This article appeared on September 10, 2011 in the New York Times, calling for swift action on building disaster-mitigating infrastructure such as “sea walls” around New York City, to prevent Sandy-force hurricane damage post-Irene one year before. As this article shows, one year and almost two months before Superstorm Sandy hit, storm experts were already worried about how vulnerable New York and its environs were to increasingly-violent coastal storm events, now rendered even more so in Sandy’s wake. While some planning experts are calling for 100-year planning horizons, the city had been in the process of spending more than $2 billion over the course of 18 years, clearly a drop in the needs bucket, and too late for Sandy and its aftermath just one year later.
Only a year ago, [city officials] point out, the city shut down the subway system and ordered the evacuation of 370,000 people as Hurricane Irene barreled up the Atlantic coast. Ultimately, the hurricane weakened to a tropical storm and spared the city, but it exposed how New York is years away from — and billions of dollars short of — armoring itself. “They lack a sense of urgency about this,” said Douglas Hill, an engineer with the Storm Surge Research Group at Stony Brook University, on Long Island. Instead of “planning to be flooded,” as he put it, city, state and federal agencies should be investing in protection like sea gates that could close during a storm and block a surge from Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean into the East River and New York Harbor.
Sadly, Hill’s words have been proven true.