Instead of ignoring sea level rise, this Brooklyn development embraces it

If you walk down Metropolitan Avenue, a street that stretches across North Brooklyn, you’ll eventually reach a dead end: a chain-link fence blocks off access to the waterfront on the East River. But vacant land behind the fence could soon be transformed into a new park that brings green space to the neighborhood—and that helps provide extra protection from storm surges as climate change pushes the water in the river to higher levels.

The new design is part of a development project that will include two apartment towers, with 250 units of affordable housing and 750 market-rate apartments. But a large portion of the land will turn into public space, and some of the riverfront will be excavated so it can fill with water to help reduce flooding. It’s a rare case of a development project actually giving up land to allow water, which could be vital in the coming future.

Instead of relying on a typical concrete sea wall next to the shore to protect the land from flooding, the design works in part by letting water in—something that is very common in cities in the Netherlands, which sits below sea-level. Rather than fight rising water, the idea is to embrace it.

This is the first development in the US that is truly developing with rising sea levels in mind, but it certainly won’t be the last: with some estimates claiming that sea levels may rise as much as 75 inches by 2100, we must be ready to adapt our designs along the coast.

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