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Five years later, NYC is still repairing the damage from Superstorm Sandy

Written by
Clayton Guse

On October 28, 2012, Superstorm Sandy made landfall in the New York metropolitan area, and its effects were felt immediately. The massive storm, coupled with a “spring tide,” led to a 14-foot-high storm surge that flooded roughly 51 square miles of New York City, or about 17 percent of its total land mass. Entire stretches of Lower Manhattan were left underwater. The 1 train line was flooded between South Ferry and Chambers Street. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. When it was all said and done, Sandy caused an estimated $19 billion worth of damage in New York City alone. 

Five years after the storm ravaged the entire region, the city is still reckoning with its impact. Dozens of projects are still in the works to not only repair the damage from Sandy but also improve key parts of New York's infrastructure to help prevent another flood from wreaking the same kind of havoc. Here are four of the most notable. 

Shutting down the L train

The Canarsie Tube, or simply the L train tunnel, saw extensive flooding during Sandy. Trains still operate through the pass, but extensive work is still necessary to replace thousands of feet of damaged walls, tracks and equipment. In order to make those repairs, the MTA has decided to shut down the line in Manhattan for 15 months beginning in the spring of 2018. L trains will still run between Bedford Avenue and Canarsie, but the work will cut off a key connection between Manhattan and Brooklyn for the duration of the closure. This is perhaps the most buzz–worthy construction project to be completed in Sandy’s aftermath, mostly because the shutdown will affect more than 225,000 riders who rely on the line every day. 

Repairing the Hudson River tunnels

The pair of 100-year-old train tunnels connecting Manhattan and New Jersey beneath the Hudson River were also flooded during Sandy and are in dire need of repair. But those repairs would require shutting down at least one of them, leading to Amtrak and NJ Transit service changes that would make this year’s “summer of hell” feel like a walk in the park. The most sensible solution for this pickle is the long-awaited Gateway Program, which would construct two more tunnels beneath the river and provide enough service bandwidth to make repairs to the existing tunnels. That project is still waiting for funding from the federal government, which can't come soon enough. Amtrak officials have said that the existing tunnels will be operational for less than 20 years without significant repairs, and the Regional Planning Association has called the Gateway Program “the highest infrastructure priority in the nation.”

Making Red Hook flood-proof

Red Hook was one of the worst-hit areas in the city during Superstorm Sandy. In an effort to keep the Brooklyn neighborhood from being devastated by another major storm, the city is rolling out a $100 million flood protection system for the area as a part of the larger Integrated Flood Protection Service project. Construction on the system is still years away from being completed—here's hoping that another storm doesn't flood the neighborhood by then. 

Keeping Hunts Point above water

Hunts Point is the area in the South Bronx that acts as a gateway for the entire region’s food supply. It's home to the second-largest fish market on the planet and the largest wholesale food market in the country. The area is incredibly vulnerable to flooding, and a $20 million project aims to keep another storm or climate change from putting one of New York’s key industrial areas underwater. The Hunts Point Lifelines proposal aims to provide failsafes for power outages in the area and includes infrastructure improvements to the waterfront to help prevent flooding. The concept is still under environmental review, and if all goes according to plan, construction will begin as soon as 2020. 

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