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Rockaway, NY Boardwalk Shows Climate Adaptation Costs

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By June 5th, 2017 See full ClimateCentral article here

ROCKAWAY PENINSULA, N.Y. — Beachgoers in this New York City oasis can now flip-flop along a fully rebuilt boardwalk, one that reflects a coastal reimagination underway along the Mid-Atlantic and that heralds the staggering costs ahead of adapting to a changing climate. ….Nearly five years later [after Hurricane Sandy], the wooden walkway has been replaced by more than five miles of sand-toned concrete atop 50 million pounds of sandbags and a retaining wall that holds in place new sand dunes. It is meant to help protect residents and residences from storm surges.

The boardwalk and dunes were built at a cost of $70 million a mile, with the final segment of beachfront walkway put in place last month.

The new boardwalk along Rockaway Beach incorporates coastal protection features. Credit: John Upton/Climate Central

….Subway lines and rail yards were rebuilt and fortified against flood risks after Sandy. Emergency shelters were built and volunteerism has been promoted. Building codes have been revised. Electrical equipment is being placed high in skyscrapers instead of at ground or basement level, where it risks being inundated.

….The boardwalk cost $340 million, paid for by federal taxpayers using some of the $50 billion in Sandy relief funding authorized by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2013. The sand dunes in front of it cost more than $35 million to build, and they will need to be replenished after the next big storm or to counter erosion….

….“The boardwalk shows we can both adapt and still have many of the benefits of what was there before,” said Robert Freudenberg, vice president of energy and environmental programs at the Regional Plan Association, a think tank based in New York City. “As a cautionary tale, it shows us that adaptation takes time.

With sea level rise accelerating, pushing floodwaters into coastal cities from Miami to Boston and west to Hawaii, Freudenberg said “adaptation should be a part of every infrastructure project that we do right now” — but funding poses profound challenges.

Freudenberg’s group is researching financial options, which it plans to outline in a fall report, such as creating adaption funds topped with surcharges on insurance premiums.

“We have 3,700 miles of coastline in this region that need to be adapted,” Freudenberg said. “This is going to be the investment of a generation, and right now there’s no budget for it.”

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