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Seaport City Pits Odds of Flooding Against Odds of Ever Being Built

Thursday, May 22, 2014

WNYC
A team of consultants recommended building Seaport City as far as 500 feet into the East River, at a height of 19 feet. A team of consultants recommended building Seaport City as far as 500 feet into the East River, at a height of 19 feet. (Thomas Schaller and FXFOWLE/nyc.gov)

The proposed Seaport City project would be built to withstand a 100-year-storm and make a generous allowance for sea level rise, according to a just-released feasibility report. But that still would fall short of European standards, which often require projects to be designed to withstand a 1,000-year, or even 10,000-year, storm.

The difference in standards has sparked a debate between disaster experts concerned about the long-term viability of the project, and current and former city officials who fear that making Seaport City more resilient will have other consequences.

“The danger we face is that if we look out not 100 years, but 200 years or 300 years, the cost of that protection is going to be so great that we will end up not being able to do anything, which is the worst possible situation to be in,” said Seth Pinsky, who was the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation under former Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

The project, which would create a neighborhood on landfill in the East River in order to buffer the low-lying areas of the Financial District and Chinatown, is still a long way away from becoming a reality, no matter how it is configured. City officials say the next step is to solicit community feedback.

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