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Brainstorming Ways To Protect NYC From Real Storms 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-have-a-weather-control-device-for-sale dept.
SternisheFan writes with this excerpt from NBC News: "The killer storm that hit the East Coast last month and left the nation's largest city with a crippled transit system, widespread power outages and severe flooding has resurfaced the debate about how best to protect a city like New York against rising storm surges. In a 2011 report called 'Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan,' NYC's Department of City Planning listed restoring degraded natural waterfront areas, protecting wetlands and building seawalls as some of the strategies to increase the city's resilience to climate change and sea level rise. 'Hurricane Sandy is a wake-up call to all of us in this city and on Long Island,' Malcolm Bowman, professor of physical oceanography at State University of New York at Stony Brook, told NBC News' Richard Engel. 'That means designing and building storm-surge barriers like many cities in Europe already have.' Some of the projects showcased at Rising Currents include: Ways to make the surfaces of the city more absorptive (through porous sidewalks) and more able to deal with water, whether coming from the sea or sky; Parks and freshwater and saltwater wetlands in Lower Manhattan; Artificial islands or reefs (including ones made of recycled glass) to make the shoreline more absorptive and break the waves."
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Brainstorming Ways To Protect NYC From Real Storms

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  • The Best Way. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:41PM (#41944503)

    Climate Dome.

    • by h00manist (800926)

      Unleash NYC real estate speculators to build Dubai-like artificial reefs, and get foreigners looking for "safe havens" for their money to buy it all up. Given the financial madness of real estate in nyc and new beachfront property, it will pay for itself a thousand times over.

      • by superwiz (655733)
        Because of the artificial scarcity of housing, "beach front" doesn't carry much value in NYC. In fact, most beach front communities are poor or middle class. There are notable exceptions, but they don't rise to the rich levels. The rich neighborhoods all have short commutes to high paying jobs. The idea wasn't bad in itself, but NYC simply doesn't have a long enough beach season to justify high cost for beach front properties.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:41PM (#41944505)

    They can absorb like a barrel of water.

  • 1664 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rvw (755107) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:50PM (#41944581)

    This is where it went wrong - if it was still Dutch it would have been properly protected against flooding, and all those electricity lines would have been underground by now. It's absolutely unbelievable that a country that is so technologically advanced still has all those cables hanging in the air. And then those cardboard houses!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Most of the power lines are underground, particularly in Manhattan, where power was out for much of the island for many days.
      • Re:1664 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:07PM (#41945121)

        Most power lines in the Netherlands aren't underground at all.

        The country of the netherlands is below sea level. Without constant and directed interference of a huge structure the Netherlands, and large parts of Belgium would flood in a matter of months. The reason this doesn't happen is that close to the entire coastline is dammed, both in Belgium and Holland, in several layers. The most important structure that helps doing this is called the delta works [wikipedia.org]. Those dams open during ebb and close during flood, which causes the inland groundwater level to drop to about 10 cm over the lowest point the seawater reaches. The Delta works are extremely impressive, and they're just the first of 3 lines of defense against the water. This is sort of weird as the second and especially the third lines are dams which have no water on either side of the actual dam.

        There are negative aspects to this. The Dutch "Ministry of water" (it's called Rijkswaterstaat, which translates to Countrywatergovernment) has a huge amount of power. They can stop any and cancel construction project, a source of great frustration in the Netherlands, they can evict large amounts of people and flood their houses without any compensation (which they sometimes do, so if you're wondering "why is this coastal house so very cheap" in Holland or Belgium, it might be that it floods 2-3 times yearly, even inland there are "emergency flood zones" with houses in them*), everybody building almost anywhere in the Netherlands needs their approval, they can arrest people and hold them I believe for a month before charging them with anything (and interfering with the ministry of water is a crime that carries stiff penalties). This is done because the alternative is much worse than in New York [wikipedia.org] it takes months to years for the floods to recede, so if someone screws up, they're in for a long ride.

        * there is even a law that if your house is surrounded by more than 20cms of water, you have to let it flood. Because the alternative is that it starts floating and collapses with everyone in it, or damages someone else's property.

