5 Radical Ideas for Post-Sandy New York

5 Radical Ideas for Post-Sandy New York

I grew up in New Jersey. I lived for many years in New York City. Seeing the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy to areas I know and love has been heartbreaking. And there’s a more foreboding feeling–that mega-storms like Sandy will become more common on the East Coast. Just a few days ago Mayor Bloomberg endorsed Obama because of his stance on climate change.

As I think about the future of areas like New York and New Jersey, I wonder what’s in store, and how people are going to find ways to deal with it.

Here are five ways I can imagine a more robust, sustainable future for New York and New Jersey. Some of these ideas are pretty radical, but radical times call for radical measures, right?

1. Floating Cities

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What a cool concept! Mixing urban design and sustainability, floating structures are built to withstand rising water levels and incorporating flood resistant architecture. The growing movement of aquaculture is already floating to the surface in low-lying places like the Netherlands. According to Koen Olthius of Dutch design firm Waterstudio, it’s best to face the rising tide and “make friends with the water.” who says in this excellent interview:

Urbanization will grow in the coming years and 90% of the metropolises are located near the water, so it is just logical that cities will find a way to live with the water instead of going away. Look at the Dutch — we are living below sea level for hundreds of years instead of leaving for higher Europe. Nobody wants to leave New York, Tokyo or London. We’d rather deal with the sea level rise by using the space in the cities on water.

— INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Waterstudio’s Koen Olthuis on FLOAT! FLOAT – Amphibious Villa de Hoef – Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

2. Smart Energy Grid:

Germany has been doing amazing things with smart grids, renewable energy, and producing wind-power. The move requires massive restructuring of energy policy, infrastructure, and resources, but so far, for Germany, it’s been worth it (of course, not to the energy companies). ‘Smart grids’ monitor energy use of individual homes and maintains a balance between energy that is consumed and saved. Also, smart grid technology could get the city back up and running in minutes in an emergency. Although part of the stimulus money has been allocated for over a hundred smart grid projects across the country, an investment of billions more dollars will be needed to make this change. But even the experts admit that the energy system in the United States is broken and needs an overhaul.

3. Community Support Network that goes beyond Digital

DIY Cellphone Charging Station in East Village

All the websites in the world can’t help you if you don’t have juice for those computers and smart phones. During an emergency, information is critical. That’s why the government should invest in developing and supporting local and community low-power radio stations.  The good news, is with the passing of The Community Radio Act in 2010, this is already happening. Local and community low power FM stations can be reliable ways which citizens can hear important and life saving information, news and locations to find help.  Do yourself a favor and go out and buy a radio- yeah, those weird things you used to have in your living room. Better yet, make it a cranker, shortwave, or CB.

4. Geoengineering

This an interesting, if not incredibly controversial, topic. Basically geoengineering, or climate intervention, are proposals to offset global warming through large-scale techniques such as solar radiation management, carbon dioxcide removal, and heat transport. Some say done in moderation and with other carbon-emissing reducing strategies, geoengineering could be a tipping-point solution. However there are some serious risks involved (including messing with the ocean’s PH balance) by playing Dr. Frankenstein with the earth’s atmosphere, and most of these techniques remain unproven.

5. Get Out

Let’s face it, in as little as 50 years, no matter what we may try to do, parts of New York may be underwater. Living with the new reality of a higher sea level and more frequent disasters like Sandy may become a way of life for much of the East Coast.


Look, I don’t want to see this shit happen to the greatest city in the world either. But I can’t seem to shake the feeling that many years from now, we’ll all be siting around our nice mountain cabins, reminising about the ‘good ol’ days’ cavorting about a city that’s now basically a brackish mushpile. Perhaps those abandoned coastal areas could be either be left to regrow or brought back to strength with oyster  beds and wetland restoration projects.

I admit, these are some pretty crazy ideas. I can honestly say I’m not sure how feasible any of these ideas are in the long run. But I do think it’s time for some radical thinking in terms of finding solutions for the future sustainability of that region. So, you know, just putting it out there! Let me know what you think, take the short quiz on the sidebar or leave a comment!