November 21 2011

The Lack of Disaster Planning in New York City

Post 9/11, most of New York City’s disaster planning has focused on terrorism while failing to develop preventative strategies for combating natural disasters.  As Senator Richard Brodsky pointed out recently, “All they’re thinking about is terrorism, and the net result is that the hurricane plan is embarrassing.

New York City is especially vulnerable to storm surge due to its low lying geography, its population density, and the existence of the New York Bight, a curve of shoreline off the coast that funnels and increases the speed and intensity of storm surge. Storm surge, or, water that is pushed towards shore by the force of winds around a storm, combines with normal tides in the event of a hurricane, causing the mean water level to rise significantly in relation to the size of the storm. It is considered the greatest hurricane related hazard.  Storm surge presents a direct risk to those who live in proximity to the waterfront industrial areas of New York City because the surge could carry noxious and hazardous materials into surrounding communities.

In fact, most of the areas of New York City that are most vulnerable to storm surges are located in “M3” or heavy manufacturing zones. Such areas are the least regulated and most noxious of all industrial uses. In addition to flood risk, there is an absence of emergency facilities and emergency evacuation centers within these vulnerable low-lying industrial areas.

As was stated by The New York Environmental Justice Alliance, an environmental non-profit, in a recent press release, “NYC was lucky that Hurricane Irene was only a Category 1 hurricane that devolved into a tropical storm as it arrived in the City. However, we cannot rely solely on luck.”

City and State government, as well as urban planners, architects, and engineers must consider the cumulative risk exposures posed by the heavy chemical uses in storm surge zones in New York City in creating more sustainable urban design solutions.

The question remains: Will we be ready in time?

Credits: Image and document linked to source.

Christine Camilleri

Christine Devon Camilleri blogged for the GRID from October 2011 to May 2012. She is a Graduate student studying City and Regional Planning at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. She also holds a B.S. in Human Development from Cornell University. She has lived in New York City for the majority of her life, and currently resides in Brooklyn, N.Y. Prior to joining Global Site Plans she worked as a grassroots political organizer. She is especially interested in New York City’s post-industrial waterfronts and the implications of participatory planning processes for community development initiatives.

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011 at 7:10 pm and is filed under Environment, Environmental Non-Profit, Infrastructure, Land Use, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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