Greg Lindsay's Blog

September 18, 2017  |  permalink

Here Comes The Flood: New York 2067, Sea-Level Rise, and the 4th Regional Plan

When Hurricane Harvey swamped Houston this month, followed only days later by Irma’s bearing down on Florida my first thought was: They’ve arrived five years ahead of schedule. Because I’d spent the last six months imagining America’s day of climate change reckoning – a super storm destroying $200 billion worth of property (like Harvey) after landing a direct hit on New York City (as Irma nearly landed on Miami). I’d spent the last six months I’ve been working with an incredibly talented team of architects imagining how the coasts of New York and New Jersey might look after six feet of sea-level rise, and the triggering event I’d generously scheduled for 2022 was arriving only weeks after our work had been unveiled.

Some backstory: we were commissioned in February by the Regional Plan Association (with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation) to envision the Tri-State region underwater as part of 4C: Foreseeing the Region of the Future, a design competition launched ahead of the Fourth Regional Plan – the RPA’s once-in-a-generation planning guidelines.

I was invited by my Foreclosed teammate Rafi Segal to join him, DLANDstudio’s Susannah Drake, and MIT’s Sarah Williams, Brent Ryan, and Benjamin Albrecht as part of the core team creating The Bight: Coastal Urbanism. The Bight is the notch in the coast where ocean currents conspire to pile sand, forever redrawing the shore. Rather than simply harden the coastline against sea-level rise and future storms, we proposed “sending and receiving” residents in vulnerable areas to new developments on higher ground, while transforming New York’s future wetlands for new uses – whether parks or farms or preserves.

My role on the team was to imagine a backstory for the world we made, and how we got there – a future history encompassing the near-destruction of Lower Manhattan by Hurricane Hermine in October 2022; the resulting Crash of ’23 as real estate values plunged along the East Coast; the subsequent creation of the Bureau of Coastal Management to create ironclad zoning and development guidelines; the dissolution of the Port Authority  by mutual agreement of Governors Cuomo and Bon Jovi; the election of President Mark Zuckerberg in 2024, who soon instituted universal basic income (“Zuckerbucks”) and housing (“Zuckerhuts”), while pushing a clean energy agenda that led to the merger of ExxonMonsanto.

To bring this world to life, my teammates and I not only designed a new city around Jamaica Bay and new communities along the coasts of New Jersey and Long Island, but also imagined their future residents – including a video postcard from an ExxonMonsanto artisanal seaweed harvester and a promotional video (see above) for the 25th anniversary of Ascendas-Singbridge Bight City, starring a 2067 incarnation of our teammate Chaewon Ahn.

Our work was displayed this summer at Fort Tilden in the Rockaways, and will be exhibited in Manhattan sometime this winter at the New York Historical Society.

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

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