        One of the emergency flood zones in the harbour of Antwerp is kinda fun. There is this huge parking shortage, and they couldn't use that flood zone for anything anyway, so they built a road into it. And many days, a lot of cars get parked in there. Some days, usually at around 15pm, a warning goes out "we're going to flood it" and by 15h30 they will flood this parking, cars out or not (because the alternative is flooding the city). You never fail to see a few cars floating around at 17h during those days. It only happens 3-4 times yearly of course, but it's very weird that they deliberately did that. To add to the problem, that parking is written in as an exception for pretty much every car insurance.

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      Yup... you see the power company doesnt want to harm its profits by burying lines. Even if they started this back in the 90s, they would be done by now if they just portioned out the projects.
      They dont care because it means Federal money to get it back up and working.
    • by Elbereth (58257)

      It's easy to say that, but it's expensive as hell to modernize even just NYC, much less the entire state. Nobody is ever going to finance something like that, when the current infrastructure works tolerably well (most of the time). It used to really bug me (losing power whenever there's a moderately powerful storm really sucks), but I guess I've gotten used to it, as well. Nowadays, I too laugh at the naive fools who think they're going to change anything in New York. Politics in NY are more complicated

      • by tp1024 (2409684)

        You would have about $100bn to spend each year, if only the US could decide that it was enough for their "defense" to constitute 45% instead of 54% of the worlds military spending. ($600bn instead of $700bn ... pre-GWB budget was under $400bn)

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Except that that's Federal money, and can't be spent on city infrastructure like that. City infrastructure is a local/municipal and/or state problem only. It doesn't matter if the city is of critical importance to the nation as a whole, it's not going to happen with the way the government is now.

          • by tp1024 (2409684)

            Think outside the box, damn it.

    • by xaxa (988988)

      If it were still British it would be protected against flooding, and all the electricity lines would be underground.

      The thames Barrier is a flood barrier protecting London: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/38353.aspx [environmen...ncy.gov.uk] and electricity wires on poles are very rare -- only seen in remote rural areas.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:51PM (#41944583)

    The only idea that's sure to work is to move the city to a safer location. Or at least the parts of it most suseptible to flooding. That's what they had to do in New Orleans. Or, perhaps it's because we're talking about rich white guys now instead of poor black people that we should expend many billions fortifying and rebuilding those neighborhoods? Oh, and yes, this comment will probably be flamed into oblivion and modded every which way, but it does have the benefit of being the truth.

    • by bmo (77928)

      So where do you move a port besides next to the ocean?

      Serious question.

      --
      BMO

      • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:54PM (#41945469)

        So where do you move a port besides next to the ocean?

        You don't move the port. You move the city. The port can stay where it is; Just run rail and road lines out to it. It's a lot easier to restore power and services to an area that's easily evacuated, has no residential housing, etc., and limited infrastructure.

        • by bmo (77928)

          You have to be trolling. You have to.

          So you're going to move the city inland by what, 60 miles? Move everyone off Manhattan and Long Island? All 8+Million of them? What draconian government ministry are you going to appoint (because you've made yourself emperor) to forcibly move people off the land they're on? You have to pay them to resettle too, enough to replace the homes and land they're in.

          Your "simple" solution is infeasible and would be hated by everyone.

          People like to live next to work. They ha

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            What draconian government ministry are you going to appoint (because you've made yourself emperor) to forcibly move people off the land they're on?

            The department of no money for rebuilding coastal cities. That's the easy solution. Just declare that they can go fuck themselves. It does require forcing the bankers to move though, which is why it will never happen.

          • by gr8_phk (621180)

            People like to live next to work. They hate commuting. They'll build houses and offices near the port and then you're right back to where you started.

            That's their problem then. The solution is to make any and all insurance and/or government money covering the damage contingent on declaring the property unfit for rebuilding. It's nice not to cut them off, but it's also unfair to subsidize people who insist on building in hazardous areas. The compromise then is to cover it ONCE. Besides, if you did collect a

    • Your class envy rhetoric is idiotic. Manhattan has both rich and poor neighborhoods; flooding hurts both. Damaging business districts (which are interspersed throughout the island) hurts everyone.

