?” asked a Lower Manhattan resident and attendee at last week’s workshop. “Is anything being done to help us in the near term?” In response, Michael Shaikh, deputy director for external affairs at the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, assured her that some measures had already been taken, like updating the city’s evacuation plan and updating building codes.
In August 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced OneNYC, his vision for addressing issues of growth, equity, sustainability and resiliency. The Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency project, which is sponsored by groups such as the Office of Recovery and Resiliency and the Economic Development Corporation, was outlined as a priority of OneNYC.
After Sheikh’s presentation, attendees at the workshop split into small groups to discuss possible protection measures and brainstorm various priorities. Mat Staudt, an architect at One Architecture, explained to the group he was facilitating that environmental change “is a moving target.”
“The design team has to approach it understanding that there’s a high degree of uncertainty,” he said.
Teresa Llorente, vice president of Haks civil engineering, participated in the workshop out of desire to contribute her skills to problem-solving.
“It’s a community,” she said of Lower Manhattan. “Whether it’s a community of people working, a community of residents, people want to keep their lives intact. There were so many businesses that couldn’t open up after Sandy. You feel for those people.”
Catherine Hughes, a member Community Board 1 who has been involved in resiliency efforts, expressed frustration with the timeline of the process.
Hughes said she’s prefer to be farther along with planning and funding for an initiative that transcends administrations. “Now it’s de Blasio, and when it ends there will be another mayor,” she said. “That’s what’s frustrating. Extreme weather events need more than looking at one election cycle.”
Though she was glad to see that the workshop attracted many people, she lamented that funding and bureaucracy had gotten in the way of something that has long been a concern of Community Board 1 and its constituents.
Madeleine Thompson can be reached at email@example.com