Climate Change Isn't Coming, It's Here
The Financial District and Seaport Climate Resilience Master Plan will ensure that Lower Manhattan withstands rising sea levels and increasingly intense coastal storms, while integrating a new flood defense system into the city. This plan has been created with the purpose of serving all New Yorkers for generations to come.
Central to this master plan’s success is the need to identify reliable and technically feasible infrastructure to defend the one-mile stretch from the Brooklyn Bridge to The Battery from future tidal flooding and coastal storms. The master plan seeks to meet these resilience goals while continuing to provide universal accessibility to, from, and along the waterfront. The master plan also ensures the resilience and long-term flexibility of maritime uses along the waterfront to support the City’s changing maritime needs, all while respecting the ecology of the East River.
The master plan also presents an opportunity to improve how people experience the waterfront by introducing welcoming entrances, multi-level open spaces, and strong connections to the existing historic destinations along the waterfront.
After a detailed study as part of the master plan, the City has concluded that achieving these goals requires extending the shoreline of Lower Manhattan into the East River to create the space necessary to build flood defense infrastructure. Due to limited space and the esplanade’s current structure, a shoreline extension into the East River is needed just to construct the floodwall itself. In addition to creating space for the floodwall, the shoreline extension proposal is wide enough to ensure the community is not walled off from the waterfront.
The proposed design will seamlessly integrate flood defense infrastructure into a new multi-level public waterfront open space for all to enjoy. New flood protection walls incorporated into the new waterfront will serve two purposes: they will protect the community from future flood waters while creating additional open spaces for public use. A waterfront esplanade, designed to safely flood during a coastal storm, will bring people close to the water itself as well as to maritime activities and destinations.
The City is prioritizing “passive” flood defense, which means permanently raising the height of the shoreline to protect the area. Passive flood defense does not require human intervention or electricity to operate. These passive measures are needed because the area will eventually face flooding every day due to sea level rise, and deploying floodgates on a daily basis is not feasible or sustainable. Further, the Financial District and Seaport’s low-lying topography, combined with strong wave action during coastal storms, makes relying solely on floodgates less suitable.
In select locations, floodgates will be installed in addition to the passive flood defense. These floodgates will hold back high storm surge from entering the city. This will limit flooding in our subway tunnels while still providing entrances for emergency and maintenance vehicles to reach the shoreline. When coastal storms are not occurring, these floodgates will be hidden, opening views to the river and providing direct access to the shoreline edge.
The City is also proposing new drainage infrastructure to keep stormwater from backing up and flooding the area behind the new coastal flood defense infrastructure. A combination of traditional and nature-based infrastructure will help manage stormwater, limiting the additional stress placed on the sewer system during heavy rain and coastal storm events.
This flood defense system poses a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the waterfront, creating a place that serves New Yorkers better than before.
This waterfront is not a blank slate. The flood defense needs to be integrated into the city’s existing infrastructure and continue to support the diverse uses that serve the city and region. Ferry terminals along the waterfront will be redeveloped into new modern facilities with room for future expansion. People will be able to access the waterfront with frequent and inviting entrances designed for universal accessibility. The bike path and waterfront esplanade will be replaced and improved to provide safe and uninterrupted connections between the Brooklyn Bridge and The Battery.
This waterfront will also be designed to help advance the City’s sustainability goals. The new shoreline extension will incorporate opportunities for ecological enhancements, providing new habitats for fish and other aquatic organisms. Nature-based solutions will be woven throughout to help manage stormwater, provide shade, and reduce local summer temperatures. The master plan also identifies opportunities to integrate renewable energy and energy efficiency measures as part of any new buildings or structures along the waterfront.