From the NY Times:
I spent several days walking the Rockaways with Mr. Gair; Mathew W. Wambua, the city’s housing commissioner; and Marc Jahr, the president of the city’s Housing Development Corporation, for whom I worked as a tenant organizer in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, in the early 1980s.
Theirs is a complicated task, made more difficult by a judgment day that will arrive this summer, when the federal government sets new flood standards. If a home sits in Zone A — and much of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens; Coney Island and Red Hook in Brooklyn; and Staten Island will — homeowners’ insurance rates could jump crazily, to perhaps $10,000 a year from less than $500. There is a deceptively simple way to sidestep this increase: homeowners can raise homes on stilts, and some have set out to do this. But the cost is great, extending into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for some homes.
At Dayton Towers, the chief executive, Jeff Goldstein, had installed new boilers, elevators, lobbies and laundry rooms. His tab ran into the millions of dollars. Then Hurricane Sandy blew in. Swells washed across the shore road and turned his boiler room into a briny aquarium.
Mr. Goldstein’s men restored electricity and heat within two weeks. And now? Commissioner Wambua stood in the well of Dayton Towers, yelling against the roar of the boilers. “Where do you put these?” he asked. “On the roof?”
You could encapsulate the boilers, making the basement watertight, much as a battleship safeguards its engine room, but the cost is terrific.
For many decades, the federal government rebuilt Southern cities lashed by storms. Now Congressional Republicans want to change course. Talk of storms intensified by global warming sounds suspiciously like science; they insist that New York and New Jersey not use a lot of federal money to armor their coastlines.
New York has traveled this road alone before. In the early 2000s, a developer built Arverne by the Sea, a middle-income housing development in the Rockaways.
City officials told him to take account of rising seas levels. So he trucked in landfill, raising the entire development above flood level. He buried electrical lines and put in catch basins, dunes and black pines. In late October, this neighborhood was one of the few in the area that did not flood.
The trick is to extend that sleight of hand to miles and miles of coastline, and so preserve a necklace of neighborhoods.