Verizon Tests Flood Wall Around Its Building In Lower Manhattan

Without power, the wheels of a city’s economy would quickly grind to a halt. Reliable energy underpins every aspect of modern business, and yet we see its full importance only when things go wrong. When Hurricane Sandy’s flood waters reached New York City in 2012, first responders, citizens and businesses alike faced the challenges of operating without the basic services enabled by our energy infrastructure.

The areas that Sandy flooded contained over 23,000 businesses and nonprofits, employing 245,000 people. Many businesses escaped flooding, only to find they couldn’t open their doors without such necessities as refrigeration, lighting or payment processing. Direct, private sector losses due to Sandy totaled approximately $8.6 billion in New York City. Despite many success stories in rebuilding, many businesses remain vulnerable to future storms and the associated economic damages.

Coastal cities around the world are investing billions to harden infrastructure, create flood barriers and elevate vulnerable equipment. While such large-scale actions are important, they are often out of reach for individual organizations, particularly small businesses. Of the businesses directly impacted by Sandy, nearly 95 percent employed 50 or fewer people. Without the capital to invest in resiliency measures, these businesses face an elevated risk from future storms.

Private sector innovation in technology, business models and financing is critical to creating effective, affordable solutions for small businesses.  To find such innovations and provide a platform to showcase their efficiency, New York City, through the New York City Economic Development Corporation, recently announced Resiliency Innovations for a Stronger Economy (RISE : NYC), a $30 million competition to help Sandy-impacted small businesses prepare for future storms, sea level rise and other effects of climate change.

By finding and funding commercially-ready technologies that are not yet widely in use locally, RISE : NYC will install solutions at vulnerable locations to make building systems, energy infrastructure and telecommunications more resilient. Through a global call for proposals, the competition’s broad scope seeks to bring the world’s best resiliency innovations to the businesses that need them the most.

In announcing RISE : NYC, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said “We owe it to the thousands of small businesses impacted by Hurricane Sandy to do everything we can to help strengthen them against future storms and the effects of climate change.”  Finding the world’s most promising innovations and bringing them to New York City is a critical step in making this vision a reality.
For more information on RISE : NYC or to apply, visit  Stage 1 applications are due February 28, 2014.

David Gilford is Vice President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the City’s primary engine for economic development. As a Director of the Center for Economic Transformation, he oversees clean technology, energy and resiliency innovation programs, including RISE : NYC. Follow him on twitter @dgilford.