… under the weight of its buildings: geologists
The city that never sinks?
New geological research warns that the weight of New York City’s skyscrapers are actually causing the Big Apple — whose more than 1 million buildings weigh 1.7 trillion pounds — to sink lower into its surrounding bodies of water.
The city is plopping closer to the water at a rate of one to two millimeters a year “with some areas subsiding much faster.”
While that may not seem significant to untrained eyes, the gradual depreciation makes NYC extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, according to lead researcher and geologist Tom Parsons of the United States Geological Survey.
Lower Manhattan is particularly at risk and there is concern for both Brooklyn and Queens as well, according to the study.
Lower Manhattan is at unique risk of flooding due to NYC sinking.
“New York faces significant challenges from flood hazard; the threat of sea level rise is 3-4 times higher than the global average along the Atlantic coast of North America…A deeply concentrated population of 8.4 million people faces varying degrees of hazard from inundation in New York City,” he and his team wrote in the new report.
The city has already seen these harsh effects starting more than a decade ago.
“Two recent hurricanes caused casualties and heavy damage in New York City,” he wrote. “In 2012, Hurricane Sandy forced sea water into the city, whereas heavy rainfall from Hurricane Ida in 2021 overwhelmed drainage systems because of heavy runoff within the mostly paved city.”
The weight of NYC buildings puts the city at additional flood risks.
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As awful as Sandy and Ida were — the more recent forcing people to abandon their cars on major roadways across the city — Parsons fears that structural integrity of the city’s many buildings could be at risk in the future.
“The combination of tectonic and anthropogenic subsidence, sea level rise, and increasing hurricane intensity imply an accelerating problem along coastal and riverfront areas,” he wrote. “Repeated exposure of building foundations to salt water can corrode reinforcing steel and chemically weaken concrete causing structural weakening.”
Not to mention, the threat of severe storms is more likely than it was years ago, according to Parsons.
Greenhouse gas “appears to be reducing the natural wind shear barrier along the US East Coast, which will allow more frequent high intensity hurricane events in the coming decades.”
Areas like Queens are of concern for flooding, according to geologists.
Worse off, many of New York’s real estate additions built since the devastation of Sandy are not taking the situation seriously enough, he added.
“New York City is ranked third in the world in terms of future exposed assets to coastal flooding and 90% of the 67,400 structures in the expanded post-Hurricane-Sandy flood risk areas have not been built to floodplain standards.
“New York is emblematic of growing coastal cities all over the world that are observed to be subsiding, meaning there is a shared global challenge of mitigation against a growing inundation hazard.”