Moving from a roach infested apartment

It was a crazy summer. It was equal parts wonderful and really, really hard. The hardest part was moving out of our roach infested apartment. With my anxiety levels charged up from the growing infestation, just weeks into my new job and return to full time work, I planned our move. We had a month of overlap at both apartments, which we needed so that we could be careful and intentional all along the way.

We were very scared of bringing the roaches with us, so we painstakingly inspected and cleaned everything before packing it in big blue moving bins. Husband and I agreed that even though we had stretched our budget to its limit (past it really – borrowing from a very wonderful person just to be able to pay the security deposit and first month’s rent), it would be better to leave behind anything that we couldn’t be absolutely sure carried no bugs or their eggs. Our motto was “When in doubt, throw it out.” We really wanted to be sure that we never had to go through this again.

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My mom came to help us pack, and I was so thankful for her help, especially with the kitchen, which was the worst part. I think we must have seen hundreds of roaches both dead and alive while packing the kitchen alone. Many would scurry away when we opened a cabinet drawer, or we’d find them crawling around in nesting bowls. It had gotten so bad that we didn’t even have to shed light on a dark area – we’d regularly see them crawling on cabinets, walls, and counters, even in the daytime. So gross. With the distance that comes from being out of that place, I can now clearly see how BAD it was.

The moving process took longer than I’d hoped. We had both the old and new apartments for a whole month – because I was eager to get out of there and because the move was extra intense with the eradication work. As we approached the final weekend of our overlap month, I looked forward to closing the book on the infested apartment for good.

Then the bargain movers I’d originally hired for the last Saturday of our overlap month told us they were delayed for 4 hours before finally telling us they weren’t coming – “you cancel” the foreman texted me. We sure as hell did not! So I spent the next morning calling movers until I found one who could come the next day, for about 3x the price.

My husband and I took the day off from work and went back to the old apartment one last time. We did a final assessment of which furniture was safe to bring. After I sprayed clorox on a joint in a wooden table only to see a handful of baby roaches come crawling out, we decided to cut our plans even further, bringing almost nothing.

The movers were running late and it was near our daughter’s bedtime, so I took her while Husband oversaw the movers. I went back to the building later to bring him something and snapped the below pictures of all of our furniture in the trash.
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In the end we brought the bins, the bed and metal frame, my daughter’s bed, the nursing glider, a glass and metal desk, two folding chairs, a desk chair, a metal baker’s rack, and a still boxed shelving unit extension from Ikea. That’s it! No dressers, no tables, no bookshelves. There was almost nowhere to unpack our stuff to, and nowhere comfortable to eat. But it was worth it, to get out of the old place.

Our new apartment is big, sunny, and mostly bug free. A few days after the movers brought our stuff, I saw 3 or 4 cockroaches around the apartment. I was so scared that we had brought them with, but I felt that it would be just more than I could handle, and I just shut down my emotions on it, imagining it was someone else and not me. We put out bait traps and sealed the gaps around the doors and hoped for the best.

I’m happy to say we haven’t seen many in the weeks since. I hadn’t seen any until this morning when I found a dead one in the sink. Husband says he saw one in the kitchen too. But I believe this will be ok. The apartment is caulked and sealed so there is no good place for them to nest, and they will not survive.

We are slowly furnishing the apartment. I’d say we are being responsible by only buying what we can pay cash for, but the truth is we maxed out all of our credit just to make the move happen, so we have no choice. We bought a nice new convert-a-couch and a cheap folding table that we fancy up with a table cloth. I put some basic metal shelving in the closets so that we had a place to unpack our hobby supplies, which take a whole closet. We have less than 10 bins left to unpack out of the original 45. We are looking at dressers and toy storage next. In the meantime, we use the other bins for surfaces and toy and clothes storage.

Despite the incomplete furnishings and decorations, I am so happy about our new home. My anxiety levels dropped within a week or two of closing the chapter on the old place. I am so happy that I can comfortably use our kitchen without fear of what I’ll encounter every time time I move something. It’s changed my habits and routines – I can now relax at home with my family in a way I hadn’t at the old place in months. I feel relieved and comforted to be home and I love spending time there with my husband and daughter. It was all worth it.

