New York City officials are considering extending the eastern edge of Manhattan’s tip by up to 188 feet, raising the shoreline and possibly taking down the elevated FDR Drive from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Battery Tunnel, as part of a new proposal meant to protect the Financial District and Seaport from future flooding.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is expected to reveal details of the Seaport resilience project – first proposed in 2019 as a possible 500-foot extension of Lower Manhattan into the harbor – by the end of the year. The concept developed after Superstorm Sandy showed low-lying parts of the island needed protection. In the Financial District, daily high tides will likely flood the area two to three blocks inland by 2100, according to the EDC’s analysis of Federal Emergency Management Agency data. By then, coastal storms could surge 18 feet above the current esplanade. Within that section of Manhattan is a wide array of critical infrastructure, both below ground and above – including subway tunnels, office buildings, homes and utilities.

The EDC recently shared new design ideas with a community advisory group that has been meeting privately for months to brainstorm about the Seaport-FiDi plan. According to members of the group and portions of the presentation shared with the media outlet, The City, the proposal has morphed significantly since 2019.

The vision for a landfill extension into the harbor will likely not run 500 feet but will instead add sections between 90 feet and 188 feet at various points off the current eastern edge of the island’s triangular end. The EDC’s current plan also includes the possibility of small, one- or two-story new structures, but “no larger residential or office” buildings.

The EDC is considering removing the current elevated highway that runs from the Brooklyn Bridge to The Battery and replacing it with a street-level roadway.

The overall plan is several years and billions of dollars away from becoming reality. The EDC is still talking to relevant parties and needs to secure funding for the project, whether federal or otherwise. The cost has been estimated at between $5 to $10 billion. Concerns also remain that removing part of the elevated highway would flood streets north of the Brooklyn Bridge with vehicles.

According to Amy Chester, managing director of Rebuild By Design, the Seaport-FiDi plan aligns with other conversations and projects around the county that aim “to reconnect neighborhoods that have been separated from their waterfronts, or from the neighborhood next door.”

Bruce Schaller, a transportation consultant and former deputy commissioner for traffic and planning in the city’s DOT, said the southernmost section of the FDR Drive is “an important link” in the city’s regional travel system – but acknowledged it’s bigger than it needs to be.

If the city were to bring down the FDR to an at-grade roadway, experts say they would need to figure out how to slow the traffic and allow pedestrians to cross safely to access the waterfront.

The most recent version of the EDC’s plan is the result of at least two years of work collecting input from New Yorkers about the resilience project and vetting different possibilities for the narrow strip of waterfront that’s vulnerable to more extreme weather caused by climate change.

The built-out coastal infrastructure would include a series of flood gates and walls, including at the South Street Seaport’s Pier 17. The new design could raise the ground up to 18 feet higher at the highest level.

In his own waterfront and resiliency plan unveiled in September, Mayor-elect Eric Adams pointed to “work[ing] with the State and federal government to fully fund the missing areas of the Lower Manhattan resilience plans” as a priority for his administration.

Source: The City