Introduction: New York Under Threat (03:15)
New York is barely above sea level and levels are expected to rise two meters by century's end; cataclysmic hurricanes will become more frequent. Engineers are working on solutions.
Birth of a Metropolis (04:04)
Dutch settlers founded New York 400 years ago in a bay strewn with islands. They settled on what is now lower Manhattan. A grid system allowed city planners to make the most of available space.
Poor City Planning (01:54)
By modifying the flow of water on Manhattan, city planners made the city more vulnerable to flooding. New York’s drainage system funnels rainwater and sewage through the same pipes, causing overflows during bad storms.
Hurricane Sandy (02:05)
New York averaged one cataclysmic storm per century during its first 400 years. The city suffered its worst hurricane in 2012, flooding Manhattan, crippling the city's power grid, and claiming 48 lives.
Preparing for Climate Change (02:56)
Some parts of the Manhattan are 12 centimeters above sea level, and hurricanes are expected to become more frequent and violent. The city invests in a design competition aimed at bolstering defenses.
"Big U" (03:34)
One winning idea involved building a protective wall around the island to defend against storm surge. Other plans involve building levees, artificial berms, and other barriers against flooding. The project is expected to cost $335 million.
Problematic Urbanization (03:00)
New York's five boroughs are connected by an extensive system of tunnels and bridges. The city has more skyscrapers than Hong Kong. Flooding worsens with concrete paving in Manhattan.
Jamaica Bay (03:32)
John F. Kennedy International Airport is built atop wetlands that once diffused wave energy. The protective barrier would have been useful when Hurricane Sandy hit the city in 2012. Oysters could make up for the loss of regional marshes.
Shellfish Project (04:31)
One contest-winning idea proposes using oyster beds to create artificial breakwaters that protect Staten Island against powerful waves. This solution recalls the days when New York was the oyster capital of the world.
Expanding Waterfront (04:56)
Manhattan's land mass has grown 20% as developers use construction landfill to create new land. The foundation of Battery Park City was built on rubble from the World Trade Center's construction. This new land is especially susceptible to flooding.
Post-Sandy Structure (03:56)
The American Copper Building is New York's first waterproof skyscraper. The building was designed so that residents could function if the city’s power goes out. It also features an advanced drainage system to prevent flooding.
Protecting Transportation (05:12)
New York has started to build infrastructure to protect the city's subways and tunnels from flooding. High-tech solutions include sealing off tunnel entrances with waterproof fabric, airtight doors, and inflatable barriers.
Moving the City (02:18)
Greenwood Cemetery is located 67 meters above sea level, one of several cemeteries located on higher ground. Will New Yorkers ultimately have to abandon their waterfront and move to more elevated areas?
Credits: New York Under Threat (00:33)
Credits: New York Under Threat
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