"There are two simple reasons. One, it makes money. And two, people just love water."
"When Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New York 10 years ago — flooding 17 percent of the city’s total landmass and resulting in 43 deaths, thousands of evacuations and power outages that affected two million people — Northerners who had paid only passing attention to Gulf Coast weather events instantly saw how rising sea levels could really mess with them. About 70 percent of the buildings tagged by the city as severely impaired or outright destroyed were on or very near the coastline. It seemed, in those hellish, chaotic days following the storm, as people mucked out the lobbies of expensive condominiums in Dumbo and walked through the destruction in the Rockaways, that New Yorkers would finally retreat from the harbor.
But that is not what happened. Over the past decade, we have gone in a very different direction, populating the waterfront even more enthusiastically, especially along the East River in Brooklyn and Queens. According to the city’s Department of Buildings, 225 permits have been issued for new apartment buildings in flood zones since Jan. 1, 2013. The effect of that has been to etch a kind of climate denialism into the skyline of one of the country’s most liberal places, punctuating how resistant we are to truly meaningful change, even as the city has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and has committed to the principles of the Paris Agreement.
The most significant shift in how we have built after Sandy has been the implementation of more stringent rules for flood-resistant construction. New buildings now routinely place mechanicals higher up, often on the roof rather than in basements, where they might be gutted in the next ruinous storm. Sometimes lobbies and residential floors are raised above ground level, a standard practice in Miami. But older buildings are under no mandate to put these measures in place, which leaves 96.5 percent of them in the current floodplain unfortified. “At the moment, we don’t have a good framework for planning for the future,” Brad Lander, the city comptroller, told me."