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Many of NYC's coastal neighborhoods may be underwater by 2100

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A new report details the terrifying effects of climate change on NYC

Jamaica Bay, one of the areas of New York City that’s on the frontlines of climate change
Nathan Kensinger

The fact that rising sea levels will adversely impact New Yorkers is not surprising, but the alarming rate at which it might do so has been brought to the fore in a new report [PDF!] prepared by the Regional Plan Association, CityLab first reported.

Under Water How Sea Level Rise Threatens the Tri-State Region suggests that sea levels could rise by as much as one foot by 2050, with some estimates placing it even sooner at 2030. The RPA has created three scenarios analyzing how this region will be impacted with a sea rise of one, three, or six feet.

In New York City, our coastal neighborhoods will be the most affected. With a one-foot rise, the Rockaways, Jamaica Bay, parts of Coney Island, and the eastern shore of Staten Island will be impacted. At three-feet, which is anticipated around 2080, Broad Channel, Arverne, Edgemere and Howard Beach will all feel a strong impact.

How might this play out? With a sea level rise of six feet, which is anticipated sometime in the early part of the next century, most of the Rockaway peninsula could be underwater, and more than half of Coney Island’s population will be at risk of permanent flooding. In Manhattan, neighborhoods like Harlem, Battery Park City, Hudson Yards, Chelsea, the Lower East Side, and East Village may all experience permanent flooding.

LaGuardia Airport, which is currently undergoing a $4 billion revamp, will be impacted by flooding with a one foot rise, and could be half-submerged at three feet. (Here’s hoping flood resiliency is part of the new upgrades.) Newark Liberty will also feel the effects, while JFK Airport is the only one that makes it through unscathed in these scenarios.

Maps courtesy of RPA

With six feet of sea rise, 12,000 people living in public housing in the city will be displaced, 20 percent of the entire region’s power generated capacity will be diminished, and 203,000 New Yorkers will be impacted overall.

The city is taking some measures to tackle the rising sea levels like the 2013 Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency Report, and the State’s Community Risk and Resiliency Act, but RPA says this is not enough to combat the problem of permanent flooding. Architects like Bjarke Ingels have suggested creative and engaging ways to tackle the solution like the Dryline, that would protect 10-miles of NYC’s coast, but that is still in the early planning stages.

In its report, the RPA has outlined three broad solutions for the coming years—to pump more sand onto beaches and build higher berms and sea walls, to create more elevated buildings and infrastructure to adapt to the rising sea levels, and lastly to move away from development around the coast entirely. But the news that President-elect Donald Trump has appointed Scott Pruitt, a known climate change denier, to head the Environmental Protection Agency makes this report all the more worrying.