Because New York might be the next Venice! By which I mean, New York is heading toward a watery future. Break out your aquasocks, guys. It's only a matter of time before you'll need them every day.
The New York Times decided to write a piece wherein they would scare the crap out of their readers, imagining a future—an all too likely future—where much of NYC's streets will be underwater, leaving those of us who are only strong when swimming sidestroke feeling more than a little bit panic-y.
Maybe it's because I'm talking about myself when I hypothesize about a sidestroking phenom, but the opening line of the Times article filled me with dread: "With a 520-mile-long coast lined largely by teeming roads and fragile infrastructure, New York City is gingerly facing up to the intertwined threats posed by rising seas and ever-more-severe storm flooding."
Intertwined threats? Teeming roads? Fragile infrastructure? That doesn't sound good. What is our omnipotent, elected-for-life mayor doing about all of this? Does he even care? He really should. I mean, if the sea level rises just 4 feet from where it currently resides, Mayor Bloomberg will be completely submerged. He's a very petite man.
Luckily, though, he is on the job. The Times reports that "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has commissioned exhaustive research on the challenge of climate change. His administration is expanding wetlands to accommodate surging tides, installing green roofs to absorb rainwater and prodding property owners to move boilers out of flood-prone basements. " That's a relief! So, we're saved, right?
Not necessarily! Many experts believe that, while the city is at least addressing the potential for an ecological catastrophe, it is also moving too slowly at implementing these changes. And among the parts of NYC that could be devastated is the public transportation system. "In 2009, a commission warned that global warming posed 'a new and potentially dire challenge for which the M.T.A. system is largely unprepared.'” This sounds awful.
Another problem the city faces is that much of the new development of both buildings and green spaces has occurred right on the waterfront, the potentially catastrophically rising waterfront. Precautions have been taken in places like the new Brooklyn Bridge Park to prevent major flood damage from happening during a storm, however many developers have not taken the protective measures recommended because "it is hard to muster...support for projects with uncertain or distant benefits."
As is frequently the case, money talks and most people don't think even five years ahead let alone forty years into the future. Plus, people like Ben Chou, a water-policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council correctly note that, “There’s a lot of concern about angering developers.” And we wouldn't want to offend developers, would we? They're so sensitive.
In conclusion: practice your side stroke and consider investing in a jet ski. Beyoncé rides one regularly and she's pretty great.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen