The City of New York is prepping for a 27-inch water level rise by 2050, according to Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri. As a result, buildings will need to plan for entrances to commercial buildings that sit at least that high — a significant adjustment, experts agreed.
For perspective, the Holland Tunnel is about two inches above sea level, said Patricia Lancaster, a former DOB commissioner and a professor at New York University Schack Institute of Real Estate, which sponsored a breakfast panel this morning that featured LiMandri.
Other guests at the panel, “Resiliency Planning- First Steps for Commercial Building Owners – Post Sandy,” which was held today at 11 West 42nd Street, included Rebecca Craft, director of demand management at Consolidated Edison Company; Daniel LoFrisco, a project manager with WB Engineering; and Robert Schubert, the vice president of construction for Boston Properties. Panelists discussed the current obstacles to preparing commercial spaces in Manhattan for future environmental disruptions along the lines of Hurricane Sandy, which shuttered 17 million square feet of office space in October.
LiMandri also said his agency was at work in tandem with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create advisory maps for flood zones in Manhattan using the latest topographic technology. However, those maps will not be complete for another 18 months to two years, he said. A full assessment of the economic impact of Hurricane Sandy for New York City is also underway, and will be announced in a forthcoming report. A timeline for the report was not given; LiMandri’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
That report will also outline a new flood plain, which will determine which buildings can get flood insurance, LiMandri said.
The other main concern for office tenants in weathering the next super storm is electricity, LoFrisco said. But tenants’ concerns about electricity have begun to frustrate landlords, said Schubert of Boston Properties, a large commercial owner founded by Mortimer Zuckerman.
“They all say they need eight watts per square foot,” Schubert said, referring to financial services organizations who hope to mitigate their risk of losing power, and therefore, money. Very few tenants actually require that much power, he said. “But the brokerage community doesn’t know that.”