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Army Corps Releases $52B New York Coastal Resiliency Plan

The streets of Manhattan's East Village following Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Building a new coastal protection system for New York’s harbor will cost approximately $52B and take around 14 years to complete, according to a long-awaited proposal released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week.

Works to protect New York and New Jersey’s coastal regions from extreme storm damages will be the area’s largest infrastructure project, The City first reported. Construction would begin in 2030 and wrap up in 2044. 

“This is going to set the tone for coastal protection and community viability for decades to come,” Columbia Climate School Resilient Coastal Communities Project co-Director Paul Gallay told The City. 

But before construction can start, the project first has to receive approval from federal, state and local officials — in addition to a public comment period, which is open from now until Jan. 6, 2023. Designs for climate resiliency structures are anticipated to be formalized in 2025 after incorporating public feedback.

While significant efforts — and sums of money — have already been invested into protecting Lower Manhattan and neighborhoods like Battery Park from storm surges, many parts of Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey that were hurt by Hurricane Sandy are still unprotected.

The proposed construction from the Army Corps would protect those areas from coastal storms such as hurricanes, but is not intended to lessen the effects of sea level rise or ordinary rainfall. The Army Corps caveats in its report that the measures “will not totally eliminate flood risks.”

Among the proposals, the plan includes structural storm surge barriers — gates that could be opened and closed — in Jamaica Bay, Coney Island Creek, Newtown Creek, the Gowanus Canal, Sheepshead Bay, Gerritsen Creek, Flushing Creek and between New Jersey and Staten Island.

The plan includes nonstructural components on land, such as storm surge barriers, levees, raised roads, navigable gates and deployable flood barriers. Nature-based solutions including living shorelines and wetland restoration would also be used.

The report also includes neighborhood-specific details, such as the use of sheet-pile reinforced dunes along Rockaway Beach and elevated promenades near Coney Island Beach.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection are among the agencies that plan to review the report, according to The City.

Environmental and community groups have spoken out about the resiliency plan’s potential to hurt shoreline communities during the years that the Army Corps was developing its report, The City reported. Concerns range from effects on local marine ecosystems to a lack of protection for central transportation infrastructure sites, like LaGuardia Airport.

The work on the 569-page report first began in 2016 but was paused after then-President Donald Trump cut funding in 2020. President Joe Biden restored funding last year.