New Study Predicts Rising Sea Levels, Extensive Flooding in NYC
The Regional Plan Association, an urban research and advocacy organization, recently came out with a new report that draws attention to the threat to the New York metropolitan area from sea level rise cause by climate change. The report is called “Under Water: How Sea Level Rise Threatens the Tri-State Region.” The report identifies the places in the New York area that are most at risk of being permanently flooded, and describes the effects of one, three, and six feet of sea-level rise on neighborhoods, employment centers, and infrastructure. Taking into account the latest scientific findings on sea level rise and climate change, the study finds that many of the major resilience policies, plans, and projects under development today fall short of adequately addressing the long term, existential threat of permanent flooding from sea level rise.
According to the report, because so much of the city’s shoreline is hardened against flooding, the vast majority of neighborhoods in New York City are expected to experience few consequences from one foot of sea level rise, save a handful of places in and around Jamaica Bay, Flushing Bay, and the particularly vulnerable eastern shore of Staten Island. The community of Broad Channel in Queens is significantly threatened with one foot of sea level rise. LaGuardia Airport will probably begin to experience periods of nuisance flooding at particularly high tides that could disrupt operations from time to time.
With three feet of sea level rise, places that were experiencing smaller incidents of flooding at one foot will probably face greater or more permanent inundation. More than 12,000 of today’s New York City residents live in places that could be permanently flooded by a rise of three feet, the vast majority along the shores of Jamaica Bay, Flushing Bay, and eastern Staten Island. The flooding in Broad Channel is likely to become even more significant, also affecting the subway connection between the Rockaways and Howard Beach. Waterfront parks, coastal protection infrastructure, and topography would continue to buffer much of the rest of New York City’s neighborhoods from permanent flooding, though stormwater and drainage infrastructure could become prone to backups at high tides, and low-lying neighborhoods may experience increased incidents of nuisance flooding.
At six feet of sea level rise, portions of New York City begin to look very different than they do today. The coastal protection infrastructure and waterfront parkland that had buffered much of the city through three feet of sea level rise is no longer enough to hold back water from places where more than 200,000 residents live today. Over 150,000 of those residents are located in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, the majority residing in communities around Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Sheepshead Bay. Broad Channel is completely inundated at six feet. Flushing Bay communities as well as Red Hook and Sunset Park also could see permanent flooding of portions of their waterfronts.