September 09, 2013
by Eve Hinman
Most people think about earthquakes in connection with San Francisco - not me. I think about water. We have water everywhere and we don’t need to wait to see the effects of sea level rise in the Bay Area. Sea level rise is evident NOW. My neighborhood has earthen levees and according to the old FEMA flood maps, I live literally one block from a FEMA flood zone. The new advisory maps show my house to be inundated with water. One winter day, about 5 years ago, the high tide totaled my car at the Caltrans parking lot at my bus stop. The joke in my neighborhood is that we will all have beachfront property in a few years. Silicon Valley (the Bay Area equivalent of Wall Street) is even closer to the bay and is anticipated to be a major victim of sea level rise.
I have been talking about coastal flooding and sea level rise obsessively for several years now. I’ve been going to flood conferences where I find myself to be usually one of the few from the left coast. It is another indication the local engineering community does not take water threats seriously. Not like New Yorkers who understand and obsess about water like I do. New Yorkers are my people!
That is why I was so excited to re-open our New York office few months ago. Not only is New York a place where flooding is taken seriously, it is also a place where terrorist attacks, blackouts, economic crashes, and even earthquakes have all happened in recent memory.
With the twelfth anniversary of 9/11 this week and the first year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy coming up next month, there is some healing of the city that is evident. There is the uplifting experience of seeing WTC 1 finally becoming a reality in our skyline. It is also a year where major construction has become a reality including the Tappan Zee Bridge, Hudson Yards in Brooklyn and Hunters Point in Queens.
From my perspective, this year has also been notable for the “Resilience” initiative that Mayor Bloomberg has been promoting in response to Sandy. Though resiliency has been on the President Obama’s agenda for the past several years, it has finally entered the hearts and minds of Americans since the Mayor of New York, with his public relations know-how, adopted the idea post-Sandy. Resiliency is the road to allow us some level of control over our world which is changing. It is the answer we have been looking for to deal with memorable disasters such as Katrina, Fukushima, the Haiti earthquake, the 2003 Northeast Blackout and of course 9/11 and Sandy.
To me this is a positive, uplifting time to enter into New York. It is a time of healing and of tremendous potential. It is a time when the courage and spirit of New Yorkers is lifting the spirits of all Americans by showing us new ways to re-imagine and recreate ourselves and our communities to sustain the new norm of natural and man-made disasters.