Meanwhile, "Rising Currents: Projects for New York's Waterfront," presented by the city's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) two years ago, among other things asked architects to imagine new ways of using "soft" methods to cope with rising sea levels.
And New York City has had engineers examining ways to address the prospect of rising sea levels for a city with many low-lying areas.
The first step in deciding what to do should be the formation of a harbor protection commission, says Vishaan Chakrabarti, an architect and professor of real estate development at Columbia University here. "We need to include all levels of government," he says. "We need to get the right business and civic voices involved so we can get a broad consensus."
Initially, it appears that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is dubious about the idea of building dikes to hold back the sea.
"I don't think there's any practical way to build barriers in the oceans," he said on Nov. 1. "Even if you spent a fortune, it's not clear to me that you would get much value for it."
Others say New York – the financial capital of the world and home to at least 8 million people – is already very late in acting.
"The rest of the world has been doing it for about 50 years or so," says Robert Yaro, the influential head of the Regional Plan Association, an independent group that looks at ways to improve the quality of life in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.