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Diving into cloth diapering

After deciding that we would try cloth diapers and acquiring several different types, I had to figure out how to prep them. We had a pay per load shared laundry room in the basement and a Haier portable washer in our apartment for which we were waiting for a replacement part.

For brand new cloth prefolds, they recommend you wash them 5 or 6 times to wash away the natural oils and get the fibers to a more absorbent state. Paying for and doing that many loads of laundry in the shared room in the basement was unappealing, so I decided to try the boiling method of prepping the prefolds. I filled my largest put with water and heated of until boiling. I then added 3 diapers, put the lid on, and boiled them for 20 minutes. Afterwards I brought the hot diapers to the bathroom and hung them up to try on my nifty new hanging drying rack. The water was a bit yellow with the oils, so I dumped it and started again.

Meanwhile, I hand washed the one brand new all in one bumgenius free time diaper. It was a dark color and the package recommended washing separately at first.

Later in the day, after I’d finished boiling all 12 Osocozy bleached Indian cotton prefolds, I went down to the laundry room and the them in the washer with some soap nuts. I put it on heavy spill and extra rinse so they’d hey add much time as possible. I also put all of the pocket diapers and inserts and the all in one in another washer with their own little bag of soap nuts. Once those loads were done I threw them all in one dryer, added extra time, and let them tumble around in there. Later I stuffed each of the pocket diapers and I made room in my diaper drawer for this new stash. By the end of the day we were ready to go with our cloth diapers!

That night I put Precious in the all-in-one. The next morning I was eager to see how it had performed and was quite happy with the results! It was wet on the inside but had not leaked and she did not look pink. Great!

Over the next few days we did have some learning experiences. I put a prefold and a cover on her for one of her usual poop times, and it was my first time trying the “angelwings” fold with a Snappi diaper fastener. That was not a good idea! I had not put it on well and the poop got everywhere.

The other nights since then I have tried different pocket diaper set-ups. One night I forgot to add a second liner. There wasn’t enough absorbency and she soaked through the diaper. Another night I put two microfiber liners in, and they absorbed most of it but I hadn’t placed them so well inside their pocket and there was a part in the back that with just the pocket diaper and no liner and she leaked through that area. Two of the nights we used a brand of pocket diaper without an inner leg gusset and they have given her a bit of rash at the leg opening, which by the way has been more on her leg itself than at the hip area where you would expect it to fall. Last night I tried one microfiber and one cotton/hemp liner, but that leaked too. I’m going to try the all-in-one again tonight.

During the daytime though I am super happy with them and I think we just need to figure out the right night system for us. I have done the dirty diaper laundry once in the shared facilities and then once with the portable washing machine once the replacement part came. Doing the laundry with the machine and then hanging in our bathroom was super easy and with that system we should save around $50 to $75 a month over disposable diapers and wipes.

Her diaper rash does seem to be improved but it’s not gone yet. We’ll see what happens as we keep trying!

Deciding to switch to cloth diapering

Have you thought about making the switch to cloth diapers but hesitated for one reason or another? Up until recently, so did I. But after a bit of learning and prep, on Sunday I put my baby in her first cloth diaper. It’s been a few days and I’m pretty happy about it so far.

Having used cloth diapers at one of my nanny jobs several years ago, I seriously considered using cloth for my baby as I was planning for her arrival. I wanted to do what was best for my baby, for our bank account, and for the environment. At the same time, I didn’t want to take on more than I could handle. We live in a nyc apartment with a shared laundry facility in the basement, so the cost and effort involved in doing laundry is significant (though not as much as it was at our last apartment where the nearest laundromat was a couple flights of stairs and several blocks away).

I researched cloth diapers and ran the numbers, and found that at $4 per load to wash and dry our laundry, the cost savings of cloth would have been negligible. There might be a little savings after additional kids, but there would probably also be extra accessories and laundry cycles for prepping and stripping the diapers that I hadn’t accounted for, and in the end the cost difference would be on the order of $100, which didn’t seem enough to convince me to make the commitment to such regular laundry.

Meanwhile the various environmental analyses, when considering the energy and water involved in doing the laundry, didn’t come out as convincingly in favor of cloth as one might expect.

The third factor, diaper rash, was something we couldn’t assess until the baby was here.

So I registered for disposables, put several cloth diapers in my “baby idea list” on amazon, and didn’t think about it again for a while. The baby came and we used disposables and tried to get through those first few bleary-eyed months.

