From the Director: Marking Time

Today’s entry is written not by me, but by the Director of the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities, Dr. Bill Solecki. This is hopefully the first of many entries by him that provide over views, thoughts, and reflections on what sustainable cities are, where they are going, and how we begin to measure their success.



“With this text, I start a conversation about being on the road to creating a more sustainable city – how are we moving toward that goal – where the bumps are – what are the things to do and who are the people to meet.  This September marked the 400th anniversary of the visit of Henry Hudson’s Half Moon to the New York harbor and riverine environment. The great work of Eric Sanderson and his Manahatta project presents a virtual reconstruction of what the region looked like on those late summer days in 1609. The city and region were born from the water and grew up around its edges.  Today, in many ways, we have come back full circle from those days. The city and its residents have once again turned to the water’s edge after decades of constructing factories, roads, and facilities on the waterways which cut off access to the shoreline. In the past several years, thousands of new residential housing units have been built on old industrial and transport waterfront lands, and new recreational spaces – arguably as important to the City as the building of Central Park – have been constructed opening shoreline breezes and vistas to many. It is ironic that this re-embrace comes just at a time when climate change and associated sea level rise means that these slices of the urban fabric have become more vulnerable to flooding and inundation from extreme coastal storms such as hurricanes and nor’easters .

The Manahatta Project creates the vision of the Manhattan Island coastline without the ring of landfill that has dramatically increased the girth of the Island over the past centuries. New York City moved out into the waters of the Hudson and East Rivers, out into the tidal marsh headwaters of Jamaica Bay, and dozens of other places over that time. With climate change and sea level rise, some of these low lying lands now face the possibility of increased inundation . Sea level rise rates won’t necessarily mean the loss of wide swaths of this land, but it could result in the loss of some and certainly the more frequent flooding of much it. From the sea and back to the sea. Full Circle.”


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