Tribeca Gets Glimpse of Long-Awaited, Still Uncertain, Flood Protection Plans

The shoreline of Tribeca is included in a study area by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is charged with coming up with a plan for protecting a large section of Manhattan coastline from future storms. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jan. 03, 2023

There are still plenty of unknowns around the future of flood resiliency for Lower Manhattan. But protection for Tribeca remains the biggest uncertainty of all.

It is the job of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to devise a plan to protect Tribeca as part of a large swath of coastal New York City and New Jersey. (The Seaport and Financial District, the Battery and Battery Park City, are part of the city-led Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project.)

Army Corps officials now have at least a rough, conceptual plan for buttressing those areas from the ravages of storm surges, made worse by sea level rise. (The initial planning, called the New York/New Jersey Harbor Tributaries Study, had been delayed due to a pause in funding.) Last month, Bryce Wisemiller, the agency’s New York District Project Manager, gave Community Board 1’s Environmental Protection Committee a look at what the Army Corps has in mind for Tribeca. (The meeting can be viewed here.)

Of the five options they studied, some of which include barriers built into the water, the Army Corps’  preferred choice—though not officially final—would include only land-based measures such as flood gates, flip-up barriers, elevated promenades, and flood and sea walls. That option, known as 3B, stands out, Wisemiller said, “as having the greatest net benefit. Bang for the buck, if you will.” Other options, he noted, are seen as too costly, would take too long to construct, or could cause “adverse impacts” to unprotected areas.

“We have the big pieces of the puzzle hopefully in place with our tentatively selected plan,” Wisemiller said.

CB1 and the general public have until March 7 to comment on the plans. (Comments can be sent to

The shoreline-based measures, Wisemiller said, would be similar to those envisioned as part of the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project, which is actually five projects that together would form a barrier system looping around Manhattan, from the north end of Battery Park City to the Brooklyn Bridge/Montgomery Street area. Those projects are further along in planning, though only Battery Park City’s are being fully funded, through New York State-issued bonds.

Funding for the estimated $52.7 billion barrier system remains a big uncertainty. Congress must approve the 65% portion shared by the federal government. New York City, New York State and New Jersey will need to agree to pay the rest.

The Army Corps will officially choose its plan in June and then spend the next two years working on a report to be presented to Congress for potential funding. Only with that approval, Wisemiller said, can the actual design of the project begin. Construction would start in 2030, with a “highly idealized” completion date of 2044, though “less complex” features of the project might be finished sooner, he said. “We’ll just make the deadline [to be included in the federal] Water Resources Development Act for 2024,” he said, adding that if they miss the deadline, Congress will not consider the appropriation again for another two years. 

So what might a barrier along Tribeca’s west side look like? Renderings show a wall, 8- to 10-feet high, running between the bike path and esplanade along Hudson River Park, at nearby Christopher Street. One member said it brought to mind the image of a “walled city.” Wisemiller was quick to reassure the committee that the concept is “really preliminary.”  

“Theres an understandable dislike for blank concrete walls,” Wisemiller said. “There’s a lot that can be done to make them much more community appealing.

In February, the Environmental Protection Committee, followed by the full community board, will hash out an official response to Army Corps officials.