      Like New Orleans, New York City has a location which is important as an inherent part of its geography. Unlike New Orleans, it is not feasible to move it. It is surrounded by water (duh, that's what island means) and those areas on the other side of the water are already densely populated. There's nowhere to go.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Your class envy rhetoric is idiotic. Manhattan has both rich and poor neighborhoods; flooding hurts both. Damaging business districts (which are interspersed throughout the island) hurts everyone.

        It has Wall St. on it. Stop whining about idiocy; If there ever was a rich neighborhood in the United States, that would be it. And all of New York has exorbinantly high cost of living, apartments are tiny, real estate is at a premium -- I could go on. All of that is because that's where the financial businesses are. And that's the reason why these areas haven't been reinforced or evacuated. And for the record -- New Orleans also has a location which is important as an "inherent part of its geography" .. al

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Like New Orleans, New York City has a location which is important as an inherent part of its geography

        It's important to its identity, but I'm at a loss as to why the rest of the nation should pay to maintain that.

        Unlike New Orleans, it is not feasible to move it

        you don't move the city, you recycle the city, you move the people.

        There's nowhere to go

        Except the rest of the country, which is less densely populated than anywhere else in the world not covered over more or less entirely with ice or sand or rock. Except maybe Canada, of course.

    • by TeknoHog (164938)

      Nuke it from the orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

      FTFY.

    • by fermion (181285)
      After New Orleans was hit, the population dropped and has now stabilized at less than 400,000 people, down form half a million. In 1900 Galveston was hit, killing as many as 10,000 people, out a population of 40,000. Most packed up, moved inland to Houston, and built the ship channel. The city is built to flood. New York, if it stays, is going to have to built to flood, built to be rebuilt. Have flood insurance, have replaceable components, if NYC is going to stay. Which is has to be because it establi
    • by westlake (615356)

      The only idea that's sure to work is to move the city to a safer location. Or at least the parts of it most suseptible to flooding. perhaps it's because we're talking about rich white guys now instead of poor black people that we should expend billions fortifying and rebuilding those neighborhoods?

      You do know that Harlem is Uptown Manhattan, right? North of Central Park?

      That Manhattan Island alone has a population of 1.6 million, Long Island 7.6 million and metro New York City as a whole, 22 million?

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:51PM (#41944591) Homepage Journal

    Naming the roads 'Canal St', 'Water St.', etc. 1821 to 2012 is too long a period for oral history to be effective.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:53PM (#41944611) Journal

    Has this ever happened before?
    What are the odds of it happening again?
    Its like terrorism... we need to use it as an excuse to spend lots of taxpayer money.
    Wasn't there another recent article on how climate change is an act of terrorism?

  • Climate Change? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mspohr (589790)

    People could start taking climate change seriously and reduce CO2 emissions.

    • People could start taking Cthulhu seriously and start sacrificing to him. Same results.
    • by alen (225700)

      Really?

      Then care to explain why NYC was hit by regular cat 3 hurricanes all the way through the little ice age? Since the killer 1938 hurricane we haven't had a single strong storm

      Sandy was barely a cat 1 storm. It hit at high tide And with the full moon which is what caused the flooding.

      Here in NYC the flooding didn't start until it made landfall and the wind died down

  • Is it really that difficult a question? We'vve known for decades but somehow everyone wants to pretend otherwise.
    • by tmosley (996283)
      You're going to need a lot more nuclear plants for that. If they are light water, they'll all be fucked during the next disaster. Best allow research for LFTR's.

      The ONLY way to stop burning fossil fuels is to introduce a power source that is cheaper. Any and all action that ignores this basic rule of economics will either be circumvented, or result in tragedy.
      • Best allow research for LFTR's.

        All the necessary research was done in the 1960s and '70s. Just let someone build the damn things already.

    • I really don't see what's the deal, besides an oil industry investing in a massive PR program to convince us all that their oil is the only source of power. If all the oil and coal in the world disappeared tomorrow, I'm sure lots of power sources would be built at record speeds. Power of any kind needed, clean or any other, The whole debate just relegated to the history books. Once necessity hits the fan, the creative juices will create self-powering airplanes that run infinetely. Oh wait, that's done alr

  • Crack it loose, and tug boat it to north Africa... no storms!, at the same time you can just let the depressed neighborhoods break off (wink,nod) and there's your urban renewal all in one shot!

