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Giant Levee May Protect Staten Island From Future Storms

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Coastal resiliency. It's been a big buzz phrase ever since Hurricane Sandy walloped New York City and its surrounding environs. Plans like Bjarke Ingels' Big U have been thrown out there as protection for Manhattan; same goes for SCAPE in Staten Island. Now, there's a new plan to protect Staten Island. WNYC reports that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to erect a levee stretching about four miles from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge south to Oakwood Beach. It would stand 20 feet above sea level (about 10 to 12 feet above the ground upon which it is built) and may be topped by vegetated slopes and a boardwalk. The Army Corps says it could withstand a one-in-300-year storm over the next 50 years.

Not everyone is as confident in the Army Corps' plan. Philip Orton, a research assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, calculated the risk using a mid-point estimate endorsed by the New York City Panel on Climate Change. He determined that there was a four percent chance of a storm strong enough to flood the neighborhoods behind it over the course of 50 years. The levees could be made taller later, but Orton says it's better to do it now while money is available and attention is pointed towards the issue.

This project would cost $579 million and is already partially funded. Nearly two-thirds would come from a Sandy aid bill passed by Congress in 2013. New York City has set aside $60 million and the state will be asked for $140 million, though a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation wouldn't confirm a contribution.

"We think this is an incredibly important project for residents on the East Shore of Staten Island, something they've been waiting for for a long time," said Dan Zarrilli, the director of the Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency. "We are fully supportive of making this investment."

If you want to learn more, the Army Corps is holding public information sessions about its plan on Wednesday, August 19 and Thursday, August 20, both at 6 p.m. at 777 Seaview Avenue.

—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.
· A Great Wall of Staten Island to Ward Off Hurricanes [WNYC]
· All Adventures In Flood Protection coverage [Curbed]
· All Hurricane Sandy coverage [Curbed]