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How New York City Plans to Soak Up the Rain

To manage the rising risk of extreme rainfall, the Big Apple will need to get spongier. Here’s how creating more green infrastructure could keep the city high and dry. 

New Yorkers will need to learn how to live with rain, researchers say. 

New Yorkers will need to learn how to live with rain, researchers say. 

Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

When the remnants of Hurricane Ida pummeled New York City with more than 3 inches of rain in just one hour, the city struggled to soak it up. Instead, streets and subways flooded as storm drains were overwhelmed, basement apartments were inundated, and more than a dozen people died. 

That September 2021 storm and the ones before it, including a cloudburst downpour during Tropical Storm Elsa in July, have forced New York to take a hard look at becoming a “spongier” city — one that combines nature-based green infrastructure like street-side rain gardens with gray infrastructure like storm drains to divert or absorb water and prevent catastrophic flooding.