Look at a map of where New Yorkers supported Donald Trump and it looks a lot like the map of where Superstorm Sandy did its worst in 2012. From the east coast of Staten Island, to the Rockaways, to south Brooklyn, the communities most at risk from rising sea levels voted for Trump, a man who denies the very science behind rising sea levels.
As Nathan Kensinger points out in Curbed New York, the places where the city is now rebuilding against the next “Big One” are those where Trump posters hang proudly. “All of these Republican strongholds were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and are now greatly benefiting from government assistance in their efforts to create new defenses against climate change,” he writes.
Through the Build it Back campaign, the city is allocating federal disaster relief funds toward reconstructing private homes along the coast. The homes must be above the expected flood water level for that area (Base Flood Elevation) and meet certain design and efficiency measures stipulated by the city.
There’s something brave about building once more above the expected flood-line, but also something too proud. “Beneath this defiant civic agenda is an old, blithe assumption that New York is too rich, too important, too tough, to ever give up an inch of real estate,” says Andrew Rice in New York magazine. If the sea-level rise goes to 2.5 feet, as predicted for 2050, a quarter of New York City would be under water in the event of a 100-year storm.
Trump has called climate change a hoax made in China, nominated an oil executive as Secretary of State, okayed two controversial pipeline projects, and gagged the Environmental Protection Agency from talking to the press. Very likely, he’ll cancel money for energy and climate research, and place funding for climate resiliency investments in peril.
The Build it Back program seems especially expensive if New York loses federal money for wider rebuilding efforts. Yet the budget at Breezy Point and other places continues to rise. The city is now spending $2.7 billion to help about 11,000 private homeowners, Kensinger says. And Breezy Point is expected to be mostly underwater by 2100.