Coastal erosion plays a significant role in the retreat of New York City’s coastlines. It also amplifies the city’s vulnerability to coastal storms leaving the city more at risk for natural resource depletion, infrastructure damage, physical and mental harm, and economic hardship. Unfortunately, future coastal erosion rates are difficult to predict, underscoring the need to collect more robust baseline data from monitoring stations along the coast to determine annual shoreline changes.
What is the Hazard?
Coastal erosion is the loss or displacement of land along the coastline from the interaction of oceans, waves, and beaches, often coupled with the impact of human activity. Coastal erosion occurs when wind, waves, longshore currents, tides, runoff of surface water, or groundwater seepage move sand and sediment from a shoreline location. This displaced sand and sediment shift from place to place and do not disappear from the overall system unless human activities, such as dredging, permanently remove them.[i] In New York City, seasonal patterns may influence erosion. Winters are typically more erosive, while summers typically bring sediments back to the shoreline.
While coastal erosion is a natural process, human activity can worsen it through poor land use methods. For example, built structures that do not consider coastal erosion cycles or hydrodynamics can increase erosion or shift sediments to nearby areas. Some coastal-control structures along the coast are built to prevent erosion in a specific location; however, if they are not constructed carefully, these structures can actually increase erosion in adjacent areas.
Coastal erosion poses many challenges to coastal communities — the loss of valuable real estate and personal property, recreational areas, wildlife habitat, and vital natural flood protection. Coastal communities require the best methods for controlling beach erosion and restoring land.
Coastal erosion can be rapid or can occur gradually. However, measuring gradual (or long-term) erosion is often difficult because the extent of natural erosion in a specific shoreline varies significantly from year to year. If choices are made to dredge or nourish beaches along particular parts of the coast, it can be difficult to determine how much beach is being lost or gained through natural processes and how much is being affected by human activities.
Erosion can also occur rapidly (event-driven); large sections of beaches, dunes, or bluffs may be lost in a matter of days or even hours. For example, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the force of Hurricane Sandy led to losses of 3.5 million cubic yards of sand on the Rockaway Peninsula and 679,000 cubic yards of sand at Coney Island.
Geologists measure the severity of erosion in two ways — as a rate of linear retreat (feet of shoreline recession per year) and volumetric loss (cubic yards of eroded sediment per linear foot of shoreline frontage per year).
The National Assessment of Shoreline Change, a 2012 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Open-File Report, estimated the average annual erosion rate (short-term assessment for a 25- to 30-year period accounting for both rapid and gradual erosion) in the New England area is 0.3 meters per year. Per this USGS report, uncertainties for these erosion rates range from 0.06 to 0.1 meters per year, depending on the data sources used in the rate calculations.[ii]
Erosion rates also vary significantly depending on location, as discussed below.
Gradual coastal erosion is essentially a given, because it is a continuous natural process that affects coastlines in NYC and around the world. Rapid coastal erosion is likely to occur, but the extent of any such erosion is hard to predict because it is based on several factors, including the unknown probability of coastal storms, as described in the hazard profile on Coastal Storms.
Along New York City’s 520 miles of coastline, long-term erosion rates vary significantly because of geology and the physical nature of different locations along the shoreline. For example, shoreline erosion at the base of rocky cliffs has a different pattern than erosion at an oceanfront sandy shore.
Areas along New York City’s southern shore are at greatest risk, since they are exposed to wave action from the Atlantic Ocean and to the waters of many bays, including Lower New York, Gravesend, Raritan, and Jamaica Bay.
The intensity of wave action is affected by wind speed, wind duration, and fetch — the distance that wind blows over water in a single direction. The magnitude of erosion varies, because different locations can have stabilized inlets or other engineered structures that disrupt the natural movement of sand and sediment. Coastal erosion is subject to seasonal fluctuations as well as the amount and type of human activity at a location. The degree to which sand moves and shifts varies from year to year and from place to place.
US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Rockaway Coastal Storm Protection
The New York City coastal area between East Rockaway Inlet and Rockaway Inlet, encompassing Jamaica Bay and the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, is actively enhancing its storm risk management measures to protect over 850,000 residents and critical infrastructure from flooding. Key initiatives include the construction of a composite seawall along the Rockaway peninsula, featuring a +18 feet dune elevation and a 60-foot wide design berm, with construction of the groins currently in progress. The reinforced dune system’s construction began on July 5, 2022. Additionally, the development of a Storm Surge Barrier for Jamaica Bay is underway, with its final design subject to ongoing public and technical review. These comprehensive efforts are vital for bolstering the area’s resilience against coastal storms.