  • Sure there's more snow upstate, but there's plenty of land and it would be nice to remake NYC as a modern city, with shorter buildings housing larger apartments, spaced further apart. We could call it New New York.
  • Not all that hard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:38PM (#41944923) Homepage

    Protecting Manhattan isn't that difficult. It's clear that the Con Ed station on 14th St needs to be raised; that's too important to be flooded out again. The subway system needs flood gates at several points. The London and Singapore systems have flood gates. The old Pennsylvania Railroad North Tunnels have flood gates, which Amtrak didn't maintain and were supposed to be fixed after 2001 as an anti-terrorism measure.

    Some of the subway stations need extra protection, especially South Ferry. They need strong emergency flood barriers. Sandbags didn't work because a big piece of wood (about 1' x 1' by 15') from a construction site crashed through them and ended up in the booking hall. They need steel barriers that are raised out of the ground when necessary. Extra pumping capacity with backup power is indicated, too.

    Those are no-brainers. After major hurricanes two years in a row, there's no question that those basic fixes are needed. Beyond that, it might be worthwhile to raise the ground level of the parks in the Battery Park area by a few meters. FDR Drive may need a flood wall south of the Brooklyn Bridge. Those are less urgent.

    Barrier islands like Fire Island and the Rockaways, and the Jersey shore, are too low to fix. Just make sure everybody evacuates in time. (About 140 people refused to evacuate Fire Island, and getting them off after the island had been cut in two by the storm risked the lives of emergency personnel. The first group of rescuers had to be rescued.) Require Florida-level hurricane protection in house construction. Require paid-up private insurance for anyone who wants to build in the flood zone. Put in hurricane-resistant solar panel powered street lights (a commercially available product), so there's some light no matter what happens. A strict "no tall trees near power lines" policy may be necessary in the coastal zone.

    New York State has a valuable resource - big rocks. Where roads and railroad tracks need to be protected against washouts, big rocks, too big for a storm to move (granite boulders the size of a SUV) should be used extensively.

    (Forget the "balloon tunnel plug" idea. Something like that was used at the Penn Station yards, and it burst when hit by something.)

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      (Forget the "balloon tunnel plug" idea. Something like that was used at the Penn Station yards, and it burst when hit by something.)

      Balloon tunnel plug plus a wall.

      Or use bigelow's technology for sealing in the event of micrometeorite impact

    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      Most excellently articulated --- well done!
  • They have worse storms every few months.
    • by JBMcB (73720)

      Tokyo is sheltered from the sea in an inlet. NYC sticks right out into the Atlantic seaboard. What they do in Tokyo won't work in NYC.

      • Re:Look to Tokyo (Score:4, Informative)

        by jc42 (318812) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @05:31PM (#41945721) Homepage Journal

        Tokyo is sheltered from the sea in an inlet. NYC sticks right out into the Atlantic seaboard. What they do in Tokyo won't work in NYC.

        Oh, I dunno about that. I have two Google Maps windows on my screen right now, one of the New York area, the other of the Tokyo area, at the same scale. True, the details are different, but overall they don't seem to be very different in their exposure to the nearby oceans.

        If anything, it looks like New York is better protected, especially Manhattan Island. It's at the north end of the 8-mile-lond Upper Bay, which has a rather narrow (~1 mile) opening into the Lower Bay, which in turn has a couple of barrier islands and a lot of continental shelf between Manhattan and the deep ocean.

        Tokyo is on the much larger Tokyo Bay, which is rather serpentine, and connected to the Inland Sea by the Uraga channel, around 6 miles wide. But the city area is near the eastern end of the Inland Sea, with no significant continental shelf. So if anything, Tokyo is more exposed, by the closeness of the open ocean and deep water, with wider channels to the central city area.

        But overall, they don't look all that different. And Tokyo has the extra problem of being in an active volcanic zone, while New York's geological underpinnings are much older and stabler.

        I'd guess that, all things considered, New York's geological, hydrographic and meteorological environment is somewhat safer than Tokyo's, though probably not by much. The general cost of protecting them isn't really all that different.

