New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff signed on to environmental apocalypse in his Thursday review of Rising Currents: Projects for New York's Waterfront, a research program that he said was "conceived to address the potential effects of rising water levels and apocalyptic storms on the city."
But the program's real subject is frustration with the federal government's snail-like response to global warming, the brutal effects of the financial crisis, wasteful infrastructure projects and squandered intellectual resources. Its aim is to prod government to think more creatively about our nation's crumbling and outdated fabric.
The idea began taking shape several years ago, after the prominent New York engineer Guy Nordenson visited New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and was prompted to study the impact that global warming could have on a seemingly safe coastal city like New York. His findings were alarming: for example, according to a recent study by New York City's panel on climate change, even at current rates of global warming water levels will rise as much as two feet by 2080 as the atmosphere gets hotter. If the ice cap melts at a faster rate, Mr. Nordenson added, the figure could double. In that case a storm surge on top of that could put 20 percent of the city under water.
This is not the first time the paper's architecture critic has ventured into liberal social policy. In September 2008, Ouroussoff made the Sunday Week in Review with a story blaming President Reagan for the fatal collapse of a bridge in Minneapolis:
This kind of bold government planning died long ago, of course, a victim of both the public's disillusionment with the large-scale Modernist planning strategies of the postwar era and the anti-government campaigns of the Reagan years. The consequences were obvious as soon as Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. And they have been reaffirmed many times since, with the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis and myriad accounts of our country's crumbling infrastructure.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation later concluded that a design flaw, not insufficient maintenance, caused the collapse.