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Threatened by rising waters, New York erects a wall



(New York) New York, an urban giant surrounded by water and threatened by climate change, is protecting itself behind a gigantic anti-flood wall, hoping to avoid the disasters of the past ten years.

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the storms Ida and Henri this summer caused the death of dozens of residents and billions of dollars in damage to America’s largest city. With its particular geography, the “big apple” is extremely vulnerable to bad weather and has ended up adopting in recent years a titanic plan called “climate resilience” costing 20 billion dollars.

It must be said that experts fear a rise in water levels of 20 to 75 cm by 2050 which would threaten New York with submersion, in particular the island of Manhattan, framed by the Atlantic Ocean, the East River and the Hudson River.

In total, the megalopolis of more than 8.5 million inhabitants has 836 km of coastline.

$ 1.45 billion project

In southeast Manhattan, work has started for a budget of 1.45 billion dollars to erect a wall and dikes against the floods.

On the site, wedged between the East River and the expressway that runs alongside it, Tom Foley, director of the design and construction department of New York City, told AFP that he also planned to “raise the park in this area ‘at the water’s edge, home to some 110,000 New Yorkers.

Over four kilometers, the green space will be completely raised by three meters and the erection of an anti-flood wall should prevent the catastrophic damage caused by the latest hurricanes and storms that form above the Atlantic.

Ahmed Ibrahim, works supervisor, shows on site the installation of “pylons which serve as deep foundations” and “metal walls which will form an underground separation wall to protect us from flooding”.

Electroshock Sandy

The awareness of the New York authorities dates from October 2012 after the shock of the hurricane Sandy which had caused the deaths of at least 44 people, damages of 19 billion dollars and the absence of electricity for weeks, recalls Sara Nielsen, director of the planning of the parks of New York.

In this hyper-dense area of ​​southeast Manhattan, the water had risen to a record level of 2.7 meters above sea level.

For Sara Nielsen, after the hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans in 2005, “Sandy was the first disaster that accelerated our approach to climate change.” The expert is pleased that today the city, with its sometimes dilapidated infrastructure, has “very important projects to protect New Yorkers”.

The city “is investing more than 20 billion dollars (in a multi-year plan of) ‘climate resilience’ with a strategy at several levels for the protection of our coastline”, explains to AFP Jainey Bavishi, director of the mayor’s office of New York for ‘climate resilience’.

Green lung

Not quite a tree-lined city – with the exception of the giant green lung of Central Park – Manhattan will also be replanting thousands of trees of different species around the construction site and improving underground systems for sewers, sewage disposal and construction. ‘electricity.

Town planners are also looking to improve habitat, one of New York’s Achilles heels, especially because of the number of basement dwellings exposed to flooding and the poor quality of construction and thermal and sound insulation. housing.

“There are a million buildings in New York. We modernize them wherever possible ”, assures Jainey Bavishi, praising“ one of the most resilient building codes in the world ”.

Still, the flood wall project is not to everyone’s liking. Local residents’ associations are contesting it in court and the site should not be completed before 2026.

Terry, a resident of the neighborhood who refuses to give his surname, recognizes that it is “a good idea”, but regrets that “things are progressing slowly”.

For Jainey Bavishi, New York and its “climate resilience” program can be part of the environmental component of President Joe Biden’s $ 1.2 trillion plan, voted in Congress, to invest heavily in infrastructure in the United States.

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