Rendering of a storm barrier that could be built in Staten Island Sound, the tidal strait between Staten Island and New Jersey.

NY - New York storm barrier plan causing big waves

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer has criticized plans to protect New York from Superstorm Sandy-size floods with barriers that are too big, too costly and would take too long to build.

Instead, Stringer wants the Army Corps of Engineers to take a more environmentally-conscious approach, using wetland restoration, living shorelines, reefs, and levees to protect the city from floods.

“There’s no question about it — a future Superstorm Sandy will come and New York Harbor will bear the brunt of it,” said Stringer.

“Too many of our waterfront communities are all too vulnerable to the next storm, or even the next high tide. I am urging the Army Corps of Engineers to get shovels in the ground on shorefront resiliency options like floodwalls, dune systems, wetlands, and levees that can protect New Yorkers and their livelihoods.

“Lives are at stake, homes and businesses are on the line, and futures hang in the balance. We need to act with urgency, plan strategically, and build out resiliency efficiently in the era of climate change, because time is not on our side.”

The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is investigating measures to manage future flood risk in ways that support the long-term resilience and sustainability of the coastal ecosystem and surrounding communities, and reduce the economic costs and risks associated with flood and storm events. The Corps completed the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study, which identified nine high-risk, focus areas on the north Atlantic Coast for further in-depth analysis into potential coastal storm risk management measures.

One of the nine areas identified was the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries study area.

Among several proposals is a plan to construct offshore storm surge barriers in New York Harbor which Stringer claims won’t adequately protect coastal communities from the threat of sea level rise and associated flooding.

In a letter to the engineers, String highlights the long construction timeline associated with the storm barriers and their high cost estimate — noting that the largest of the options outlined in the proposal would take a quarter of a century to build out, cost six times that of shorefront resiliency options, and endanger the delicate ecosystem of the harbor including the region’s network of marshes and wetlands that are critical to mitigating storm surge.

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