safe harbor

December 2nd, 2013 § 0 comments

About a year ago, I experienced first-hand what climate change looks like when my community and region experienced massive flooding during “Superstorm Sandy”.  I watched closely and participated enthusiastically in the post-Sandy planning that was fast-tracked, and cheered for the storm surge barrier that the resulting plan prescribed for Newtown Creek, my backyard.

However, when that plan was set into motion, a recommendation called Seaport City appeared at the top of the stack. This element of the plan envisions a luxe development off the edge of lower Manhattan with a levee system under its skirt to (rumor alert) protect Wall Street. Classic Bloomberg. This is a land where skyscrapers are subsidized on former wetlands as common practice, while basic infrastructure is so primed to flood that “even on a dry day subway pumps remove millions of gallons of water” from the subway tunnels.

Therefore, I am often shocked at what other cities get done without pinning a condo on top.


In New Bedford, MA, we enjoyed the protection of a massive hurricane barrier that was built in the 60s by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the commercial fishing fleets based there. The barrier extends well into the city of New Bedford, as well as the neighboring town of Fairhaven across the bay, with a fabled elevator and underwater tunnel across the actual gate.

More recently, in Norfolk, VA, we noticed tide gates around the Waterside neighborhood downtown, that led to some Googling and the discovery that Norfolk was the nation’s first “Tsunami-Ready City” in the US. I had no idea that such a designation existed, but was excited to find several more such sites coming up on our route.


No doubt that these infrastructure works were not implemented without extracting a pound of flesh (and not without major if not total Federal subsidy), but in both cases, the works extend well beyond a single development site, and included elements of placemaking and open space.

Are the condos underground? How do these other cities git ‘er done?

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