Blueprints for recovery and resilience

Enhancing the public realm while protecting the Financial District and critical transportation infrastructure beyond, the Battery Berm weaves an elevated path through the park. Along this berm, a series of upland knolls form unique landscapes where people farm, sunbathe, eat and engage with world class gardens.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development selected six design proposals as winners of its Rebuild by Design competition. HUD is allocating approximately $920 million to New York, New Jersey, and New York City to begin implementation of the winning projects that will make the region more environmentally and economically resilient.

Between the Manhattan Bridge and Montgomery Street, deployable walls are attached to the underside of the FDR Drive, ready to flip down to prepare for flood events. Decorated by neighborhood artists, the panels, when not in use, create an inviting ceiling above the East River Esplanade.

The winning proposals from six interdisciplinary teams are a blueprint for how communities can maximize resilience as they rebuild and recover from major disasters. HUD chose the winners for their excellence in design and resilience and their engagement with local communities. These ideas will serve as a model for how to mitigate the effects of climate change and natural disasters.

The comprehensive urban water strategy developed by the OMA Team deploys hard infrastructure and soft landscape for coastal defense (resist); policy recommendations, guidelines, and urban infrastructure to slow rainwater runoff (delay); interconnected green infrastructure to store and direct excess rainwater (store); and water pumps and alternative routes to support drainage (discharge).

Rebuild by Design was created during the summer of 2013 by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force as a way to develop ideas capable of dramatically improving the physical, ecological, and economic resilience of coastal areas. The competition produced regional, cross-disciplinary collaboration between state and local governments, 10 design teams, regional nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and the public. The Rockefeller Foundation has been the lead financial supporter of the competition. Teams worked to create coalitions with local and regional stakeholders to develop locally responsive proposals to improve the resilience of waterfront communities.

Winning proposals

The BIG Team: The BIG U (East River Park) — The BIG proposal presents a protective system around Manhattan’s edge. Building on the New York City Special Initiative for Recovery and Rebuilding report, the BIG Team married infrastructure investments with a community approach. The overall proposal protects 10 continuous miles of low-lying geography that comprise an incredibly dense, vibrant, and vulnerable urban area. The proposed system not only shields the city against floods and stormwater, it also creates and provides social and environmental benefits to the community through an improved public realm.

Funds will be used to implement the first phase of the proposal along the Lower East Side, creating a “bridging berm” at the East River Park. The bridging berm provides robust vertical protection for the Lower East Side from future storm surge and rising sea levels. The berm also offers pleasant, accessible routes into the park, with many unprogrammed spots for resting, socializing, and enjoying views of the park and river. Both the berms and bridges will be wide and planted with a diverse selection of salt-tolerant trees, shrubs, and perennials to create a resilient urban habitat.

Areas around Southern Nassau, N.Y.’s north-south tributaries are threatened by both surge water flooding and stormwater inundation. The Interboro Team’s proposal is to transform rivers into green-blue corridors that store and filter water and provide public space as well as room for new urban development.

OMA: Resist, Delay, Store, Discharge — The comprehensive urban water strategy developed by the OMA Team provides protection along all of the Hoboken waterfront and parts of Weehawken and Jersey City, N.J. It deploys programmed hard infrastructure and soft landscape for coastal defense (resist); policy recommendations, guidelines, and urban infrastructure to slow rainwater runoff (delay); a circuit of interconnected green infrastructure to store and direct excess rainwater (store); and water pumps and alternative routes to support drainage (discharge). The objectives are to manage water for severe storms and long-term growth; enable reasonable flood insurance premiums through the potential redrawing of the FEMA flood zone following completion; and deliver co-benefits that enhance the cities and the region.

Jersey City, Hoboken, and Weehawken are susceptible to both flash flooding and storm surge. Funds will support the first phase of the proposal that provides a comprehensive approach for Hoboken that recognizes the density and complexity of the urban area, brings together a diverse community of beneficiaries, and defends the entire city, its assets, and citizens.

