Reducing Storm Damage While Enhancing Communities

Hurricane Sandy wreaked devastation on scores of communities in New York and New Jersey. For nearly a year, teams of urban planners, scientists and architects have been working with residents of cities and towns in the region to develop innovative ways to protect against future storms. Their work was part of a federally backed competition, Rebuild by Design, which asked participants to find ways to bolster resiliency while also encouraging economic development, rejuvenating natural resources or improving quality of life. Regional Plan Association was one of four organizations that guided the design teams toward implementable solutions.

On June 2, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced that six proposals would be awarded $920 million through Rebuild by Design. The biggest share of the funds, $335 million, is earmarked for the first phase of a protective barrier and recreational space, part of the project known as the BIG U, around Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Participants in the design challenge were encouraged to think about not just mitigating storm damage but developing systems that would provide long-lasting environmental, social and economic benefits. For example, Nassau County will receive $125 million to build a corridor of marshes, creeks and other green infrastructure to reduce flooding and at the same time improve water quality in the Long Island Sound. HUD awarded $60 million to develop oyster beds around the eastern shore of Staten Island, which was pummeled by Sandy. The natural breakwater will tame waves while replenishing the ecosystem.

And New Jersey will receive $230 million to create a flood-mitigation system in Hoboken, another community hard-hit by Sandy. The plan includes environmentally friendly infrastructure that can slow and absorb excess rainfall and floodwaters, effectively turning the city into a water-processing system. New Jersey also will receive $150 million for restoring and enhancing the Meadowlands while managing growth in Little Ferry, Moonachie, Carlstadt and Teterboro.

Secretary Donovan thanked RPA for its yearlong commitment to Rebuild by Design working with design teams and communities across the region.