        The difference is that the Japanese are well aware of the dangers inherent in their natural environment, while New Yorkers are either oblivious or arrogantly sure that God/Nature/whatever is on their side. The Japanese weren't all that surprised by the recent epic earthquake and tsunami. New Yorkers seem surprised and offended that the natural world could do something catastrophic to them.

        • by JBMcB (73720)

          If anything, it looks like New York is better protected, especially Manhattan Island. It's at the north end of the 8-mile-lond Upper Bay, which has a rather narrow (~1 mile) opening into the Lower Bay, which in turn has a couple of barrier islands and a lot of continental shelf between Manhattan and the deep ocean.

          Everyone seems to forget that, when looking at a map of New York City, Brooklyn is part of it. Brooklyn sits *right* on the Atlantic ocean. See Rockaway and Long Beach? That's NYC. Now see that narrow gap protecting Manhattan? Half of the gap is Brooklyn and half is Staten Island, which sits across the opening of the lower bay, and is also part of NYC. Staten Island bore the brunt of the last hurricane, along with the outer coastal areas of Brooklyn. You also have the Hudson river and long island sounds dra

  • by kenorland (2691677) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:44PM (#41944965)

    NYC is where it is mostly because of shipping, harbors, and the merchants that got rich on that. Those made it a favorable place to live despite the costs of coastal living. These days, that location makes little sense. There is still shipping, of course, but not much reason why our financial center should be there.

    So, leave it up to New Yorkers: as long as they want to pay and are able to pay for defending the city against the elements, let them. Once it doesn't make economic sense anymore, people will stop building there and people will move elsewhere. This has happened time and again to cities in human history, it's a natural process.

    • by drcheap (1897540)

      So, leave it up to New Yorkers: as long as they want to pay and are able to pay for defending the city against the elements, let them.

      Most people will agree with that statement. However, they are just like you, too narrow minded to realize that those costs would not come 100% from "within" as you suggest.

      • Most people will agree with that statement. However, they are just like you, too narrow minded to realize that those costs would not come 100% from "within" as you suggest.

        As long as they pay for it through city taxes, it comes "from within". Those taxes are accounted for by a higher cost of doing business in NYC, and that will eventually make other places more competitive. It only becomes a problem if state and federal taxes are used to pay for this, directly or indirectly, because then people outside NY

  • Fill the skyscrapers with helium to lift Manhattan Island!!!

  • by DigiTechGuy (1747636) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @06:30PM (#41946157)

    Artificial islands or reefs (including ones made of recycled glass) to make the shoreline more absorptive and break the waves."

    Clearly the author has never been to the NJ/NY shoreline... It's already coated in "recycled" glass.

  • Either get out of the way of the private business and let people come and charge a lot of money for solving problems when they occur OR think of ways to make government more agile and adoptive to situations as they occur. That doesn't mean over-preparing for everything the way NASA has to. It means finding ways to make government works thinking in adoptive ways. The only alternative is what will probably actually happen -- theatrical preparation which will fall flat on its face whenever the actual disast
  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @07:09PM (#41946397)

    but when you get the cost estimates back people will shut up really quick. everyone wants to talk big but no one will want to pay for it.

  • James Blish had the solution in his "Cities in Flight" books fifty years ago. Fit a suitable number of spindizzies and fly New York off into the galaxy to look for work.

  • The geotechnical and engineering knowledge has been known for quite some time --- getting the super-rich jackholes like Bloomberg and his cronies to "allow" it to be put in place is another story . ....... (that's called history).
  • You can do all sorts of improvements both on land, under the streets and on the bulkheads and with infill outside the bulkheads, but you can't stop the eventual storm that overfloods everything with 30 foot hurricane waves which will come sooner or later. The 1938 hurricane which hit Rhode Island was proof if you need to have reason to believe.

    The simple truth is that building on waterfront barely above sea level is not rational for the long term. Eventually the costs exceed the value of the buildings and

  • As soon as I saw the topic, protecting NYC from "real" storms, I thought that all of NYC should be replicated virtually on massive servers in a subterranean environment and then all of the people could be dispersed or located elsewhere and play out their parts in NYC as if it were real.

    Then I realized that was The Matrix.

    Darn!!!
  • by Barryke (772876) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @02:22AM (#41948043) Homepage

    Just call the Dutch already, make proper dykes.

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