New York City’s iconic landmarks are sinking faster than the rest, NASA study reveals


New York City is known for its skyscrapers, bridges, and landmarks, but a new study by NASA and Rutgers University has found that some of these places are sinking faster than the rest of the city. The study, published in Science Advances, used satellite data and GPS measurements to map the vertical land motion of the New York City metropolitan area from 2016 to 2023.

LaGuardia Airport and Arthur Ashe Stadium are the fastest sinking hotspots

The researchers identified several hotspots that are sinking at rates higher than the average 1.6 millimeters per year experienced by the city. The fastest sinking areas are LaGuardia Airport and Arthur Ashe Stadium, both located in Queens. LaGuardia’s runways sank at a rate of 3.7 millimeters per year, while the stadium, home of the US Open, sank at a rate of 4.6 millimeters per year. These areas were built on former landfill sites, which may explain their faster sinking.

Coney Island, Governors Island, and Staten Island are also sinking faster than average

Other areas that are sinking faster than average include Coney Island, the southern half of Governors Island, Midland and South Beach in Staten Island, and Arverne by the Sea, a coastal neighborhood in southern Queens. The researchers also found that Highway 440 and Interstate 78, which connect Staten Island and New Jersey, were sinking at faster rates than the surrounding areas.

New York City’s iconic landmarks

The sinking is caused by a geological process and human activities

The researchers attributed the sinking to a geological process called glacial isostatic adjustment, which occurs when the land rebounds after being depressed by the weight of ice sheets during the last ice age. The process is still ongoing and affects the entire region, but some areas are more affected than others due to variations in the thickness and composition of the crust and the mantle.

The researchers also suggested that human activities, such as groundwater extraction, landfilling, and construction, may have contributed to the sinking by altering the load and stress on the land.

The sinking poses a threat to the city’s resilience to sea level rise and coastal flooding

The researchers warned that the sinking could exacerbate the impacts of sea level rise and coastal flooding on the city, especially during extreme events such as storms and hurricanes. They estimated that by 2100, the sea level around New York City could rise by 0.5 to 1.2 meters, depending on the greenhouse gas emissions scenario. The sinking could add another 0.1 to 0.2 meters to the relative sea level rise, increasing the risk of inundation and erosion.

The researchers hoped that their study could help the city officials and planners to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies to protect the city’s population and infrastructure from the effects of climate change.


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