New New Amsterdam: Should New York Do Like the Dutch and Build Some Skyscraper-Sized Sea Gates?


The Observer has been reaching out to urban planners for the past few days now to discuss the issues with our waterfront development in the face of storm surges and rising sea levels. One of the very first people we called was Vishaan Chakrabarti, the director of Columbia’s Center for Urban Real Estate. (You can read what others had to think in a story in today’s print edition, as well as in posts still to come.)

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Mr. Chakrabarti previously served as director of the Department of City Planning’s Manhattan office, so he was around when much of the waterfront planning by the Bloomberg administration, and the thousands of condos that came with it, were taking shape. Mayor Bloomberg, at least before the storm hit, was fine with things proceeding as they were on the waterfront, with little investment in new protections and infrastructure, while former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, who helped hatch many of these plans, wants more of both.

Mr. Chakrabarti has taken a more urgent stance. “The thing we as a city have to understand is, we’ve been promoting all this waterfront development, and most of that waterfront development is happening in the zone that is getting evacuated right now,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’re talking about thousands and thousands of housing units. It’s fine for that housing to be there, but we have to figure out a way to protect it all.”

But Mr. Chakrabarti also has a simple solution. Well, if the world’s largest floodgates would qualify as simple.
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