Sea level rise is accelerating globally as greenhouse gas pollution levels rise, making floods and storm surges worse and more common. Climate change also makes storms fiercer. In a densely populated region rife with vulnerabilities and flush with riches, the Big Apple is showing how cities elsewhere could adapt.
Subway lines and rail yards were rebuilt and fortified against flood risks after Sandy. Emergency shelters were built and volunteerism has been promoted. Building codes have been revised. Electrical equipment is being placed high in skyscrapers instead of at ground or basement level, where it risks being inundated.
The boardwalk cost $340 million, paid for by federal taxpayers using some of the $50 billion in Sandy relief funding authorized by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2013. The sand dunes in front of it cost more than $35 million to build, and they will need to be replenished after the next big storm or to counter erosion.
The Rockaway Peninsula is a 10-mile strip of land an hours drive or subway ride from Wall Street. It is less than half a mile wide in many places. While new sand dunes will protect neighborhoods against storm surges that strike directly from the ocean, little has been done to protect neighborhoods near bays on the peninsula and elsewhere from flooding.