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A greener gotham

The Manhattan High Line The Manhattan High Line Diane Cook and Len Jenshel
28 Mar
2015
A plan to prepare the Big Apple for future climate change is proposing a green revolution for the city, but fears over public involvement remain.

Change is constant in the metropolis, and that includes climate change. In 2030, New York City will be home to 9.1 million people. To help cope with this, city planners have been working for eight years on a programme to prepare the Big Apple for a new climate.

PlaNYC involves 25 government agencies in a project that aims to make the city more resilient to climate change while reducing its contribution to the problem. By 2030, PlaNYC hopes to see the city’s carbon emission cut by 30 per cent from the 2005 level, and to have 75 per cent of the city’s waste diverted from landfills.

The plan also wants to make sure all New Yorkers live within a ten-minute walk of a park, a goal that may see initiatives like Manhattan’s High Line (pictured) – a 1.45-mile long park built atop an elevated railroad – copied across the city. A similar park is planned for the borough of Queens. All of this needs to be achieved while building another million homes, and making New York’s air quality the best in any big US city.

Preparations for weather catastrophes are also included in the plan. Electricity generation is to be decentralised, and zoning controls will take account of new potential flood zones. A priority will be protecting the city’s waterfront from storm surges.

In 2012, the Hurricane Sandy storm surge cost NYC an estimated $19billion with $5billion in damage to infrastructure and lost revenue, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

‘Sea level rise is unequivocal. The only question is by how much,’ notes Guy Nordenson, a structural engineer, in a recent New York City development corporation report. ‘Construction around the waterfront and the bay has to allow for unpredictable change. We can’t just build a big wall and forget about it.’ Last year, around $66million was spent on flood defences for Queens alone.

However, not everyone agrees PlaNYC is on track. A recent study from the Israel Institute of Technology suggests that the plan fails to account for the city’s economic divisions, and does not include sufficient input from ordinary citizens.

This was published in the April 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine

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