Whenever I met New Yorkers who were using cloth for their babies, I would ask them about their laundry set up. Most admitted they weren’t saving much money with it and that they did have quite a laundry routine.

But then one day I met someone who said she had installed a portable washer in her kitchen, so she wasn’t paying per load of laundry. Excitedly, I asked her to tell me more. It turns out she had a Haier portable washing machine which uses a regular outlet and connects to the kitchen sink. I’d never heard of such a thing but it seemed it might make cloth doable for us.

In my neighborhood of Washington Heights we have an active local parents listserve, so I kept an eye out for someone to post a used one. When someone finally did I snapped it up. We brought it home and I used it for a few weeks, trying to do both the baby and adult laundry with it. It works great, and is easy to use for the small baby items. I found however that with the load size and need to find space to hang dry, I couldn’t keep up with the adult laundry with it.

Meanwhile, my daughter got to a point where she was waking almost daily with some rash, despite generous applications of Aquaphor or Boudreau’s Butt Paste and regular treatment with Triple Paste. So, I toyed with the idea that it was time to try cloth.

I asked my husband what he thought, and he said it was a great idea. His mom had switched to cloth for him because of his sensitive skin, so he felt it would be natural to do the same for our baby.

I turned to the listserve again, posting a request for used cloth diapers, and acquired about a dozen pocket diapers, 20 inserts, and several all in one’s for only about $50. What a great deal! I also had put some prefolds and covers in our Amazon cart and when my husband needed to buy something else he went ahead and ordered them.

So about a week later I had all the supplies and was ready to get started. I’ll post soon about how I prepped and what I’ve learned in the first few days.

Housing court tomorrow

Tomorrow members of my family will face the housing court judge who will decide whether to grant them an extension to pay or to unequivocally move forward with eviction. Considering that the three of them live in a bronx apartment that costs less than $1000/ month and they’ve been there over two decades, this is extremely distressing. You can’t house 3 people for 1k in many places here. It’s unheard of, and it’s only because of rent control that they pay so little. Once they are kicked out, they will have to pay going rates.

Now you might say, why do they need to live in NYC? Can’t they move somewhere cheaper? I don’t see how though, because none of them can drive or afford a car, and 2 of them are disabled so there’s no chance of learning to drive. The only places I can think of that aren’t in the city but allow a person to meet their needs without a car are assisted living facilities or in downtown locations of other cities, but neither can house 3 people for under $1k, as far as I know.

So, where does that leave them? I wish I knew.

Meanwhile, it’s not easy to pay our own rent, and the hot water disappeared again yesterday and isn’t back yet. We pay about $1.1k/month for the privilege of living in an apartment (near the subway at least, albeit the end of the line) that has been burgled twice in 6 years and, lately, loses heat and/or hot water about 10-25 times a year.

And still I know we are lucky in some ways, as there are Americans who have it worse. Americans who live in slums, shacks, trailers, and homeless shelters, who despair at the prospects of a jobless future, who cannot feed their children.

What a luxury it seems to be worried about deficits and taxes.

All this fury over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is so disgusting

On the anniversary of 9/11, I just need it to be said here that I am really bothered by all of the anti-Islam sentiment that the country has poured out recently.

I work a few blocks from the WTC site.  For 16 months I’ve watched the workers there, and lately I am relieved to see a building that has finally risen stories above ground level.  In my office’s neighborhood I walk by the constant construction site that is Ground Zero.  I’ve spent lunch breaks sitting on the benches at Trinity Church, the site that for so long had its fences covered in letters, pictures, shirts, and flags.  I’ve visited the new World Trade Center memorial and walked past the steel cross that stood on the pile until it was moved to a permanent home along a street next to the site.   More than a few times I’ve directed a lost visitor towards Ground Zero.  I eat at restaurants that were closed for months, that survived only through the loyalty of their customers.  I’ve also noticed the awning to New York Dolls, one of the seedier strip joints in NYC, and seen condo buildings empty and retail spaces that lack tenants.

Almost every day, I see the area of NYC most directly affected by the tragic day of 9/11/2001.

And I couldn’t be happier to have a new community center open in the neighborhood, or more upset to see so many Americans unable to distinguish between a Muslim and a terrorist, between the hallowed Ground Zero site itself and a side street blocks away, between a mosque and a community center, or, most upsetting of all, freedom of religion and freedom to practice whichever society-approved religion you want.