To protect against the effects of coastal erosion, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) developed the Coastal Erosion Hazard Area (CEHA) construction permit program and has delineated hazard area boundaries on CEHA maps.
New York State’s Environmental Conservation Law regulates properties within CEHAs to limit coastal development to protect environments in areas that are sensitive to erosion. The Coastal Erosion Management Regulations (6 NYCRR Part 505) specify a permit program for all proposed construction in the CEHAs. Many activities are regulated and require a Coastal Erosion Management permit from NYS DEC. These include but are not limited to: constructing or placing a structure on coastal land; altering the condition of coastal land, such as grading, excavating, dumping, mining, dredging, and filling; or any other activity that disturbs the soil.
There are two separate categories that make up Coastal Erosion Hazard Areas. They are as follows:
- Natural Protective Feature Areas, such as nearshore areas, beaches, bluffs, and dunes make up New York’s natural features which protect against erosion. Alterations to these areas may reduce or eliminate their protective capabilities, and diminish the reserves of sand or other natural materials that naturally replenish shores following storms. Landward limits of the Natural Protective Feature Area are delineated on the CEHA maps.
- Structural Hazard Areas, regulated areas landward of the Natural Protective Feature Areas. These are designated only along shorelines that are receding at an average rate of one foot or more per year. If applicable, the landward limits of the Structural Hazard Area are delineated on Coastal Erosion Hazard Area Maps.
Where Shorelines are Most Vulnerable
NYS DEC has identified three distinct CEHAs for New York City. Together these comprise approximately 1,428 acres and represent 0.7% of New York City’s land area:
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) monitors coastal erosion rates for each of the CEHAs in New York City and data shows both shoreline accretion, or accumulation, and erosion in different areas.
Additionally, the National Park Service (NPS) monitors shoreline position through the Northeast Coastal and Barrier Inventory & Monitoring Network (NCBN) program for various segments of the shoreline that are in the Gateway National Recreation Area. These segments include Plumb Beach in Brooklyn, Breezy Point in Queens, and Great Kills, Miller Field, and Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island.
In general, Coney Island has the highest rate of shoreline change in New York City, with Rockaway Peninsula next, and Staten Island lowest. Coney Island experienced gains in some areas, while Rockaway Peninsula and Staten Island experienced losses.
Plumb Beach and Coney Island (Brooklyn)
Plumb Beach: Plumb Beach is the sandy shoreline of Plumb Island, which is a barrier peninsula bordered by Sheepshead Bay, Shell Bank Creek, and Gerritsen Creek. Plumb Beach protects Gerritsen Beach from direct wave action in the Lower Bay. The Belt Parkway traverses Plumb Island, crosses Gerritsen Inlet, and continues east along the Jamaica Bay shoreline.
Erosion along Plumb Beach is of special concern due to the proximity of the Belt Parkway to the bay. Between 2012 and 2017, the shoreline widened at the narrowest point where the roadway is approximately 150 feet from the bay. However, according to a 2023 NPS report on the Gateway National Recreation Area, between 2017 and 2022 the Plumb Beach shoreline narrowed, experiencing a mean shift inland of 3.83 meters (Psuty et al., 2023).
USACE performed beach nourishment at Plumb Beach (Jamaica Bay, Brooklyn) in 2012 to stabilize the shoreline, while also examining the responses of American horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) to beach nourishment. Results suggested that beach nourishment brought gradual increases in horseshoe crab spawning density after several seasons. Subtle differences in beach geomorphology over relatively short distances can be detected by horseshoe crabs and influence their selection of nesting sites.
Coney Island: Along the ocean shore of Coney Island, the erosion rate measured 1.3 feet lost per year. Data collected at Coney Island between 1836 and 1966 shows that the erosion rate along this shore was much higher in the past – about 2.5 feet per year.
In response to the ongoing erosion of the Coney Island beach, the USACE started the Coney Island Shoreline Protection Project. This project aimed to restore the beach and protect the coastal community at risk. As part of this project, the USACE placed approximately 580,000 cubic yards of sand on Coney Island Beach to replace sand lost during Hurricane Sandy and restore the beach to its original design profile from when the coastal storm risk reduction project was first constructed in the 1990s.
