Adapting the City for Climate Change

As the remnants of Hurricane Ida struck New York City earlier this month, many subways, roads, and homes were left flooded. It was the worst natural disaster to hit the Northeast since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, leaving at least 45 people dead in the New York area. Although the resilience-based repairs made after Sandy helped make many of the city’s buildings and infrastructure less vulnerable, the damage done highlights the need for still increased resiliency measures and green infrastructure, along with protections for transit.

With power outages and flooding across the city, Hurricane Ida’s impact highlights the need for New York City to strengthen its infrastructure, especially as climate change becomes a greater threat. As over 7 inches of rain plummeted on the city, meteorologists, officials, and locals were stunned by the sudden brutality of the storm, seeing as the current infrastructure is no match for the climate anymore. One solution to this would be to improve storm drainage and CSOs. Replacing and updating these old systems would allow for water to flow more efficiently. Additionally, limiting urbanization and development in flood-prone areas would be beneficial in order to protect more people and businesses. With this in mind, those areas should instead consist of green spaces or other natural elements to allow rainfall to collect into the ground and prevent flooding and pressure on drainage systems. We should also pedestrianize our streetscapes, taking cars off the road and providing areas for such green infrastructure. Thus, improved drainage systems and additional green infrastructure would help limit the effects of such storms.

More specifically, as climate change brings more rain to the city, its underground transportation system is at risk. The subway system is the root of New York City’s transportation, bridging inequality gaps and connecting various parts of the city. However, Hurricane Ida highlighted how just one day of strong rain can break it down. The century-old subway system was not built for that much rain in such a short amount of time, so improvements need to be made. In 2018, transit officials stated that the subway’s drainage system was able to siphon off 1.5 inches of rain per hour, but Ida brought over four inches of rain in under 24 hours. The city thus needs to adjust the subway system and its accessible routes accordingly, in order to allow it to continue to run in such weather. Being underground, this needs to be fixed sooner rather than later as the chances of flooding and rain increase.

All in all, Hurricane Ida’s remnants stressed the need for infrastructure and transportation improvements across New York City as the threat of climate change continues to grow. With this in mind, Carlos Castell Croke testified at a council hearing this past week on behalf of the NYLCV to advocate for the urgency to improve the MTA systems and combat climate resiliency across the city.