Coastal Management + Adaptation

March 20, 2023

The new waterfront esplanade proposed for the Financial District in Lower Manhattan modeled during normal weather conditions and coastal storm conditions (from the Financial District and Seaport Climate Resilience Master Plan by the Mayor's Office of Climate Resiliency and NYCEDC via

New York City Begins Its Climate Change Reckoning on the Lower East Side, the Hard Way – Inside Climate News

The city redesigned much of a $1.5 billion floodwall project along the East River without any community input, shattering trust. Now, New York is pursuing similar climate resiliency projects in Manhattan that Mayor Eric Adams calls “complex, novel and unparalleled compared to any other American city.”

Next to the Brooklyn Bridge, on an unassuming red brick building, a preserved chalk line serves as a permanent reminder of the 14-foot waves from Hurricane Sandy that inundated Lower Manhattan in October 2012, closed Wall Street, blacked out power to a quarter of a million city residents and killed 44 New Yorkers. 

Less than a year later, in August 2013, the Obama administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development picked a well-known Danish architecture firm, the Bjarke Ingels Group—BIG for short—in a competition called Rebuild by Design. Bjarke Ingels was selected for its plan to protect a vast expanse of Manhattan from future flooding “as we prepare communities across the country for the impacts of a changing climate,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said at the time.

The following June, the department sent New York a $335 million check to build a 2.4-mile span of berms, floodwalls and water gates along the city’s Lower East Side as the first phase in the firm’s “BIG U” vision for a 10-mile, U-shaped water defense that would run from 57th Street on the West Side to the tip of Lower Manhattan, and then up to 42nd Street on the East Side. 

The first phase, now called the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, was described by city and federal officials in 2014 as a “nature as buffer” approach that would allow the beloved East River Park, built by Robert Moses in the 1930s, to flood during climate-amplified extreme weather events. Officials said that phase would cost $770 million and be finished in as little as four years.

None of that turned out to be true…


More on Coastal Management + Adaptation . . .

Lynetteholmen Map Aerial view (by News Oresund, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr).

Inside plans for Copenhagen’s divisive artificial storm-absorbing peninsula – CNN

In January 2022, a team of developers, architects and environmental consultants began work on a 50-year project that — if completed — will become one of Denmark’s most ambitious and controversial infrastructure schemes to date: A 271-acre man-made peninsula devised to shield its capital, Copenhagen, from rising sea levels…

The River Thames Flood Barrier (by Andrew Price CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via

When Climate Adaptation Backfires – Discover

In the scramble to combat climate change, so-called solutions can cause more harm. An IPCC 2022 report warns of these maladaptations.

Around the world, people are building levees, shoring up dams, digging canals and constructing infrastructure to confront the impacts of climate change. Most of these investments will likely save countless lives and protect property, but some will inadvertently add to the problems they are trying to address…

Hog Island Wildlife Management Area in Surry County, Virginia. 2018 (by Chesapeake Bay Program CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr).

On the Edge of Retreat (multimedia feature) – the Washington Post

A century ago, about 250 people lived on Hog Island, a seven-mile expanse off the Virginia coast. They raised livestock and gathered oysters. They lived in a town called Broadwater, worked at the lighthouse and Coast Guard station, and danced at night in a social hall called the Red Onion.

But that was back when there was still soil beneath their feet…

The southern coast of Viti Levu, the largest island in Fiji (by Brian CC BY 2.0 via Flickr).

How to move a country: Fiji’s radical plan to escape rising sea levels – the Guardian

For the past four years, a special government taskforce in Fiji has been trying to work out how to move the country. The plan it has come up with runs to 130 pages of dense text, interspersed with intricate spider graphs and detailed timelines. The document has an uninspiring title – Standard Operating Procedures for Planned Relocations – but it is the most thorough plan ever devised to tackle one of the most urgent consequences of the climate crisis…

A view of mangrove shoots planted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and others on Tarawa, an atoll in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, 2011(by Eskinder Debebe, UN Photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr).

‘No safe place’: Kiribati seeks donors to raise islands from encroaching seas – the Guardian

Pacific state needs billions for its ambitious plan – its president demands wealthy nations act to help now

Developing countries vulnerable to the worst ravages of global heating have spent the past week at United Nations climate talks urging more support from wealthy nations. The Pacific state of Kiribati has a very specific and unusual demand – that its islands be physically raised up to escape the encroaching seas…

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