To slow down future beach erosion, the USACE placed 600 tons of stone and approximately 35,000 cubic yards of sand adjacent to a groin located on the western portion of the Coney Island peninsula in Sea Gate. Groins are shoreline structures designed to retain sediment from moving along the shore and help maintain wide beaches by minimizing or slowing down erosion.
Rockaway Peninsula (Queens)
The Rockaway Peninsula faces historic risk to coastal erosion and has been continually subjected to dynamic coastal forces. In the 1830s, the East Rockaway Inlet was located near Long Beach and Rockaway Point was located near the eastern boundary of Jacob Riis Park. Since 1927, the shoreline has largely maintained its current position. Beginning in 1965, USACE has conducted periodic replenishment of this shoreline (USACE, 2019). The shoreline was most recently replenished in 2022 and was augmented with both a seawall) crest elevation of 17 feet NAVD88) and a dune elevation (at 18 feet NAVD88) (USACE, 2019).
To put this into perspective, during Hurricane Sandy, the storm surge inundation reached as much as 10 feet above ground in some portions of the study area. This suggests that the seawall and dune elevations of 17 feet and 18 feet NAVD88 respectively are significantly higher than the storm surge levels experienced during Hurricane Sandy, providing a substantial level of protection against similar future events.
According to a 2016 USACE report, between 1975 and 2010 (the most recent values available) the Rockaway Peninsula’s east and west end had the greatest rates of shoreline increase. This was largely due to sediment migration from more eastern portions of the peninsula. Rates at the east and west end had values as high as 15 feet of additional shoreline per year. In contrast, the middle section of the Rockaway Peninsula experienced erosion with losses of shoreline up to 5 feet of shore per year. In the most recent of Rockaway Peninsula shoreline, USACE found that without intervention the there could be as mush as 17 feet of shoreline lose per year between Beach 109th Street to Beach 86th Street.
Breezy Point: Breezy Point as it is known today formed as sediment moved west from the rest of the Rockaway Peninsula. Though this segment of the Peninsula has historically grown, portions of Breezy Point have seen erosion. The shoreline in the vicinity of the Breezy Point Fire Control Tower along the Rockaway Inlet (between Beach 218th Street and Beach 216th Street along Palmer Drive) eroded considerably between 2012 and 2017. Between 2017 and 2022, the ocean-facing portion of Breezy Point experienced a mean change of 38.19 feet of shoreline but overall gained 95.70 feet between 2006 and 2022 (Psuty et al., 2023).
South Shore, Staten Island
Along the south shore of Staten Island, the shoreline is generally stable with several exceptions –the shorelines of Oakwood Beach and Annadale are both experiencing erosion. This satellite map shows that parts of the Annandale shoreline retreated as much as 125 feet between 1924 and 2018.
Fort Wadsworth: The shoreline of Fort Wadsworth immediately south of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge has been the focus of stabilization efforts by the NPS due to the recession of the high bluffs from storm-generated wave action (NPS, n.d.). According to recent NPS data, the Fort Wadsworth shoreline experienced a net gain of 3.76 meters between 2017 and 2022 (Psuty et al., 2023).
Coastal Erosion Hazard Area (CEHA) Maps
The following map shows erosion hazard areas in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Red cross-hatched areas indicate the Natural Protective Feature Areas in the most vulnerable coastal area in each of those boroughs.
The baseline data used to generate these images is from the CEHA maps that the NYS DEC Coastal Erosion Management Unit provided to NYCEM on January 14, 2008. The maps, which were available only in hard-copy format, were dated 1988 with legend updates in 1991.[i]
For the purposes of the Hazard Mitigation Plan, NYCEM translated the CEHA maps from their original hard-copy format into a digital GIS format, which made it easier to view the maps, share data, and estimate the assets within each borough’s CEHA. These images were translated and created for analytical purposes only and should not be viewed as official digital representations of New York City’s CEHA boundaries.
The CEHA boundaries shown on these maps are drawn at the location of Natural Protective Feature Areas only and do not designate the Structural Hazard Areas.
It is worth nothing that the City of New York released 2017 LiDAR, which includes a new shoreline layer and Digital Elevation Modem (DEM). The City will be conducting analyses on these LiDAR-derived products to better understand erosion and our shifting shoreline from 2010-2017. These plans will also account for planned USACE projects which result in changes to the natural protective features.
Coastal erosion is an ongoing natural process frequently exacerbated by human activity. Throughout New York City’s history, however, the combined impact of high winds and storm tides during significant coastal storms, such as nor’easters or hurricanes, have caused large-scale, event-driven erosion.
