The Next Flood

Superstorm Sandy reminded New Yorkers that they live near the sea, and that the sea is not always an ideal neighbor.

Less than a year after Sandy left so many homes and businesses devastated, City Hall rolled out an ambitious $20 billion plan to prepare New York for an age of extreme weather, an age in which storms like Sandy could become the new normal.

The plan is a solid start for new and creative thinking about New York’s vulnerability to 21st-century weather patterns. And it shows that Sandy truly was a wake-up call for local government—no longer can New York pretend that it is invulnerable to storm patterns that have caused so much damage elsewhere around the globe.

Mr. Bloomberg’s plan centers on creating new protections for those who live in or near flood-prone areas—and those who may live in or near them in the future. In other words, City Hall does not intend to surrender large swaths of the city’s shoreline to nature, as some have advocated. Rather, through a complex plan of man-made barriers, sea walls and other obstacles, the city hopes to better protect homes, businesses and institutions from floods and storm surges.

It is estimated that the number of people living in flood-prone areas will double, from 400,000 to 800,000, by the middle of the 21st century. The mayor’s plan is a practical acknowledgement of that reality. For the most part, it seeks to protect, rather than eject, those who choose to live by sea.

The mayor’s plan shows that the lessons of last October’s superstorm will not pass unlearned. Extreme weather is a fact of 21st-century life, and this plan recognizes that reality.