Saturday, November 10, 2012

The cost of climate change denial

One thing I've heard in several places is how much surprise there has been in the areas hardest-hit by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. I found that a little puzzling at first. You live in a designated flood evacuation zone. There have been articles about it for years. Why would you be surprised?

On reflection it makes sense. These areas haven't seen such severe flooding, at least in living memory. Then there's the climate change denialism that can be felt even here in New York. Although most people here are cosmopolitan enough to pay lip service to the scientific evidence of global warming, many only believe it on an intellectual level. It seems so abstract, this idea of the sea levels rising, that it's hard to imagine it happening in our lifetimes.

This may explain why so much of Zone A seems to have been geared towards spewing out as much carbon dioxide as possible. The Lower East Side is one of the densest, most walkable places in the country, despite the best efforts of Bob Moses' urban renewal team. Red Hook is pretty urban, even though it's cut off from the subway system. Hoboken is one of the least car-dependent towns in Hudson County, and Mayor Zimmer is trying her best to turn it around, but it's still has less than 39% carfree households.

But the City Council districts containing the Rockaways, Gerritsen Beach, Coney Island and the South Shore of Staten Island are some of the most car-dependent in the city. They're zoned for low-density sprawl, and they fiercely attack any effort to improve non-car transportation.

At climate change events, some of the most dedicated countries are those that could be sunk by rising sea levels, like the Pacific island nations of Tokelau, Kiribati and Tuvalu. Is it time for the Rockaways, Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach and Red Hook to follow Hoboken's lead and be a force against climate change?


  1. funny thing is that if you look at the last few hundred years of hurricanes in the NYC area, Sandy was one of the weakest.

  2. Great piece, but honestly, I didn't have the heart to re-post on FB. Too raw.

  3. I wouldn't particularly call Coney Island & Gerritsen Beach sprawling. Coney Island has a lot of high-rises (both the projects and regular buildings), and the rest of the area has a lot of rowhouses. Gerritsen Beach has a lot of bungalows and narrow streets, so I wouldn't really call it "sprawly" either.

    The only place you could make that argument is in the western part of the Rockaway peninsula, and even then, it's actually somewhat high-density (I think it's like 18,000 ppsm).