To view a list of historic coastal storms and the waterfront damage sustained in different boroughs, visit the Hazard History and Consequence Tool.
What is the Risk?
As discussed, coastal erosion can happen rapidly or gradually. When coastal erosion occurs rapidly, in association with harsh coastal storms, it has the potential for structural damage and financial loss.
Gradual coastal erosion may also pose a financial risk. If businesses and residents relocate from waterfront property, the low availability and high cost of housing in New York City may present a challenge. However, if residents with waterfront property remain, to protect their property, they may be required to make structural changes or construct bulkheads or riprap. The cost of these interventions may financially stress lower- or middle-income residents.
People with disabilities and access and functional needs may also face similar issues to lower-income households. Relocating may be difficult because of the expenses and the availability of accessible housing, or the time needed to make housing accessible. Structural improvements may not be possible because doing so could render the housing inaccessible.
As coastal erosion continues, built structures become closer to the water’s edge, thereby increasing the risk of damage to public and private property. If no effort is taken to mitigate erosion, risks increase — structures may become inundated with water damaging or destroying their foundation, utilities, and contents and, in a worst-case scenario, the structure itself may fall into the water. These risks will also become reflected in the cost of insurance without additional mitigating interventions.
Protecting the shoreline, regulating development in vulnerable areas, and taking care to build structures for maximum protection are crucial to ensuring that New York City withstands the continued force of coastal erosion. Using engineered structures—such as seawalls, rip-rap, armoring, and bulkheads—can reduce risk. However, it is critical to understand how these structures affect natural coastal processes and so that they do not inadvertently exacerbate erosion.
New York City has 197 buildings with a footprint that intersects a Coastal Erosion Hazard Area (CEHA). The table indicates that 106 buildings are completely or mostly within the hazard area, while another 91 at least touch the perimeter.
Average and Buildings within NYC DEC-mapped Coastal Erosion Hazard Areas
|Coastal Erosion Hazard Area (CEHA)
|Exposed Building Footprints
|Exposed Building Centroids
|Coney Island, Brooklyn
|Rockaway Peninsula, Queens
|South Shore, Staten Island
Buildings that have only one edge touching the CEHA might not have a high degree of physical risk from coastal erosion but are counted as “exposed building footprints” in this dataset. By contrast, if a building centroid— the majority of the building’s footprint — is within the CEHA, it is at much higher risk to the hazard of coastal erosion.
GIS analysis, which is reflected in this table, shows that 106 New York City buildings are categorized as “exposed building centroids” and therefore are considered vulnerable building stock. Fortunately, a majority of these 106 structures, except for one hotel complex on the Rockaway Peninsula, are not permanently occupied and are low value structures, such as public bathrooms and beach concession stands.
New York City’s natural buffers and recreational areas, such as wetlands, dunes, beaches, bluffs, sand bars, and barrier islands or spits, face the hazard of coastal erosion. If the CEHA boundaries migrate inland, additional structures could be at increased risk.
Natural Environment and Open Space
Erosion can cause extensive damage to coastal natural resources and open space. (Note: although natural environment and open space differ, for the purposes of this profile, they are included together). Under natural conditions, beaches (particularly barrier islands or spits like the Rockaway Peninsula) are dynamic features of the landscape. The shape and location of New York City’s coastline changes over time, due to coastal erosion and other processes. Left in a natural state, some beaches and shoreline areas erode while others increase. Overall, however, these processes are balanced.
Human activities such as unsustainable development may contribute to erosion by damaging or destroying natural protective coastal features such as wetlands, dunes, beaches, sand bars, and barrier islands or spits. When human activity accelerates coastal erosion rates, there is a risk that natural habitat will also be lost, leading to a loss of biodiversity, imbalances within coastal ecosystems, and a disruption of migration routes for marine and terrestrial animal species. Increased coastal erosion occurring within natural resources and open spaces also limits community access to quality areas for recreation and respite.[i] This loss is of particular concern in New York City, where such areas are already scarce yet provide benefits to over 8 million residents.
Although human activity can potentially exacerbate coastal erosion, built infrastructure can also help to mitigate it. For example, shoreline stabilization structures to keep beaches and shorelines intact for public use. These structures can prevent longshore drift (where waves approaching the shoreline in such a way that results in sediment being moved north along the beach in a zig-zag motion) and help to protect public amenities and recreational assets.
