Climate Change Isn't Coming, It's Here
Lower Manhattan is at the core of New York City’s transportation system, economy, and civic life. It is the birthplace of New York City, dating back to the 17th century. However, this area’s human history began much earlier when the Lenape people settled here over 3,000 years ago. Over the centuries, Lower Manhattan has continued to reinvent itself as part of a transforming and growing city. Today, it remains an iconic global symbol and an exemplar of dynamism and resilience in the face of change.
Lower Manhattan serves as both a destination and gateway for residents, workers, and visitors from across the city, region, and world.
Millions of people travel through Lower Manhattan by rail, bus, car, and ferry every day, including over 415,000 daily subway and PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) train riders and 93,000 daily ferry riders. Lower Manhattan provides connections across all five boroughs and to other regional centers like Midtown, Jersey City, and Downtown Brooklyn.
New Yorkers from every neighborhood work in Lower Manhattan, from small business owners to construction and building trade workers, to those in the healthcare, education, technology, civic, and financial sectors. As one of the largest business districts in the United States, Lower Manhattan is not only central to the economy of the city, but also to the region as a whole.
Lower Manhattan is also more than just a business district; it is a residential community that has tripled over the past two decades. Lower Manhattan also welcomes tens of thousands of students as well as millions of visitors every year. It is a regional center of culture, community, and civic life.
Lower Manhattan is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to its low-lying shoreline. As early as the 2040s, Lower Manhattan’s shoreline will begin to experience frequent tidal flooding due to sea level rise, impacting streets, sidewalks, buildings, and critical infrastructure. By the end of this century, daily high tides will reach up to three blocks inland to Pearl Street. However, the impacts of climate change are not limited to the future; they are already being felt acutely today. Hurricane Sandy devastated the area in 2012, taking two lives and damaging buildings, streets, and infrastructure. In 2021, Tropical Storm Henri and Hurricane Ida brought record rainfall to the city. These threats will only increase over time.
Failure to act will render much of this area unusable, leading to the loss of Lower Manhattan—along with its critical citywide functions—as we know it today. Such a devastating impact on our economy, transportation, and identify, affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of New Yorkers, is not an option.
Given the scale and severity of these risks, the City is acting now to address them by advancing over $900 million in infrastructure projects to protect Lower Manhattan. In 2019, the City released the Lower Manhattan Climate Resilience Study, a comprehensive multi-hazard climate risk assessment, highlighting the vulnerabilities of the area. The report identified infrastructure projects to adapt and protect 70% of Lower Manhattan’s shoreline, but found the areas between The Battery and the Brooklyn Bridge particularly challenging and in need of further study. This included examining the need to extend the shoreline of Lower Manhattan into the East River to construct flood defense infrastructure. This master plan sets out to fill this critical gap in realizing a resilient Lower Manhattan. Combined, these projects along with the master plan comprise the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency (LMCR) strategy.
Brooklyn Bridge to The Battery is a missing link in realizing a resilient Lower Manhattan.
The City is working to identify the right resiliency projects for the Financial District (“FiDi”) and South Street Seaport (the “Seaport”) neighborhoods. While there are interim flood protection measures in place for a section of the area, they are short-term solutions. The area’s low-lying topography, dense infrastructure, and complex waterfront and maritime uses make it particularly challenging to adapt for the long-term.
To respond to this challenge, we are advancing the Financial District and Seaport Climate Resilience Master Plan.
Learn More About Each of the LMCR Projects:
Battery Park City Coastal Resilience Projects
Lead: Battery Park City Authority (BPCA)
This includes a series of resilience projects and drainage improvements to provide flood risk reduction for Battery Park City and parts of adjacent neighborhoods in response to the threats of coastal storm surge and sea level rise.
Project Cost: $221 million (South BPC); $630 million (North/West BPC)
The Battery Coastal Resilience
Lead: New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), NYC Parks
This project will raise and harden the esplanade that runs along The Battery, protecting this important open space while preserving its historic character and active waterfront uses. The flood defense will be designed to protect against sea level rise through 2100.
Project Cost: $165 million
Brooklyn Bridge-Montgomery Coastal Resilience (BMCR)
Lead: NYCEDC, NYC Department of Design and Construction
This project combines permanent floodwalls with floodgates that are hidden during normal weather conditions and flip-up during a coastal storm to create a complete line of flood protection. This project also includes drainage improvements and community amenities, such as playgrounds, benches, and seating.
Project Cost: $522 million
Seaport Coastal Resilience (SPCR)
Lead: NYCEDC, Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ)
The City is acting now to protect the Seaport, which is the lowest-lying and most vulnerable portion of the master plan’s study area. The project will raise the esplanade approximately three to five feet to defend against tidal flooding and coastal storms and includes drainage improvements. The project will also improve waterfront access for pedestrians and cyclists. The City is seeking federal funding to complement the City’s commitment.
Project Cost: $110 million
The Financial District and South Street Seaport neighborhoods are unique within the geography of Lower Manhattan, facing unprecedented challenges to implementing a flood defense system. Along this one-mile stretch, a complex mix of infrastructure—including subway tunnels and stations, tunnels for vehicles, underground utilities, and an elevated highway—limit what can be built on existing land. Combined with limited space along the waterfront, in addition to the presence of active ferries, vessel traffic, and other maritime operations, constructing a flood defense system here is a monumental challenge. The area is also low-lying and experiences larger waves during coastal storms compared to neighboring areas, further limiting the types of infrastructure that can provide flood protection.
Solving this challenge is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a better waterfront for all, while preserving the essential functions and historic character of the area. This master plan provides flood defense for these neighborhoods, overcomes highly complex technical constraints, and envisions a transformed public waterfront for all to enjoy.
The City has invested more than $20 billion in climate resiliency to-date and major projects are ongoing in all five boroughs. For more information, visit the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice website.
Interactivity Note: Selected Post-It Notes Change on Page Refresh