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New York City’s Million-Plus Buildings Contribute to Sinking Fate

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Beneath the bustling streets of New York City, a silent battle is being fought. The city that never sleeps is facing a grave threat as it gradually succumbs to the relentless forces of sinking.

A recent study, published in the Earth’s Future journal, has revealed alarming findings: New York City is sinking at a rate of 1-2mm per year. Certain areas like northern Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and lower Manhattan are experiencing an even more rapid descent, sinking at a rate of 2.75mm per year.


What’s causing the sink?

It turns out that those magnificent giants soaring above the skyline are partially to blame. Yes, you heard it right—the weight of those colossal skyscrapers is magnifying the sinking problem. In fact, according to the study, the mind-boggling combined weight of all the city’s structures amounts to a staggering 842 million tons. To put it in perspective, that’s equivalent to the weight of approximately 140 million elephants. Can you imagine the sheer magnitude of that colossal load?

While many of the city’s largest buildings perch atop the solid bedrock known as Manhattan schist, not all structures are fortunate enough to enjoy such stability. Some of them rest on a precarious mixture of sand and clays, delicately holding on to their ground.
Take, for instance, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge’s Manhattan stanchion. As workers fearlessly toiled away during its construction, they encountered treacherous conditions that made drilling down to bedrock an unthinkable risk. Consequently, a hard layer of sand became the foundation, supporting this architectural marvel and countless others like it.

As if the sinking conundrum wasn’t worrisome enough, there’s an even greater threat looming on the horizon. The downward force exerted by the towering buildings of New York City, combined with the rising water levels induced by global warming, presents a haunting possibility. A city that is already grappling with the effects of sinking could become even more susceptible to natural disasters.

This sinking phenomenon paints a stark picture of the underlying fragility beneath the city’s vibrant surface. As the weight of progress bears down upon the land, the very foundation of New York City quivers. Each passing year brings the encroaching reality of a sinking metropolis, inch by inch, millimetre by millimetre.

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