Shortly before Halloween in 2012, Hurricane Sandy moved up the east coast and hit New York and the Jersey Shore. storm breaking cut off electricity for millions, knocked out parts of the metro system and flooded coastal communities 14 foot storm surge.
“Sandy was definitely that first wake-up call when a lot of people saw that the train they needed to get on didn’t run for more than a week in some cases,” said Kara Gurl, a public affairs researcher at the agency. Permanent Citizens’ Advisory Committee to the MTA. “[It] really highlighted the need to be proactive and sustainable.”
The renovations took years, and local agencies were forced to move towards climate-smart urban planning. Sea level rise is no longer a consideration in the distant future, and area now dotted with flood protection projects.
Post-storm trail of destruction
17% of New York’s entire landmass was flooded, most of it in Brooklyn, lower Manhattan and coastal Queens. All eight subway tunnels in the MTA system are flooded; The southern ferry station at the very bottom of Manhattan was closed for almost five years for a major overhaul. The East River Subway Tunnel, which connects Brooklyn to Manhattan via an L train, was damaged by corrosive salt water flooding during a storm surge; it was not fully refurbished until 2020 at a cost of around $500 million. Harnessed New York.
Gerl noted that some of the delays in repairing the subway system were due to the fact that trains are usually located right next to the beach or river. “Coney Island Yard is on Coney Island itself, right across from another body of water,” she said. “They were completely flooded and it damaged the yards themselves, as well as a lot of subway trains and other critical MTA equipment that was in those yards.”
Green spaces throughout the city were also destroyed. Emily Maxwell, director of cities Protection of Naturea New York-based global environmental network, said wildlife areas in and around the city need help to recover from Sandy, an often overlooked issue when discussing losses from the storm. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the largest bird habitats in the northeast. When the storm hit south Brooklyn at high tide, freshwater ponds mixed with salty brackish water. Many plant species in the park are not flood tolerant or cannot survive exposure to large amounts of salt water.
“We have seen many die off, especially big beautiful trees like birches,” Maxwell said. “We have also seen a real influx of invasive species… especially with invasive vines, which not only are not high quality habitat or food for wildlife, they can also kind of wrap around and drown out other existing good vegetation. So it becomes kind of a vicious circle.”
Many hospitals in New York are located right by the water. Both Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn and Bellevue Hospital Power outages occurred in Manhattan and medical workers had to relocate patients so they could receive proper care in the weeks following the storm.
Years of updates
During Sandy’s recovery, the MTA has made significant system upgrades to prepare for future storms and flooding, Jamie Torres-Springer, MTA president of construction and development, said at a committee meeting. This includes faster water removal systems and flood barrier tests over subway entrances to keep as much water out of the tracks as possible.
“We do not just go in, restore and return what was. We are taking the opportunity to do the extra work strategically,” Torres-Springer said. “We took a wider lens to comprehensively protect each of the 31 stations that fall within the Category 2 hurricane flood zone.”
Resiliency planning also extended to NYC Housing Authority buildings. While many recreational areas around public housing are still flooding to this day, there are plans to make the surrounding areas more flood-resistant. The Housing Authority invested more than $2 billion of the $3.2 billion awarded to the buildings hardest hit by the 2012 hurricane. This was used to protect 100 apartment buildings in 18 NYCHA complexes, and by the end of the program, 200 buildings will be upgraded to protect against future storm surges, according to the mayor’s 10-year recap. Some of the changes include the installation of garden beds that can absorb tens of thousands of gallons of water, Grist reported earlier this week.
The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Sanctuary has also been upgraded to withstand extreme rainfall and flooding. As the storm washed away and damaged much of the plant life in the reserve, the Conservancy began growing flood-resistant shrubs and trees such as oak and pine.
“We know that for urban forests to thrive in the future, our plants and trees along the coast will need to be more tolerant of saltier soils and stagnant water,” Maxwell said. “We see the new forest canopy starting to grow and flourish.”
Maxwell acknowledged that it could take years to see the full growth of the new salt-tolerant and flood-tolerant greenery. But while the plants take root.
The Future of Climate Change in New York
Agencies across the city have been hustling for years to become fully functional ten years after Sandy. But the recovery was not fair. The Coney Island community was devastated after a high tide storm. But despite being right by the water and in the path of a future flood, over 2,000 housing units have been built in the area since 2012. The city announced. Only 19 homes in the area were raised as part of the city’s Build It Back program.
New York City is now dotted with flood protection projects that aim to protect numerous coastlines. The city is working on a $1.45 billion wall and lock system to protect against future flooding and rising sea levels. The system was created East Coast Sustainability Projectand construction began in autumn 2020 and will last until 2026. The project also aims to upgrade New York City’s old sewer system so it can handle particularly heavy rainfall.
Other projects have focused on critical locations such as hospitals, including the Bellevue Hospital campus in Manhattan. Workers dug up the ground $120 million project in May, funded by FEMA. It will include an upgraded stormwater pumping system to prevent water damage to the medical campus, as well as a flood wall up to 12 feet high to protect the hospital from storm surges.
The rebuilt Coney Island Hospital, which will be called Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital, will have an emergency room on the second floor to avoid flooding, as well as flood-resistant backup power systems. weather a 500 year storm.
Girl said she believes Sandy ended up being a wake-up call to the Northeast about the reality of climate change. Extreme weather and rising sea levels are already happening, which means solutions must be found now.