On the other hand, constructing seawalls, jetties, groins, and other hardened structures along the coast reduce natural habitat and biodiversity and can be a risk if they accelerate erosion by inhibiting the migration of natural beach sediment, causing an imbalance to the cycle of natural erosion and accretion. As a response, implementing and managing nature-based protection measures in coastal areas, such as the restoration of marshland or development of living shorelines, can enhance shoreline stabilization and working with natural coastal processes to lessen their impact.
According to the New York City Panel on Climate Change (2019), the sea level around New York City has risen at a rate of 0.11 inches per year since 1850, which is higher than the global average due to land subsidence. The New York City Panel on Climate Change’s 2015 report found that the city may experience as much as 4.83 feet of sea level rise by 2080, and 6.25 feet by 2100. These figures are based on the 90th percentile of sea level rise (SLR) projections which means there is a 90% chance that the sea level rise will be at or below these figures, and only a 10% chance it will exceed them. This rise in sea level will exacerbate coastal erosion, especially during coastal storms that could hit New York City with increased frequency and ferocity.
NPCC2 and NPCC3 Sea Level Rise Projections
|Baseline (2000-2004) 0″
|Low Estimate (10th percentile)
|Middle Estimate (25th – 75th percentile)
|High Estimate (90th percentile)
|NPCC3 ARIM scenario
Growing awareness of long-term risk
However, exactly how much erosion is directly attributable to sea level rise is unclear. When viewed in terms of 30 to 50 year periods, the effect of sea level rise is less significant than that of other contributors to shoreline change.
Future erosion rates are difficult to predict, underscoring the need to increase baseline data collection and build monitoring stations along the coast to assess annual shoreline changes.
How to Manage the Risk?
Managing coastal erosion risks in New York City involves an integrated approach — a combination of major structural controls, environmental controls, and regulatory and policy controls.
To protect the urban environment, New York City has built robust erosion-control structures throughout the five boroughs. Engineered structures on shore or in the water that are properly sited and sized according to building codes, play a crucial role in mitigating coastal erosion. Adhering to standards like ASCE 7 is essential in this context, as it provides comprehensive guidelines for designing structures to withstand various environmental loads. This includes forces caused by natural disasters such as floods and tsunamis, ensuring that these structures effectively counteract the impacts of coastal erosion and maintain the integrity of the shoreline.
Bulkhead structures and revetments are deployed along waterways throughout New York City’s five boroughs, as shown on this map.
Choosing the most effective erosion-control structure depends on the specific features of the coastal location:
- Seawalls, which may also be considered a type of bulkhead, are massive stone, rock, or concrete structures built parallel to the shoreline and are designed to resist the force of waves that can cause erosion by holding the shoreline in place.
- Revetments are sloped structures typically made of stone or concrete blocks to protect the underlying soil from erosion and to minimize the energy of waves. Rip-rap and gabions are common materials to use in revetments.
- Bulkheads are vertical retaining walls, typically made of wood or sheet steel, designed to hold soil in place and stabilize the shoreline.
- Groins are structures that extend perpendicular from the shore into the water to trap sand, prevent erosion, and break waves. Groins are constructed using durable materials like rock, concrete, wood, or steel. These materials are chosen for their strength and resilience against the constant battering of waves and their ability to withstand harsh marine environments, ensuring the groin’s effectiveness in coastal protection and sand retention.
- Jetties, which tend to be larger than groins, are designed primarily for sediment management and are typically located at the mouth of a river.
- Breakwaters are offshore rock structures situated parallel to the shoreline that break waves to reduce shoreline erosion.
- Artificial reefs are fully, or partially submerged structures constructed of rock, concrete, or other materials to break waves, reduce erosive forces on the shoreline, and provide marine habitat.
Many of the engineered erosion-control structures along our coastline are built in collaboration between New York City, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the NYS DEC.
Currently, these three government entities are collaborating on the Hurricane Sandy General Reevaluation Report, including a redesigned groinfield near the Rockaway Peninsula. The redesigned groinfield will minimize coastal erosion from longshore drift.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website provides additional detail on the Rockaway Reformulation project and other coastal-erosion projects throughout the region, New York State, and the rest of the nation.[i]
Placing natural and nature based buffers and protective features on the shore or in the water can help maintain the shoreline in place. Environmental control measures include:
- Beach nourishment is the process of placing sand (typically dredged from nearby ocean bottoms) on beaches to increase the elevation and distance between the upland areas and the shoreline. This creates a buffer that diverts storm and wave energy before they strike, reducing the risk of flood and dune erosion.
