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Exploring How the Dryline Could Transform Manhattan's Coast

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Rendering of the Dryline

Architect Bjarke Ingels introduced New York to his fantastical-seeming "Big U" plan more than two years, enticing Manhattanites with the idea of a lushly planted park that would protect the island from future Hurricane Sandy-like storms. Plans based on the designs have actually moved forward since the city-hosted designed competition deemed Ingels's idea the best, and research is ongoing as to how this city-saving landscape could be built. The proposal is now called the Dryline (in a city with the High Line and the Lowline, the name was kind of inevitable), and the city is already in the survey phase of a protection plan for an area from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street. The whole Dryline would stretch 10 miles from East 40th Street, around the tip of Manhattan to West 54th Street (coincidentally, just south of BIG's Via tetrahedron). Earlier this month, as part of Jane's Walk, the Municipal Art Society hosted a walking tour of what would be the Dryline first piece.

[All photographs by Evan Bindelglass]

The tour ran from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street and was led by Eric Kaufman, President of the Natural Resilience Fund and co-founder of the New York Wheel project. He runs a group called Friends of the Dryline, which is trying to get more funding for the project through a public-private initiative. Phase one is basically all city-owned land, and while that makes the actual building process easy, Kaufman said it makes funding a bigger challenge. It's estimated that the whole project will cost $1 billion, but he'd like it to have $1.35 billion for any short-term resiliency needs. He also has proposed repurposing the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which was set up in the wake of 9/11, for use on this project.

[The Williamsburg Bridge]

The actual idea for how to protect the first section from storms would be a combination of landscaped berms (essentially manmade hills) and collapsible barriers below elevated sections of the FDR Drive. There's no reason it couldn't all be beautiful. In fact, BIG's Dryline video released in March, which is just an idea, not the government's formal plan, shows art on the barriers and new usable spaces below the highway, plus a "reverse aquarium" at the southern tip of Manhattan:

But whatever actually happens, the landscape might be very different from what is there today. Will the current parks remain? How will athletic fields be protected? Will the parks be easily accessible? The tour also highlighted the housing (including Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village) and infrastructure (the Con Ed plant at East 14th Street) that will need protection.

—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· See the 10-Mile 'Dryline' That Could Protect NYC's Waterfront [Curbed]
· All Big U coverage [Curbed]