Seaport Gets a $110 Million 'Down Payment' on Flood Protection

City officials say that the project to raise the bulkhead adjacent to the Seaport would protect the neighborhood from a storm similar to Hurricane Sandy, which overran the barrier by about four feet. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Nov. 05, 2021

Aiming to storm-protect some $400 million worth of Seaport property and critical infrastructure, the city is committing $110 million towards girding the area. 

Mayor de Blasio announced the investment just days before the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, which on Oct. 28, 2012, devastated the low-lying neighborhood.

“We must ensure that families, businesses, and communities in Lower Manhattan, one of the most densely populated parts of our city, are protected from the accelerating effects of climate change,” de Blasio said in a statement. “This project does just that, guaranteeing that some of the most vulnerable areas can continue to thrive for generations to come.”

The 5-year project, to begin next year, envisions the rebuilding and raising of the bulkhead along the waterfront 3 to 5 feet, roughly between the Brooklyn Bridge and Pier 17. It also includes improving drainage in the area. Officials do not have an estimate for the cost of the entire project. The $110 million, they say, is expected to cover only the design and beginning of construction, with the city seeking additional funding from the Federal government and other sources.

The completed project is expected to protect about 15 acres of this vulnerable section of Lower Manhattan against tidal inundation through the 2100s, according to officials. Experts say that in the next 25 years, the sea level is expected to rise about 2.5 feet. If nothing is done, they say, the Seaport waterfront will be inundated monthly from high tides. 

The project is a stand-alone part of the city’s Financial District and Seaport Climate Resilience Master Plan, expected to be released next month, which will propose ways to protect Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge to near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. Officials in the Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency say that such a massive challenge would require building into the East River up to 250 feet, a project that could take two decades to complete and cost between $5 billion and $7 billion. 

In the meantime, partial funding for the newly announced, far more modest project, is a “down payment” on what will be needed to protect the Seaport and Financial District, said Catherine McVay Hughes, a leading advocate for Lower Manhattan flood resiliency. “We look forward to additional investment and commitment from the next administration and beyond,” she said.