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Bloomberg's Seaport City Plan Met with Confusion, Skepticism

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Probably the most controversial aspect of Mayor Bloomberg's $20 billion storm protection plan is Seaport City, the proposed elevated neighborhood just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, modeled after Battery Park City (which was relatively unharmed by Hurricane Sandy). The Wall Street Journal ran a roundup last night of the criticisms that have been leveled against the Seaport City plan so far, and they are numerous and wide-reaching. The director of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance in New York called the plan, "a real clunker," citing the harm that a new neighborhood would cause to the Seaport Historic District and the negative environmental impact of massive landfills, which harm fish and wildlife. Stanton Eckstut, the architect who designed the master plan for Battery Park City, has also pointed out that federal regulations against landfills have increased significantly since the '70s. "Ever since Battery Park City, you basically can't do landfills in America anymore," he said. "It's a no-no."

The potential cost of the project, which is not included in initial estimates, is also causing trepidation. So far, only $15 billion of the $20 billion plan — $10 billion provided through a combination of City capital funding already allocated and Federal relief, as well as $5 billion from additional, expected Federal relief already appropriated by Congress — is accounted for, leaving a gap of $4.5 billion. The city says that its too early to predict the cost of Seaport City, but conservative estimates put it in the hundreds of millions or billions, which, obviously, would be another major hurdle. One anonymous real estate insider told Crain's, "Sure, we all love development ... But it's in the same league with the mission to Mars."

Since it's too early even for the specifics of a plan to be offered, perhaps there's no point in worrying about it yet. Bloomberg, during the unveiling of his 250 proposals last week, said that, "it's an idea that deserves careful attention and further study, which will begin immediately," and a few others seem to agree. Crain's editor Glenn Coleman quoted Daniel Burnham: "Make no little plans." He went on to write that the new flood plain is "an existential threat to a sub-city the size of Minneapolis," i.e. something drastic is going to have to be done. The overarching question seems to be whether development should begin to retreat from the waterfront, or plan to stay.
· Storm Plan's 'Clunker' [WSJ]
· 'Seaport City' is revival of projects never realized [Crain's]
· Editor's Note: The little people [Crain's]
· Bloomberg Outlines $20 Billion Storm Protection Plan [NYT]
· How NYC Will Prepare for More Residents In the Floodplain [Curbed]