Much of the East Coast, including the five boroughs of New York City, are still picking up the pieces in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Aside from the devastating physical effects, the super storm also reignited many debates, particularly around climate change and whether such a storm in late October is the result of global warming. The storm also sparked conversation between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and other experts regarding flood or storm (sea) gates surrounding the various boroughs of NYC. With a future implementation of sea gates possible, technology, engineering and architectural vendors should be aware of the significant undertaking of this type of project.
Yesterday, the argument came out in full force in the New York Times’ Room for Debate section. Five experts in various fields offered their take on the need for sea gates that could have possibly prevented the large-scale flooding and storm surges. The debate cited a previously published Times article that detailed New York’s lack of infrastructure and technology to help withstand large-scale storms.
New York Governor Cuomo opened the door to the debate by stating that new technologies could protect the city from future storms. The article cited several other entities that utilize this technology, including Providence, R.I. (since 1966), the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Of course, this type of technology does come with significant costs. The British barrier would have cost $2.25 billion in today’s currency, and the Netherlands gate (Maeslantkering) cost $4 billionand is twice the size of the Eiffel Tower. While these costs are enormous, one can simply consider the cost of rebuilding after Sandy. Recovery efforts are estimated to cost $50 billion, and while that figure includes more than NYC, an investment of several billion dollars would do much to offset the economic losses that such natural disasters incur on the 20th largest economy in the world.
This debate is surely going to continue for some time, and as New York and the surrounding area evaluate the need for a sea gate, vendors should be aware of the scale of the project. A multi-billion dollar project will include the need for engineering, architecture, and construction contractors, as well as the IT aspect that would be required to monitor and run the system. While it is unclear whether or not this system will in fact move from a discussion to a reality, building a system is going to take a lot of development from vendors and academics. Vendors interested in having their voices heard should chime in and engage with governments that could benefit from such a system. The East Coast is certain to bounce back from this disaster, but ensuring a future catastrophe is averted is dependent on what changes are made to current infrastructure and technology.