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Monday, May 21, 2012
2012 Waterfront Conference Raises Sails for New York Waterfront Prosperity
The panel for "Adapting to Climate Change"
At Friday’s 2012 Waterfront Conference at Chelsea Piers,
sponsored by the Metropolitan Water
Alliance, major stakeholders from New York and New Jersey explored ways to
make the people’s waterfront accessible and useful while fostering new plans
and initiatives that will guarantee the future health and prosperity of our
waterfront and coastal areas.
Several panels brought
together activists, government leaders, officials, analysts and scientists to
discuss solutions, infrastructure changes and policies that are needed to
confront climate changes along the waterfront.
The imminent threat to the
New York and New Jersey waterfronts are the rising sea levels. By the end of
the century New York’s water levels will rise from 2 – 4 inches. Several factors
are being scientifically tracked to support this fact, including melting polar
icecaps and global warming. Rising water levels alone are not the big threat. When
considering unpredictable storm surges that will surpass the levels, the
stability and health of major coastal infrastructures are in jeopardy.
that manage power, communications, sewers, water treatment must
remain sustainable in the face of the worst circumstances. In this regard I was pleased to learn that New York is regarded as the
international leader in rising sea level and storm surge preparation, as reputed by the office of Caswell Holloway, Deputy Mayor Of Operations New York City, who is working with
various public and private agencies to outline steps for mitigating these
Speakers joining the
discussion were Cynthia Rosenzweig, NASA
Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Bill Solecki, Director,CUNY Institute for
Sustainable Cities; Robert Teetz, Vice
President of Environmental Services, National Grid; Eddie Bautista, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance;
Jared Snyder, Assistant Commissioner for
Air Resources, Climate Change & Energy, New York State Department of
The aforementioned agencies
are aware that scientific data and related pipelines which deliver that crucial
information evolve each year. To account for that flexibility of data, policies
must be flexible as well, allowing New York to adapt quickly to new
Modifying existing sea walls
and building new ones is not enough to account for storm surges and climate
change. Developing policies to reduce fuel emissions will help slow climate
change over the city, as will incentives like solar power and other green
energy resources. Updating
building codes and accountability are next on the bucket list. New
York City has made it mandatory for properties to manage their own water supplies
and surge plans. Equipment that an agency needs to maintain safe and healthy
operations must be relocated on accessible upper levels or rooftops to preserve
A New Way of Thinking
Other panels dealt with
adapting to climate change exclusively. Panelists like Adam Freed, Deputy Director, NYC Office of Long-Term
Planning and Sustainability; Randall Solomon, Co-Director, The Sustainability Institute at the College of New Jersey, Mark Watson, Environmental Research and Energy Resources Programs Manager, NY State Energy Research and Development; Mark Lowery, Cimate Policy Analyst, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation Office of Climat Change; and others entertained Q and A from moderator Chris Ward, Executive Vice President, Dragados, USA and presenter Ton Siemerink, Program Manager and Senior Management Consultant, City of Rotterdam. Topics included targeting flood
zones and disaster prevention plans.
Adam Freed, Klaus Jacob, Randall Solomon
Klaus Jacob, Ph.D, Special Research Scientist, Columbia’s
Lamont-Doherty Observatory, Earth Institute and Professor, Columbia’s School of
International Affairs, questioned building in known flood zones. “Let’s
start with the FEMA Flood Insurance Program – it is a catastrophe!” states
Klaus Jacob, Mark Watson
“In terms of long-term
policy it has allowed us to settle in places we should not be allowed to settle
in.” Jacob believes that while FEMA can help manage a crisis effectually, they
could avert the crisis completely by planning to avoid it.
In addition, if you happen
to own waterfront property because your “wife insisted upon it”, spend the ten
thousand bucks to raise it from storm level, thereby avoiding fifty thousand
dollars in damages and federal disaster relief that is sure to occur in an epic
Whether or not Manhattan and
other coastal areas of the city will become another Venice or just a flooded
town is still being debated. With continued planning and partnership among
government and private agencies, not only can the worst be averted, but New York
may well prove that government is ultimately doing what many say it should do –
protect the health and prosperity of it’s communities.