How New York City is Protecting Its Subway System Against Flooding

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When a concerned person tweeted a photo of the Broadway Station entrance in Williamsburg which was completely flooded, New York City’s (NYC) Subway account replied tongue-in-cheek that they were pivoting to submarines.

In a more serious followup reply, the NYCT explained that the agency was testing a newly installed “flex-gate”.  A flex-gate is a highly flexible covering that can be quickly deployed to protect a subway’s entrance and underground structures in the event of a flood.

“But actually, we were testing a new ‘flex gate,’ which is a flood barrier that would allow us to seal off a subway entrance. We ‘test flood’ the entrance for four hours to make sure it was installed correctly, which it was!”

During Hurricane Sandy, several subways stations in New York City experienced severe flooding. The South Ferry station on the No. 1 was flooded with 15 million gallons of water during that hurricane.  It took five years and $340 million worth of repairs before the station was reopened.  By installing flex-gates at subways entrances, the MTA hopes to prevent climate-related flood damage.

High Water Line

In a bid to bring more awareness to climate change, artist Eve S. Mosher is merging geography with art by creating an outdoor installation by using chalk to mark the 10-feet above sea level line in New York.

High Water Line is a public artwork on the New York city waterfront designed to create an immediate visual and local understanding of the affects of climate change. I will be marking the 10-feet above sea level line by drawing a blue chalk line and installing illuminated beacons in parks. This line marks the extent of increased flooding brought on by stronger and more frequent storms as a result of climate change. 

As she states on her blog, determining the line has required a lot of thought on her part:

Since the inception of this project, I have been visualizing drawing the line. I have spent countless hours pouring over maps, and mapping and remapping the line. I have a huge topo map on my wall, lots of different maps on my computer…

Her web site, HighWaterLine, is full of information about the project, quotes about the impact of climate change on sea levels and resources to guide visitors on how they can help make a change.  A Google Mashup of the chalk lines has also been set up.



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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.