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October 31, 2012 By Steven E. Greer, MD
BatteryPark.TV was the sole source of local detailed information for residents during the flooding crisis and power outages of Hurricane Sandy. We received numerous emails requesting status updates. People had evacuated only to find that they had gone to less safe areas of the city with no power, Internet, or cell phone service. Therefore, many were surprised to read our updates that the power in Battery Park never went out.
The only power outages in Battery Park were voluntary ones initiated by building managers concerned that flooding might trigger short circuits in Gateway Plaza. All buildings in the northern part of BPC were unfazed. Water never reached the doorsteps. In southern BPC, only a few buildings on Little West Street were briefly flooded when the West Side Highway served as a temporary river for two hours on Monday night.
Meanwhile, across the West Side Highway, the entire lower Manhattan was, and still is, in total darkness. What caused this disparity in how the storm impacted lower Manhattan?
Ironically, it is Battery Park City that has the reputation for being the region to flood the worst, and as a result, it is more difficult to obtain home mortgages through Fannie May and Freddie Mac. Yet the Lower East Side near the Seaport flooded far worse than BPC, which only saw the borders on the Hudson flood over the esplanade for two hours on Monday night at high tide.
Battery Park City is a relatively new development built in the 1970’ss on top of manmade sand and landfill. In contrast, across the highway is some of the oldest inhabited areas of the country built atop archaic infrastructure and subways in dire need of being brought into the 21st Century. It is unclear at the moment whether conEdison prophylactically shut off power in FiDi and Tribeca, or whether flooding caused the outages, but the below-ground infrastructure was a key determining factor either way.
Hurricane Sandy tested the predictive models of the civil engineers and BPC came out on top virtually unscathed. However, it is now very clear that New York City needs to embark on very costly infrastructure upgrades, including a levee system.