Posted by Leonard Steinberg on November 5th, 2012

There is much chatter in the New York real estate community about the future of the ‘Platinum Mile’, that stretch of high end downtown properties fronting the Hudson River from 30th Street down to Tribeca. After Hurricane Sandy it is understandable that there is concern that these buildings will always be susceptible to storm surges…..even though Sandy was a once-in-a-generation incident according to most experts, with rising tides, the possibility of future storm damage exists. The article in this weekend’s New York Times was much too superficial in my opinion….hopefully future articles will address potential solutions rather than just the ‘human drama’ we all crave so dearly in our Kartrashian society.

Owners are worried. Many brokers are worried. Some buyers are worried. This is only natural, considering how recent this event took place. But we should all be reminded that any real estate in a city anywhere in the world that fronts the water deals with the same problems and concerns we are only taking truly seriously now for the first time. Did people stop buying real estate in California after the last major earthquake? Or did they learn from the quake how to build to minimize future quakes? We did have warnings of this flooding in 2009, and the City building code did not address the issue. Now is the time to do so. Should buildings in the flood zones have basements? It appears the bulk of the damage occurred in basements and lobbies: do the best solutions lie in either avoiding basements altogether, or building them so they have the ability to be made water-tight (think large chamber in a submarine)? What about lobbies constructed just like you build a shower with materials designed to withstand holding water that avoid damage when/if the water comes? Should all mechanicals in basements be elevated above the floor, and if so by how much? Should all basements have water pumps that work on generators and kick in automatically once water enters the space?

The Japanese Tsunami showed us how even some properties built high up were obliterated by that tragic event. So moving to higher ground is not necessarily the solution. Hurricanes are just one cause of storm surges. We live in highly advanced technological times where I feel certain many innovative solutions exist to avoid, minimize or eliminate future damage from storm surges. Pooling our resources together to formulate those solutions and implement them is now our responsibility. And to anyone who lives in a part of Manhattan that was not affected by the storm surge, please remember: ALL buildings in New York are susceptible to catastrophic once-in-a-lifetime flooding……burst pipes and sprinkler systems exist in virtually all buildings and could produce very similar damage to what we have just witnessed. It does not take that much water to damage building mechanicals and basements.