NYC
11/08/2010 09:02 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

New York Considering Erecting Storm Barriers For Future Flooding

MANHATTAN -- The city is seriously considering a proposal to erect huge storm surge barriers as part of a comprehensive waterfront plan meant to protect New York from rising sea levels, officials told DNAinfo.

Community Board 4 member and longtime Chelsea leader Robert Trentlyon said he was told late last month that the city was going to include the proposed barriers in their Vision 2020 Comprehensive Waterfront Plan.

A spokesperson for the Department of City Planning confirmed that storm surge barriers are under consideration for inclusion the report, on a list of other possible strategies for protection against storm surges and sea level rise.

Residents of particularly vulnerable lower Manhattan neighborhoods have been pushing for the city to consider the barriers for the past year, and are hopeful that they'll succeed when the Vision 2020 is unveiled in the next month.

Proponents say the threat of storm surge floods to Manhattan is real, and they cite other metropolitan cities like London, Rotterdam and St. Petersburg, which have already taken steps to install massive storm surge barriers.

New York is already overdue for a category three level storm, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's average return periods. The last one, 1938's Long Island Express led to over 700 deaths across the mid-Atlantic and New England.

Advocates say the barriers are a long way from installation, saying the typical time frame for new gates and bridges takes approximately 40 years from inception to completion.

But they're pushing the city to legitimize the possibility, no matter how distant, by including it in their Vision 2020 report as one of the possible priorities for New York's 500 miles of shorefront over the next decade.

If the city takes the barriers seriously enough, proponents say, the next step would be to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to commission a study on installing them at the Upper East River, the Verrazano Narrows and Arthur Kill.

"We'll see what the statement is and then we'll go from there," Trentlyon said.

Community Boards 2 and 4, the Hudson River Park Advisory Council, the Hudson Guild, the

Chelsea Council of Block Associations and Save Chelsea are among the groups that have voted this year in favor of such a study.

The deadline for public comment on the Department of City Planning's Vision 2020 draft recommendations is Nov. 12.

For photos, visit DNAinfo.