A Massive New Levee Could Add Two New City Blocks To Manhattan

The footprint of Manhattan's been expanding since the 17th century, when early New Yorkers began their first project to infill its shoreline. A huge part of the island we know today is built on artificial pilings. Now, it might get its biggest expansion in years.

Next City reports on a new feasibility study released by the city, which looked at the possibility of building a huge levee along the east side of the city. This would be in addition to the 16-foot berm that the city just received over $300 million to build on the Lower East Side. This levee would create a huge watch of land along the city's eastern edge, raising in 19 feet above the city to protect it from storm surges—as seen in the concept rendering by FXFOWLE above.


According to the report, the levee is "technically, legally and financially feasible," and it would protect lower Manhattan should another Sandy come knocking at our door. It would do so with a stretch of infilled soil, upon which other buildings, parks, and public space could be built. Though the report looks at several different schemes, the widest levee would add a full two new city blocks to Manhattan's landmass, along with plenty of open space.

Of course, it won't be two perfect blocks—rather, a 1.3-mile-long stretch of land that's 500 feet wide:

If it feels like you've heard this idea before, that's because back in Mayor Bloomberg's day, the levee idea was called Seaport City. But the name has been dropped—now it's just a levee, probably because the Seaport City name and glossy renderings sparked controversy after making it appear as though it would build a new, vulnerable patch of city on the shoreline rather than protect it.

Of course, this is just a feasibility study—plenty of more studying remains to be done on the idea. Still, it's exciting to think that Manhattan's landmass might get its biggest expansion in decades before long. We'll have to add another frame to the GIF below. [Next City, NYC.Gov]




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