Looking, with Confidence

It’s been a long time since I updated this blog. The main reason I thought to update today is that I received shocking information at the doctor’s office yesterday. I, who am so in love with cats that I snuck one into my dorm and also named my blog A Cat Nap, am allergic to cats! Crazy!

That aside, it’s a good time to write. I’m still looking for a new job, but I feel much better about it now. I sent out a couple applications in February, to which I heard no response. In March I was very busy preparing for my first figure skating competition in a decade (successfully!), and helping my students prepare for their end-of-the-season ice show. Once those events passed, I was too exhausted for an earnest job hunt.

So it wasn’t until April that I began to send out more applications. This was good, though, as by then I’d had more time to learn and think about my options. While I am fortunate enough to have numerous choices, this made it challenging to put all of my efforts towards a single goal.

Should I try a different area of environmental work? Should I look for something more directly related to my degree? Should I (gulp) go back to school so I could continue in research? Should I go for a more general use of my analytical and business skills? Or maybe grow on my Internet start-up experience?

I considered the factors that I wrote about in my last post. I decided I was willing to give a little on community benefit. I still refuse to do anything that I perceive as having a negative or questionable impact on society, but I’m willing to do something more neutral than cleaning up pollution. After all, it’s just not always practical, and a girl’s gotta live, right?

I also decided to pursue a less direct application of my degrees. Considering how much I had gone through to get them, this was not an easy choice. But I had realized that there were significant factors that would keep my career trajectory from what I’d originally had in mind. Primarily, there aren’t many of these jobs in cities, and I now know that I want to keep NYC as my home for a long term. I also am unhappy with the typical work culture and the lack of options in career trajectory.

The choice was made easier by the presence of an enticing industry right here in NYC: software. I’ve got experience from my web startup, so I’m not starting at 0. An analytical background is a benefit even if you aren’t on the coding side. The office culture and community are a much better fit for me. My husband and brother both work in computer science, and I’ve always felt at home amongst computer fans and gaming geeks. And it pays better too. So I’m feeling pretty good about this choice!

I’ve sent out a number of applications, and I had an interview about two weeks ago. While I’ve since learned that they chose another candidate, they expressed that they were impressed with me and want to keep in touch. This has helped my confidence as I seek a new job, and I’m continuing to push ahead. I know I’ll find something that is a better fit for me, I just need patience and perseverence.

Career Questions

It’s been nearly 3 months since I last wrote. I did write a post in December, an enthusiastic review of “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” but it was lost when my phone crashed, and I couldn’t bring myself to rewrite the whole thing.

And of course there were the holidays – work to do and visitors and visits to be had.

But there was also the greyness. A feeling of running in a hamster wheel. Days of happiness, excitement, and energy – followed by days of stress, worry, or exhaustion.

I’ve seen the psychiatrist monthly, and I really think my current combo is helping. In a sense, the world has gone from gray to colorful again. It’s merely that I can see intense blue as well as bright yellow.

Work is… Disappointing. I feel less of a sense of purpose and direction than, frankly, ever before. Even as my passion waned somewhat in my darker times, I’ve always known what I wanted, where I wanted to go. And usually I had the determination to work hard to find it, to earn it.

But now, I’m unsure of what I would like next. There are things that call to me, but with each there are aspects that take my excitement down a notch. I know this is common for young adults, but the feeling is foreign to me.

I know that I am lucky that I have so many skills on which I could base a career – and likely a successful one. But I feel equally pulled toward each, but unwilling to yet give up any. As of late I’ve been dreaming up ways to incorporate them all. I may have an idea, but I don’t know yet how realistic it is. But I don’t like to leap without looking. I wish to gather information.

And that’s why I’m writing now. I would like to interview people with knowledge or experience in a number of areas. It could be over e-mail or phone (or in person if you can meet in NYC). I could write a post about it, feature you and links, or I could keep it private or anonymous.

If you have knowledge about or experience in a career in any of the following areas, please contact me!

