A new report released last week by the Natural Resources Defense Council lists rising sea levels, more frequent and intense storm events and increased flooding as the major water-related effects New York City will face over the next 70 years as a result of climate change.
Due to a combination of these factors, northeast Queens areas adjacent to Alley Creek, Udalls Cove and the entire Fort Totten Park peninsula have an increased chance of flooding up to 10 feet during storm events, according to the report. In the best case scenarios, these floods would happen once every 50 years, but in the worst case, they would happen once every four, according to Larry Levine, a senior attorney with the NRDC.
The report identifies the Bloomberg administration’s PlaNYC as a comprehensive sustainability plan that, department by department, undertakes both climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Levine called this a “conceptual proposal” and pointed to several “demonstration projects” the city Department of Environmental Protection has implemented as part of its Green Infrastructure Program.
Under the $3.8 million grant program, the DEP awarded funds in June to, among others, Queens College and the Bowne House Historical Society in Flushing for stormwater management projects that reduce combined sewer overflows into Flushing Creek. In addition, the department partnered with the city Parks Department in order to build a rain garden that absorbs water at the recently rehabilitated Oakland Lake Park.
Levine said these are the types of projects the city should be investing in — ones that create more permeable surfaces that can absorb water as opposed to directing it into the sewer system, or what is known as gray infrastructure.
“They’re beginning to make the investments,” he said. “The challenge is to scale them up citywide.”
According to Levine, the city’s gray infrastructure projects, such as the combined sewer overflow facility the DEP completed at Alley Creek in May at a cost of $130 million, were modeled on scenarios of historic climate patterns and thus will struggle to cope with the increase storm activities the report is projecting.
He said one of the cities leading the way on greening its public and private properties is Philadelphia, which recently created a 25-year plan that allocates at least $800 million over 25 years to capital investments.
Levine said a stormwater management draft plan the DEP is currently working on is somewhat controversial in that it favors water storage tanks on private property that temporarily capture water and release it into the sewer system, as opposed to creating more permeable space to absorb the water.
“[The DEP] is in the midst of a culture change to really embrace green approaches,” he said. “The development of the rule will be the first big test of how committed the city DEP is in practicing the use of green infrastructure.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@
©2011 Community News Group
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