The mayor proposes constructing a giant new neighborhood off the coast of the Lower East Side
By Adam Janos
Mayor Bloomberg rolled out a $20 billion plan Tuesday called “A Stronger, More Resilient New York” in which the administration mapped out ideas for infrastructural changes that would protect the city from the threat of climate change and extreme weather in the decades to follow. The plans calls for a additional levies and jetties throughout the city, the introduction of wetlands buffer zones to help reduce waves in exposed areas, and – perhaps most dramatic for East Siders, the introduction of “Seaport City,” a raised-elevation area for commercial and residential development that would be built upon landfill on the East River south of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The plan is modeled after Battery Park City on the west side, and is clearly a response, in part, to the damage that Superstorm Sandy wreaked downtown last autumn.
Rachael Cleetus, a Senior Climate Economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, believes the plan is a step in the right direction.
“This’ll be helpful for the city in thinking about how to elevate, protect structures, and start a difficult conversation about places that will become too exposed by mid-century,” Cleetus said. “I’m not saying all 250 items [in the proposal] are fantastic, but I really support that they’ve taken the time to do a detail, local-level risk assessment, and come up with specific ideas about how to protect themselves.”
The response from local business leaders and some elected officials has been more cautious. A spokesperson for the Downtown Alliance refused to endorse or reject the proposal, only noting that, “we still have a lot to look at.” State Senator Daniel Squadron’s spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver praised the measure in a written statement, stating that: “Our communities are still struggling to rebuild from the devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy, so I commend Mayor Bloomberg for his proactive approach to making sure Lower Manhattan and the rest of our city is better prepared for future storms.”
Locals in the community are more negative about the idea, with several in the Seaport area concerned about sustaining business viability and the neighborhood’s character through the development.
“I can’t imagine that the Seaport would still be the Seaport,” Maura Kilgore, owner of Cowgirl Seahorse (259 Front Street) said. “We’ve been a construction zone for so long. If they do more, we might as well close our doors.”
Rudie Medina, a local resident, finds the idea aesthetically distasteful.
“I’ve only been here one year, but my roommates have been here ten. They’d die if [it was developed]. There are other ways to protect the city than high rise buildings,” Medina said.
Others wonder if some of the worry is premature. Nancy Ploeger, president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, thinks there’s a lot to discuss before people need to fuss.
“Seaport City is one of many thoughts and ideas that the Mayor’s office has studied. Battery Park City protected the downtown area, and this has the potential of both growing the city and protecting the financial district,” Ploeger said. “It’s an exciting possibility. But it’s way too early to discuss the pros and cons. Still, from a residential and business standpoint, it’s an idea worth exploring.”
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