New York Should Consider Storm Barriers, Post-Sandy Panel Says

Governor Andrew Cuomo should consider building storm barriers in New York Harbor that would cost as much as $29 billion and two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River, according to a report he commissioned.

A panel Cuomo appointed to study infrastructure needs after Hurricane Sandy also recommended building a rapid bus network to serve New York City, expanding Metro-North service and adding double tracks to the Long Island Rail Road in Suffolk County.

Sandy blasted the region Oct. 29, flooding New York City’s subway system, knocking out power to more than 2 million New York residents and destroying or damaging more than 300,000 homes. In his State of the State address this week, Cuomo said New York must better prepare itself for increasingly powerful weather after the subway had to shut down twice in the last two years due to approaching storms.

“Climate change is real,” the 55-year-old Democrat said Jan. 9 in Albany. “It is denial to say each of these situations is once in a lifetime. There is a 100-year flood every two years now. It is inarguable that the sea is warmer and there is a changing weather pattern, and the time to act is now.”

Most of the recommendations in the 205-page report have no price tag, and many come with no specific plan for funding. The report does recommend Cuomo create an infrastructure bank to help harness private industry funding to repair bridges and roadways. It also suggests a “wetland banking system” that would enable private developers to fund the construction of sand dunes, oyster reefs and other natural storm barriers in exchange for legally required offsets on other projects.

Storm Barriers

Among the biggest-ticket items is a proposal to build storm barriers to protect New York Harbor that would cost from $7 billion to $29 billion, the report said. The gates, which would close against a storm surge, would be similar to those constructed in London and St. Petersburg, Russia, though more complex due to size and geography, it said.

The commission recommended two options for protecting the portion of New York Harbor that’s open to the Atlantic Ocean.

One would require building two sets of flood gates, one between the Verrazano Narrows and another at the mouth of the Arthur Kill between Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and Staten Island. A second option would be to build a barrier stretching from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to the Rockaways in New York. Another gate would block the Long Island Sound from flowing into the East River.

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