Picturing the Flood Protection Planned for the Seaport and FiDi

Detail of rendering shows a portion of the master plan to protect low-lying Manhattan between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Battery Maritime Building. Credit: NYC Economic Development Corp. and Mayor's Office of Climate Resiliency

Dec. 10, 2021

The East River waterfront, from the Brooklyn Bridge down to the Battery, is destined for a decades-long redo as part of the city’s planned defense against the ravages of climate change. 

Two city agencies, the Economic Development Corp. and Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency, recently released their ambitious masterplan for a multi-level waterfront meant to protect the Seaport and Financial District from future tidal flooding and coastal storms. By doing nothing, they say, those areas would be flooded monthly in the next decades, and daily by the 2080s.

The estimated $5 billion to $7 billion FiDi-Seaport Resilience Master Plan would take up to 20 years or more to complete, officials say, and protect the neighborhoods without walling off the city. It would also add amenities and increase access to the waterfront. The plan includes building into the river up to about 200 feet, with the lower level raising the shoreline 3-to-5 feet higher than the current esplanade, and 15-to-18 feet above the waterfront on a higher level. Though not part of the plan, the city is also contemplating the possibility of removing the FDR Drive. 

For the nearer future, the city is putting $110 million towards a 5-year-plan to protect the Seaport by raising the seawall between the Brooklyn Bridge and close to Pier 17.

“This is not a plan that’s set in stone. It aims to lay a really strong foundation for the core infrastructure that we know we need to build to protect this area,” Jocelyn Dupre, a EDC vice president, said during a virtual “open house discussion on the project last month. “It envisions what this waterfront could look like in the future [and] will evolve through later stages of design and implementation.”

Later this month, officials are expected to provide more details on funding and phasing of the project.

Below are renderings and descriptions of different sections of the plan, starting at the south end. All images are courtesy of the NYC Economic Development Corp. and Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency.

This is a concept for the area in front of the Battery Maritime Building, now a chaotic mix of cars, cyclists and pedestrians. It is also the last unfinished link of the Greenway between Manhattan’s East and West Sides. On the upper level of the flood protection is a series of plazas, gardens and rest areas. “These types of green infrastructure would continue through the whole corridor all the way from here to the Brooklyn Bridge,” said Travis Bunt of One Architecture, consultants on the project.


This view, looking north from the upper walkway, illustrates the choice of paths, one going to potential amenities on the upper level, the other along the esplanade near the water. At right is the reconstructed Pier 11 ferry facilities at Old Slip, with a combination of raised and floating docks. 


Farther north, looking northeast from between Wall and Pine Streets, this rendering shows what the designers are calling coves, between an outer path over the river and the esplanade. They say the planted structure could serve as a buffer for boat wakes and support aquatic habitat. 


This is the view from the upper level of Pier 17, looking southwest. The raised section near the center of the image encases both the flood wall and buried flood gate that would be deployed only when needed. Portions of Pier 16 would likely be raised to about 11 feet above sea level.


With the FDR Drive At Peck Slip, looking out to the water at a crossing now blocked by Jersey barriers and parking lots. This concept calls for adding a “generous crosswalk” over buried floodgates that “open up this corridor and allow direct access to the waterside,” Bunt, of One Architecture, said. 

Without the FDR Drive View from the same perspective, without the FDR Drive. While we know that our current design cannot rely on the FDR coming down,” Bunt said, if and when the corridor is re-envisioned we know that it can be integrated seamlessly into our design and offer new opportunities to reconnect New Yorkers to their waterfront.”


A rendered aerial concept of the plan, from Pier 15 to the Battery Maritime Building.