Today, I visited the area around Tribeca that was heavily flooded during Hurricane Sandy so that I could better understand the context and direction of extent of the flooding.
Note: Sorry for the rotated images, this blog platform won't let me rotate them here.
It was immediately clear that the entire area existed at a variety of elevations: Chambers St., where I got out of the 1, sloped down slightly until it reached its lowest point about two blocks from the Upper New York Bay just beyond. (It may not be immediately perceptile in the image below, but it was certainly perceptible on site.) In addition to that, many of the streets were also curved--raised in the middle, and lower on the sides.
In a few places along the Tribeca streets, there were piles of refuse heaped up around the drains. Over the past week, there has been a lot of rainfall in NYC, and the amount of garbage heaped only next to CERTAIN drains seems like perhaps the drainage system in the area is not working particularly well.
In Tribeca, there is a divide between the more residential high-rise properties along the waterfront (some of which seem older) and the cobblestone-lined low-rise buildings along the "inner" side. This inner side is filled with new, trendy, very expensive restaurants. (I stopped to eat at Maison Kayser, a famous French chain eatery which--if I recall correctly--only recently came to NYC along with much hype.) My suspicion is that the cobblestone side probably had the resources available to lobby the city/FEMA, or to pay outside contractors to offer their own advice about flooding.
This building, which houses an architecture firm, has a large accessible ramp and stair in front of it. A lot of the buildings immediately near the epicenter of the Tribeca flooding were similarly raised +2-3 feet off of the street level. This ramp, in particular, looked quite new.
A lot of the worst of the Tribeca flooding took place around the Holland Tunnel. Some of the areas around the Holland Tunnel have absolutely nothing on their site, like this area closed off by a decorated gate. Empty lots like this are extremely rare in lower Manhattan, and it is necessary to consider why those places are currently empty.