Where and how to rebuild becoming controversial questions in post-Sandy New York and New Jersey

We often forget that Manhattan is surrounded by water. But one critic argues, loaning some thought to this fact is crucial to future building projects. (Photo: Wilhelm Joys Andersen on Flickr)


In a column published late last month, The New York Times’ architecture critic Michael Kimmelman argued for rebuilding New York City post-Hurricane Sandy in a responsible fashion. He feel efforts should be loaned toward rebuilding businesses and homes in a sustainable way.

The piece is called “Vetoing Business as Usual After the Storm” and the advocate-critic writes:

New York clearly ought to have taken certain steps a while back, no-brainers after the fact. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority ought to have installed floodgates and louvers at vulnerable subway entrances and vents. Consolidated Edison should have gotten its transformers, and Verizon its switching stations, out of harm’s way, and Congress should have ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to study the impact of giant barriers to block parts of the city from the sea.

The thoughtful construction projects he loans his advocacy to, however, have yet to take hold in the United States, at least not in the public sector. Kimmelman explains that this is because, “The hurdles go beyond just a single state authority fearful to concede even a footbridge. They include an alphabet soup of agencies and public officials.”

So what does this mean for small businesses? How can the 250,000 NYC office spaces, restaurants and shops impacted by the storm begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild? How can they feel safe from future damages? As Kimmelman points out, “business as usual,” just won’t cut it.

The critic’s prescription for the Big Apple?

Common sense dictates upgrading many of these projects to withstand floods but also devising new homes elsewhere for some residents. Cost-benefit analyses, long overdue, should answer tough questions like whether it’s actually worth saving some neighborhoods in flood zones.

This, it seems, is a controversial suggestion. As WNYC points out, Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, of New York and New Jersey respectively, fall on different sides of this issue. Christie has promised to rebuild the ravaged Jersey Shore. While Cuomo feels it may be necessary to reassess what areas are safe to build up.

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