The Interboro Team: Living With the Bay (Slow Streams) — The Interboro Team’s proposal presents a comprehensive, regional resiliency plan for Nassau County, N.Y’s South Shore. The plan consists of a variety of elements that provide a range of integrated adaptive measures that keep Nassau County residents safe, while adding to the economic, ecological, and social quality of the region.

New Meadowlands offers a combination of protection against flooding, connection between towns and wetlands, and opportunities to grow.

HUD funding for this project is intended to incentivize additional public and private investment by reducing risk and driving down insurance premiums. This investment provides a unique opportunity to create a new form of public-private financing mechanism that is locally driven but participated in by multiple levels of government as well as investors and property owners. Such a “Flood Development Corporation” or “Resilience District” model would create real financial savings for a variety of stakeholders as a result of infrastructure improvements and other resilience measures.

Funds will implement the “Slow Streams” element of the proposal. The areas around Southern Nassau’s north-south tributaries are threatened by both surge water flooding and stormwater inundation. The proposal will address these threats through a set of interconnected interventions, transforming the Mill River into a green-blue corridor that stores and filters water, provides public space, and creates room for new urban development. These river corridor improvements will also address other challenges such as water quality, ecological recovery, and aquifer recharge.

A necklace of breakwaters is proposed along the South Shore to buffer against wave damage, flooding, and erosion. The team designed “reef street” micro-pockets of habitat complexity to host finfish, shellfish, and lobsters, and also modeled the breakwater system at a macro scale to understand how and where to most effectively protect communities.

MIT CAU+ZUS+URBANISTEN: New Meadowlands — The New Meadowlands project articulates an integrated vision for protecting, connecting, and growing this critical asset to both New Jersey and the metropolitan area of New York. The first phase of the proposal focuses on Little Ferry, Moonachie, Carlstadt, and Teterboro, N.J. By integrating transportation, ecology, and development, the project transforms the Meadowlands basin to address a wide spectrum of risks, while providing civic amenities and creating opportunities for new redevelopment.

Funds will be used for the first phase pilot area to restore water-absorbing wetlands and reduce flooding in Sandy-impacted communities. The project includes creation of additional wetlands and a multi-purpose berm that will provide flood protection to the many residents of the community damaged by Sandy flooding.

Flood protection that keeps a modernizing food hub dry is integrated with a waterfront greenway that opens up access to the rivers and dynamic windows on the operations and spectacle of the real working waterfront. Flood protection incorporates a string of new platforms for recreation and use on the water, and a Levee Lab of designed ecologies and applied material research. Levee Lab pilots contribute to the development of a new regulatory framework for industrial waterfronts.

SCAPE/Landscape Architecture: Living Breakwaters; Tottenville, Staten Island, N.Y. — Funding for the Scape proposal is to build out the entire Tottenville, N.Y., section of the Living Breakwaters project, which will reduce risk, revive ecologies, and connect educators and local students to the shoreline, inspiring a new generation of harbor stewards and a more resilient region over time. The in-water solution will reduce wave action and erosion, lowering risk from heavy storms by designing “reef street” micropockets of habitat complexity to host finfish, shellfish, and lobsters. This living infrastructure will be paired with social resiliency frameworks in adjacent neighborhoods. Through the Billion Oyster Project and an associated network of programmed water hubs, local schools will be empowered with science, recreation, education, and access to the water.

PennDesign/OLIN: Lifelines — Hunts Point, N.Y., is the hub of the region’s food supply chain and a local living-wage employment center in the poorest Congressional district in the country. The PennDesign/OLIN proposal sets out four strategies: Integrated and Adaptable Flood Protection systems to safeguard the whole neighborhood and create public amenities along the Hunts Point waterfront; Leadership efforts to build capacity for social resilience; a Marine Emergency Supply Chain to enhance the waterways as critical infrastructure; and Cleanways to improve air quality.

Funds for this proposal are not for full implementation, but for continued robust planning and study related to the future of the food market and a small pilot/demonstration project (to be selected/identified by the city). This will enable the process to continue and incorporate whatever investments the private sector and the city commit toward improvements and implementation in the future.

View all of the winning proposals, including additional photos and videos, at

Information and images provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Posted in Uncategorized | July 10th, 2014 by

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