Figure skating coach – basics
Figure skating coach – freestyle/test track
Figure skating program director
Environmental eng/scientist – government regulator
Environmental eng/scientist – government researcher
Environmental eng/scientist – consultant for private companies
Environmental eng/scientist – consultant for government
Environmental scientist – public interest researcher
Science writer – magazines, news, or books
Science professor – adjunct (lab instructor and early undergrads)
Project manager – web company
Pro blogger
Etsy shop/home business owner
How-to writer

I’m extra interested in hearing from you if you are a mom!

Culture Shock

I hardly know where to begin. When in doubt, start in the middle. No no just kidding.

The beginning, well I guess that would be background. Through my life history, my friends, my family, my environment, and the pursuits I’ve chosen and been fortunate enough to dive deeply into…through all of these things I’ve seen a wide strata of society. I’ve gotten closer to some parts than to others, but I’ve been exposed to a lot.

From my own family, on one side from a dark history during the Great Depression to the behaviors that desperation helped develop in my grandfather, and from the lives of immigrants in the early 20th century to the multi-generational struggle towards both accepting and respecting ourselves. On the other side, from an American history spanning back to pre-Civil War North Carolina to growing family during the Great Depression to a classic post-WWII 1950s American family to life with those Yankees up in Massachusetts. With all these different personal histories merged into the story that led to my existence, I grew up learning how to be compassionate, open-minded, and accepting of different backgrounds and the personal struggles that so many face.

In my youth, I also met all sorts of people, mostly New England suburbanites. From the kind and gratious modern immigrants who attended my public school for it’s strong English as a second language program to the friends whose parents worked extra jobs so that their kids could train in competitive figure skating to the richer skaters who drove only Mercedes and lived in the huge houses in the Boston suburbs with the best schools. Despite our varied backgrounds, we learned to work together and support each other, many of us driven by the shared passion for the sport of figure skating and our dreams of achieving within it.

In my college years I moved to NYC to attend a very selective school, and there I met a whole new slew of people. There were hard-working kids that were the first in their families to go to college, over-achievers of middle-class means (where I’d place myself), and no shortage of students who had spent most of their summers working to improve themselves in educational or athletic sleepaway camps or travelling the world with their families. They were the most foreign to me; they chatted about the latest Tiffany’s fashions, had a credit card from Daddy and a fake ID, and many had not yet worked for pay themselves. But still among this diversity of backgrounds I found unity with many, for we shared an intellectually curious attitude and were lucky enough to be a part of a great academic community, full of energetic people eager to make a difference in their communities.

Then I met my husband, and I learned up close about another stratum of society. His family history included Irish Catholic and German Jewish immigration to Brooklyn in time to see the mobs and ethnic strife close up, extreme intelligence of the sort that sends a kid to college as a young teenager, and some serious hardships that would have tested anyone’s emotional resilience and ability to carry on. That side of his family was poorly equipped to deal with the things thrown at them, and by the late 20th century had lost most of the resources their family had developed towards decent lives in Brooklyn.

His family history also included a large Guatemalan family, of which one particular daughter faced many struggles, losing her first husband to what she later learned was an escape into exile to protect his life in the face of an imminent coup, finding herself left alone to raise their young son. She later remarried and had another son, but his father didn’t treat her right, and she realized she had to get out for her safety and sanity. That was when she found her way to America, meeting a man in late 1970s Brooklyn whom she would marry and have two more sons with. The oldest son was my Husband, who spent his childhood in Brooklyn before his father disappeared and his mother, his brother, and him moved to a cheaper apartment in the Bronx. There they witnessed and experienced many hardships, but always were buoyed by the love, strength, and the incredible will of his mother. Despite their material struggles, his mother, a teacher, always emphasized the value of education, and with her support and the intellect passed to them from their father, both he and his brother were accepted into an exclusive upper east side private school, the tuition covered by the school’s endowment. There my husband made friends that he’s held on to since, people who I’ve come to value as friends as well. Despite their varied backgrounds, they too bonded over shared intellectual curiosity and worldviews and their shared environment during that formative phase of life.

Now I’ve started my first real-world job, in an office setting, and it’s a new adjustment. I thought that everyone here would work together towards the office’s shared mission, but if that’s happening I’m not sure. People seem mired in their daily struggles, which is understandable. They have a wide range of attitudes towards work, and it doesn’t leave me with the feeling that we’re all working together towards a shared goal.

