Grim Maps Show NYC’s Future Is Underwater


A new report by the usually reserved Regional Plan Association paints a dark and wet future ahead for New York City, with much of its low-lying and coastal areas inundated by water within the next hundred years.

The report, titled “Under Water: How Sea Level Rise Threatens the Tri-State Region,” frames how New York City will be impacted by rises in sea levels by up to six feet within the next hundred years.

“The region could see at least one foot of sea level rise by 2050, possibly as soon as the 2030s. Three feet could be realized by the end of the century, possibly as soon as the 2080s. Six feet of sea level rise is possible early in the next century,” the report states. It begins by noting that sea level in New York City has already risen by a foot over the last century, a fact that has been obfuscated for the most part by mitigation efforts. The changes over the next hundred years however will be far more noticeable. The report effectively argues that within a hundred years, it’s extremely possible that almost the entire Rockaway Peninsula will be underwater, and New York City’s coastline be unrecognizable.

“We are past the point where sea level rise can be ignored in the hope that future technology will provide an easy solution,” the report notes.

In addition to the Rockaways, the areas in the tri-state area most at-risk include everything else near the Jamaica Bay, New Jersey’s Meadowlands, Staten Island’s South Shore, and Long Beach on Long Island. Notice a pattern there? All areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy will find themselves continually at the mercy of a rising ocean, with very little hope to stop the tide.

In addition to the threat posed to residential communities, rising seas will also pose a threat to several critical parts of New York City’s infrastructure, which will impact far more than the people who will be displaced. Each area airport is located in a flood zone, with Teterboro in New Jersey, and LaGuardia in Queens in the most immediate danger. If the sea rises three feet, “more than half of the airport could be permanently flooded,” the report warns.

Even at one feet of sea rise, which could happen as soon as 2030, nearly 19,000 people will be displaced, and more than 10,000 housing units would be destroyed (there goes that affordable housing plan).

“With the first damaging consequences of sea level rise projected to affect our neighborhoods as soon as the next 15-20 years, we can no longer put off preparing,” the report warns. Tick tock.