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'Seaport City,' Battery Park City's East River Twin, Proposed by Mayor

By  Jeanmarie Evelly Julie  Shapiro and Jenny Zou | June 11, 2013 2:49pm | Updated on June 11, 2013 8:07pm

 A rendering of "Seaport City" included in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's climate change resiliency plan.
A rendering of "Seaport City" included in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's climate change resiliency plan.
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NEW YORK — A new Battery Park City could someday rise from the East River, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday.

Bloomberg proposed a "Seaport City," presumably a new neighborhood on landfill along the East Side of Manhattan from the Lower East Side to Battery Park, as a way of protecting the area from future hurricane storm surges.

The proposal — which Bloomberg acknowledged was "controversial" and would block current waterfront views — was just one idea of many the mayor offered Tuesday in a sweeping plan to address rising sea levels and climate change in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

In the speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Bloomberg also proposed surge barriers for Coney Island and double layers of sand dunes in the Rockaways.

But for the East Side of Lower Manhattan, which was hit hard during Sandy, Bloomberg had a more drastic suggestion.

He noted that Battery Park City, which was built on 92 acres of landfill in the 1970s, fared much better in last fall's storm than the South Street Seaport.

"The Hudson riverfront south of Chambers Street and north of the Battery held up pretty well. What made the difference? Battery Park City," Bloomberg said.

"We can achieve the same thing on the East Side of Lower Manhattan. We can build it out, raise it above the flood level — and develop it."

Bloomberg suggested that the development be called "Seaport City."

"Yes, it would be expensive to build, but over time it could prove to be a great investment just as Battery Park City has been," he said. "It's an ambitious idea, yes, but so was Battery Park City, and we believe it's an idea that deserves careful attention and further study, which will begin immediately."

Lower Manhattan residents had mixed reactions to Bloomberg's idea. Justin Greene, 45, a technology adviser who lives near the South Street Seaport, said he likes the idea of using Battery Park as a model.

"I would love to see the whole east developed like the west side," he said, but added that he was unsure of how such a plan would incorporate the neighborhood's many historic sites into the development.

Bloomberg laid out a number of other proposals in his massive 400-page report, including the strengthening of the city's shorelines with a stronger dune system and widened beaches.

While he dismissed the idea of a giant storm barrier as "not practical or affordable" he said the city could make use of several smaller surge barriers placed strategically at locations vulnerable to flooding, like at the mouths of Newtown Creek or Jamaica Bay.

He also called for fortifying the shores of Staten Island, adding massive rock piles on the south side and building permanent levees and floodwalls along the eastern shore that could rise as high as 15 or 20 feet.

Bloomberg said such enforcement could be built to work with the existing infrastructure of communities.

"A floodwall doesn't have to be just a wall," he said. "It can be part of an elevated park or boardwalk, and still block flood waters."

Other areas of the city could make use of temporary floodwalls that get put in place before a storm, then placed in storage when they're not needed, the mayor said.

Bloomberg also proposed changes to the city's zoning code to make it easier to elevate existing buildings above the floodplain, the start of an incentive program to encourage property owners to make flood-protection improvements, and to work towards getting reduced flood insurance rates for homeowners who do the same.

The mayor estimated it would cost $19.5 billion to implement all of the ideas included in the plan, adding that $10 billion has already been allocated through city capital and federal relief funding, and another $5 billion is expected to come from future rounds of Sandy relief funds.

Bloomberg acknowledged that most of the work he outlined Tuesday would be long-term projects for the city's next mayor.

"It's up to you to hold us accountable for making as much progress as possible over the next 203 days, and it's up to you to hold our successor accountable for getting it done," he said.

Lance Jay Brown, a CUNY architecture professor who also co-chairs the Design for Risk and Reconstruction committee at the American Institute of Architects New York, called Bloomberg's plan "extremely detailed and comprehensive."

"It really lays down the gauntlet for his successor to really come up to speed and take care of the city," he said.