- Vegetation is often planted on beaches, dunes, and unstable shorelines to anchor sand and/or soil in place.
- Living shorelines are made up of plants with sand, or soil, often in combination with hard structures, composed of stone, riprap, or ecologically safe concrete blocks, to stabilize the shoreline, prevent erosion, and maintain wildlife and marine habitats.
- Constructed wetlands are new or restored tidal wetlands using plants to anchor the soil in place, prevent erosion, and create wildlife habitat.
- Vegetated islands are either fixed or floating offshore structures, such as anchored mats or infill islands that provide ecological benefits and can minimize erosion caused by breaking waves.
New York City’s development into a major seaport and coastal city, renowned for its extensive waterfront, has deep historical roots stretching back well before the early twentieth century. This flourishing center of commerce and activity owes its origins to the times even preceding colonial settlement, with the Lenape people being the original inhabitants of this region. Their presence and interaction with the area’s natural resources set the foundation for what would become one of the world’s most dynamic and significant urban waterfronts.
Today, approximately 30 percent of the City’s coastline is under New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) jurisdictions, including more than 14 miles of beaches that New York City protects and manages for public use and enjoyment as well as diverse habitat for plants and animals. Since 1975 New York City has facilitated placement of an estimated 20 million cubic yards of sand on popular Rockaway Peninsula beaches. From the inception of its Natural Resources Group 1984, NYC Parks has restored acres of forest and of wetland on its properties. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, NYS DEC, NYS Parks, and the National Park Service has also contributed significantly to the restoration of coastal natural areas.
New York City works with its state and federal partners to advance coastal protection projects that reduce the long-term risk of damage and loss of life from storms and sea-level rise. Since 2015, the City has collaborated on many projects to deploy hard (e.g., levees, seawalls, groins) and soft (i.e., natural and nature-based) coastal-erosion protection that have progressed from the initial feasibility study phase through conceptual design and toward final design and construction.
New York State is also working in partnership with NYC Parks and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ) on a project that will employ ecologically enhanced breakwaters in the Raritan Bay. This project is designed to reduce or reverse erosion and damage from storm waves, improve the health of the Raritan Bay ecosystem, and enhance people’s experience of southern Staten Island’s shoreline (also see Flooding Hazard Profile).
Regulatory and Policy Controls
Limiting development in erosion hazard areas and other protective land-use methods can reduce the risk of coastal erosion. The New York City Waterfront Revitalization Program (WRP), which is overseen by the New York City Department of City Planning, creates policies for waterfront planning, preservation, and development projects in the city and ensures they are implemented consistently over the long term.
The WRP is authorized by New York State’s Waterfront Revitalization of Coastal Areas and Inland Waterways Act, which was enacted in response to the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act. The NYS Waterfront Revitalization Act allows each municipality to participate in the State’s Coastal Management Program by preparing and adopting its own local Waterfront Revitalization Program.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation enforces regulations within all State-designated Coastal Erosion Hazard Areas (CEHAs), as described earlier. The State’s Environmental Conservation Law, which limits coastal development to protect areas sensitive to erosion at risk, regulates properties in all CEHAs.
In addition, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022 has introduced several provisions that aim to improve coastal erosion management and enhance shoreline resiliency in New York. Section 8106, provides a legislative framework for comprehensive coastal erosion management in New York. It allows for the expansion of feasibility studies to explore various risks, including coastal erosion, and introduces measures for shoreline restoration, flood risk reduction, and the use of advanced mapping tools for effective coastal management.
Other types of regulatory measures include the following:
- Construction permits, which are often required to construct or modify existing structures, incorporate coastal-erosion management regulations to ensure that any type of building activity will not accelerate shoreline erosion.
- Setbacks or buffers specify the minimum distance required from the erosion hazard area for certain types of land use or new development. Regulatory setbacks, which are identified on the State’s CEHA maps, are only marked in areas having a long-term average erosion rate of one foot or greater per year.
- Development restrictions change the types of zoning allowed in coastal areas or restrict the types of expenditures allowed. For example, the Coastal Barrier Resource Act (CBRA) created federal regulations applicable to different categories of private and public land units along the shore.[iii] CBRA provisions restrict use of federal expenditures, such as federal flood insurance, that might otherwise encourage development in at-risk shoreline environments. Areas within the private land units can be developed, provided private developers or other non-federal parties bear the full cost.