In that absence it seems that they try to bond over what they assume to be shared experiences or mundane small talk: the weather, their summer vacation destinations, the search for housing in NYC, marriage struggles, or drunken nights. Somehow it turns out that my experiences in these areas are dissimilar from those of my colleagues – I dread summer; the only destination vacation I’ve taken in the last 5 years was my honeymoon and we still carry debt from it; they seem to think that $2,000 is a reasonable or even affordable and good rent; I’m incredibly happy in my marriage and don’t take it for granted; and I have little interest in bar hopping. I often come away from these conversations feeling more disconnected from my coworkers instead of less.

But what really gets to me is their attitude. Sometimes it seems like they’ve all given up. Throughout my life I’ve always given immense thought to my choices and whether they were likely to maximize my happiness. I’ve always tried to separate those choices from the general “expectations” that I perceived society had for people my age. As a result I feel immense pleasure and drive to do the work that I’ve chosen. I’m struggling to shake off my surprise and disappointment that my colleagues don’t appear to approach work with the same attitude. There is a lot more negative energy than I was prepared to handle. And I’m lost to find things that can help me feel connected to my coworkers.

The positive side of this is that I’ve begun exploring resources intended to aid my generation to adjust and succeed in the workplace. I’ll definitely write about this as I learn more. Meanwhile, dear readers, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

City dwelling & CO2 production

Today I looked at this cool slideshow from Scientific American.  In particular I liked this image:

City dwellers produce, on average, less CO2 from fossil fuels than suburban or rural residents, who use vehicles and outdoor equipment more.

City dwellers produce, on average, less CO2 from fossil fuels than suburban or rural residents, who use vehicles and outdoor equipment more.

This is one of the things that I love so much about living in New York City.  I use only public transportation, mostly subways and occasionally buses, which are part of a clean vehicle fleet.  The taxis, while not yet upgraded by and large, are at least beginning to be overhauled to clean vehicles as well. I don’t own or drive a car, I never buy gasoline, and my husband, a life-long New Yorker, doesn’t even know how to drive.

Admittedly, my apartment building, which is not a designated “affordable housing” unit but is nonetheless mostly low income residents, is woefully wasteful in its degraded and leaky plumbing system.  But I don’t have a yard, a lawn mower, a need for sprinklers, or many rooms to heat, cool, or keep lighted.

While I sometimes consider what it would be like to move to a house with a yard for raising our future children, I can’t imagine making the transition to living in a sprawled community that requires a car to go anywhere.  I like it better here, in the city, where I can use only public transportation, and enjoy the many public parks with the rest of my community.

Results from the NYC Panel on Climate Change

I haven’t started the new job yet, but I’ve been reading up on various aspects of city government and the state of environmental protection and sustainability in New York City.  There are a lot of great reports available on the city’s web site.  Today I took a look at the recently released report from the NYC Panel on Climate Change.  Their predictions aren’t pretty:

  • Temperatures are expected to rise, 1.5-3 degrees F over the next 30 years and as much as 7.5 degrees F by the 2080s.
  • Annual precipitation is expected to rise 5% over the next 30 years and up to 10% by the 2080s.
  • Sea levels are expected to rise 2-5 inches over the next 30 years and 12-23 inches by the 2080s.  According to models that include ice-melt, sea levels may rise by as much as 55 inches by the 2080s.

But what do those things mean? As we’ve already begun to see over the past few years, these climate changes can make for uncomfortable and dangerous conditions.  According to the report, “short-duration climate hazards” can lead to these extreme events:

  • Heat waves are very likely to become more frequent, intense, and longer in duration
  • Brief, intense precipitation events that can cause inland flooding are also likely to increase
  • Storm-related coastal flooding due to sea level rise is very likely to increase
  • It is more likely than not that droughts will become more severe

And what will this mean for the city infrastructure?

Temperature-related impacts may include:

  • Increased summertime strain on materials
  • Increased peak electricity loads in summer & reduced heating requirements in winter

Precipitation-related impacts may include:

  • Increased street, basement & sewer flooding
  • Reduction of water quality

Sea level rise-related impacts may include:

  • Inundation of low-lying areas & wetlands
  • Increased structural damage & impaired operations

I already thought the city was too hot in the summer.  And the drainage system hase some serious problem spots.  This is going to be just great…  At least the silver lining is that we recognize this and are planning for it.