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New York Definitely Doesn’t Need ‘New Mannahatta’

New York Definitely Doesn’t Need ‘New Mannahatta’

New York Definitely Doesn’t Need ‘New Mannahatta’

Photo by Michael Lee/Getty Images

It is obvious that New York City, which was built on a cluster low-lying islands in the Hudson, will need to reimagined and rebuilt to survive the climate crisis. Jason Barr, Rutgers economist, proposes a galaxy-brain plan. New York Times opinion piece published today calls for an entire neighborhood, dubbed New Mannahatta, to be constructed off of lower Manhattan. This would, he believes, address both the affordability and climate crises. Build a NeueFloodplain along stretches of Hudson and East Rivers and fill it up with 178,282 new housing units? What could go wrong?

As we saw in Superstorm Sandy, lower Manhattan is especially prone to flooding. The razing, lifting and rebuilding East River Park is just one of many large-scale infrastructure projects that will be needed to protect it from future flooding. (Of course it is). A contentious messRight from the start. Barr’s Long Manhattan could help save parts of Manhattan from flooding, like the Financial District. The new 1,760-acre peninsula that would extend off the tip of the original Manhattan landmass “would push vulnerable places like Wall and Broad Streets further inland.” By wrapping part of the way up both the East and West Side, it would put neighborhoods like Two Bridges more inland too. The new neighborhood would be a stronghold for mixed-income housing, which would house close to a quarter of a million people between New York Harbor and Financial District. Long Manhattan would protect places such as the Stock Exchange, which is home to zero people.

Barr’s proposal does call for “building the land at a higher elevation” (but does not offer any topographical details beyond that), and includes the construction of a necklace of wetlands along the new waterfront, which would in theory absorb future storm surges. This is the only positive idea in the entire scheme, other than extending the G Train. Long Manhattan is trying to present itself as the Big Idea of Tomorrow. As many have pointed out it shares much more with other misguided plans. Hudson River Bridge PaveAnd The East River. There’s even a plan from 1911 to extend the borough so that its southern point stretches all the way to Ellis Island — an even longer Manhattan than Barr’s Long Manhattan proposal. During the 1930s in particular, when a plan to cap off the Hudson with a dam was proposed, the federal government had a thing for such massive, landscape-altering projects: building dams, channelizing rivers, filling in marshes, and doing lasting environmental damage in the process.

But the closest counterpart to Barr’s New Mannahatta that actually exists in the world are the landfill neighborhoods that Robert Moses constructed out of mounds of trash along the Jamaica Bay waterfront. How has that neighborhood fared over the years. Queen’s Broad Channel — with its houses on stilts extending over marsh-grass-dotted shallows — is arguably the most flood-prone neighborhood in the city, and has the highest proportionOf Repetition flood-insurance claims.

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