By Jon Cronin
With fears of climate chaos and the memory of Hurricane Sandy still fresh in the minds and hearts of New Yorkers, the state legislature has passed a bill by Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) to establish a commission to study the feasibility of a seawall protecting the city.
The bill passed both the Assembly and state Senate, where it was sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach). It will establish a commission known as the New York Seawall Study Commission, which will ascertain feasibility, costs, impacts and the best locations for construction of a seawall or sea-gate. The wall will protect the city from the ocean’s rising and city infrastructure from future storms.
“Hurricane Sandy showed us firsthand that New York City is vulnerable to a major hurricane and dangerous storm surge. We must study and implement technologies that will help protect our citizens, our communities and our infrastructure,” Barnwell said.
He said that the commission will have engineers, “people who know how to build this and know where it should be put.”
“A seawall or sea-gate will help save lives and help save the city billions of dollars by protecting our communities and infrastructure,” Barnwell said.
Although Barnwell’s district does not have a shoreline, he noted that he wants to protect the city and its infrastructure, which affects his constituents.
Barnwell, who noted that he is a history buff, said that the bill was inspired by the Galveston, Texas, seawall that was built in the years after a hurricane on Sept. 8, 1900, that killed an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 people. It is still the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.
After the wall was built, there was another deadly hurricane in 1915, during which 53 lost their lives. The seawall showed its value in protecting the area, Barnwell noted. Today, it not only protects the city, but also serves as a destination for tourists.
“Whatever your politics are,” Barnwell said, “the sea water will rise.”
Shortly after the bill passed in the Senate, Addabbo—who added that the bill would also benefit Nassau and Suffolk counties—said that there is no reason for Gov. Andrew Cuomo not to sign it.
“There is no major cost to the bill,” he said.
He reported that the governor has until the end of the year to sign it.
Reach reporter Jon Cronin via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (178) 357-7400, ext. 125.