Relocation Case Study

New York

Hurricane Sandy, at the time the largest Atlantic hurricane on record in terms of diameter, struck the East Coast of the USA in October 2012, causing nearly $70 billion in damage. New York, in particular, bore a significant brunt with 17% of the city being damaged, leading to extensive dysfunction. Since then, the city has faced exposure to an additional twenty-five hurricanes and tropical storms, though none as severe as Sandy.

New York already experiences severe flooding, particularly affecting low-lying and low-income communities. In response to these challenges, individuals with financial means opt to relocate to more secure areas. Currently, nearly 1.7 million people, constituting 20% of the city's population, reside within or adjacent to the estimated 2050 coastal floodplain. Approximately 400,000 individuals in these areas, primarily in low-income neighbourhoods, are at risk of displacement due to storm surges, coastal flooding, and rising sea levels. While post-Sandy funding has been allocated to rebuilding and recovery, the focus on the crucial issue of relocation has gained traction only recently.

The "Rebuild by Design" initiative in collaboration with Milliman, an international actuarial and consulting firm based in Seattle, has been actively studying risks, the impacts of flooding, population displacement, and strategies for relocating residents to safer areas within the city. Even before the arrival of the next major disaster, New York is grappling with a housing emergency. For the city, the question is not whether to relocate or not, but when to take decisive action in the face of an increasingly uncertain and vulnerable future.