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New York City is adapting to a new reality as climate change is felt around the world with an uptick in severe weather. Varying initiatives are underway that take a lead in the cause while working towards protecting itself from storm surges and sea level rise.

According to the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resilience survey 37 percent of lower Manhattan will be at risk for storm surges by 2050. “We don’t debate global warming in New York City. Not anymore,” wrote Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The only question is where to build the barriers to protect us from rising seas and the inevitable next storm, and how fast we can build them.” (The Verge)

The BIG U is one such measure and it's a flooding solution for Manhattan that doubles as a social environment. HUD has dedicated a total of $511 million toward the implementation of The BIG U, and New York City has committed an additional $305 million in capital funding to start the first phases of the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR), and Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency (LMCR) projects (Rebuild by Design).

Bill de Blasio has spoken of "pushing out the Lower Manhattan coastline as much as 500 feet, or up to two city blocks, into the East River, from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Battery. The new land will be higher than the current coast, protecting the neighborhoods from future storms and the higher tides that will threaten its survival in the decades to come. When we complete the coastal extension, which could cost $10 billion, Lower Manhattan will be secure from rising seas through 2100." (New York Magazine)

Then there's more immediate measures and plans where New York City is taking the lead:

To keep New York City cool and lead the charge in reducing greenhouse gases is the Climate Mobilization Act which requires green roofs to be installed on all new residential and commercial buildings and increases the tax abatement for their installation - large buildings represent 70 percent of New York City’s total greenhouse gas emissions (Commercial Observer).

Another response is the city’s Department of Transportation has been converting dark pavement to lighter colored pavement, which reflects more of the sun’s heat than dark asphalt, and has increased plantings to add shade and retain moisture (Cho, Columbia). City simulations, using weather data from several U.S. cities, have found that reflective pavements, when used in conjunction with cool roofs and shade tree planting, can lower ambient air temperatures, on average by 4°F to 9°F (NYC).

Further there's an ambitious plan in its early stages that calls to make Governors Island “a major center for climate adaptation research, commercialization, conversation and policymaking,” according to a request for proposals that the city sent to contractors. The document says the climate adaptation theme would be the “anchor” for the island’s development (New York Times).

There's still a healthy amount of debate on these projects but the groundwork of awareness, sustainability, research, and protection is encouraging for New York City's growth and long-term prospects.


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