Rebuilding Wisely, Thoughts from Roland Lewis

Friday, November 9, 2012 - 9:48am
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Pumping Out and Picking Up in a Changed World

We hope this finds you and your loved ones safe. Many of our Alliance Partners were affected by the storm, and help is needed at waterfront sites around New York and New Jersey. Please check websites, Facebook and Twitter feeds for information about how you can volunteer and what kind of donations are needed.

Two hurricanes in two years. What we build and where we build at our shoreline are no longer academic questions.

We need to adapt our shorefront plans -- and this could mean hard choices about where people live and how to protect the infrastructure that serves our metropolis. There will be calls for floodgates and other great barriers to defend our region, but we should also seriously think about a shoreline design that allows water to flow out as easily as it flows in, without damage to streets and buildings. We must work out a new relationship with the water, not fight it; think Venice, where the water is embraced and famously made part of the city, not New Orleans, hiding behind larger and bigger levees. Working with Mother Nature in this way could be more cost effective and less environmentally damaging, less likely to cut off the city from the rebirth of its waterfront.

Most of all we need political leaders to make the response to sea level rise their highest priority. Mayor Bloomberg's nationally recognized Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability has a questionable future at the conclusion of the Mayor's last term. We must keep this office functioning at the highest levels and complement it with well-staffed regional, state and national level equivalents, all of them -- us! -- working in concert to develop coordinated plans for a safe, clean, thriving, wisely rebuilt waterfront.

- Roland Lewis

President and CEO, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance

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