New York area to get radical changes to mitigate future Hurricane Sandy type impacts

Six teams declared winners of US Rebuild by Design competition

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced the six winners of its Rebuild by Design Competition, to provide innovative solutions for the communities most vulnerable to future weather-related problems. The projects, which will receive a total of $960 million in central funding towards their total cost, were set up after the devastation that was wreaked by Hurricane Sandy.  A shortlist of 10 teams was drawn up from a total of 148 applicants.

The six winning teams are:
• The BIG Team – The BIG U (East River Park) – Manhattan
• The Interboro Team – Living with the Bay (Slow Streams) – Nassau County, Long Island
• MIT CAU+ZUS+URBANISTEN – New Meadowlands – Little Ferry, Moonachie, Carlstadt, Teterboro
• OMA – Resist, Delay, Store, Discharge – Hoboken, Weehawken, Jersey City
• PennDesign/OLIN – Lifelines – Hunts Point, South Bronx
• SCAPE/Landscape Architecture – Living Breakwaters – Tottenville, Staten Island

SCAPE in Staten Island

SCAPE’s proposal for Staten Island. Image: SCAPE

The SCAPE team project, Living Breakwaters for the South Shore of Staten Island, was granted $60 million for implementation, and aims to reduce risk, revive ecologies, and connect educators to the Staten Island shoreline, inspiring a new generation of harbor stewards and a more resilient region over time.

Staten Island sits at the mouth of the New York Bight, and is vulnerable to wave action and erosion. Rather than create a wall between people and water, the Living Breakwaters project embraces the water, increases awareness of risk, and decreases coastal threats with a necklace of breakwaters to buffer against wave damage and coastal erosion. The project reduces risk of coastal damages, revives marine ecologies, and connects schools to the water, building physical, social, and ecological resiliency along the Staten Island shoreline.


The SCAPE project will link schools to the water, and build physical, social and ecological resistance. Image: SCAPE

‘The proposal is going to create a living breakwater that will reduce wave action and erosion and lower risk from heavy storms,’ HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said. ‘It also includes a plan to engage the local schools to help build resilience awareness in the community.’ Staten Island City Council member Vincent Ignizio stated ‘This is a unique, first-of-its-kind project that promises to reduce wave action by several feet. Had we had it before Sandy, it would have significantly lessened the damage that we sustained. I’m happy to hear this funding was made available, and I want to see it actually implemented as soon as possible.’

Social resilience will be an important part of the project. Image: SCAPE

Kate Orff, founding partner of SCAPE, called the announcement a ‘big win for Staten Island.’ She said, ‘The living breakwaters project is a key part of our layered approach to resiliency, one that emerged from a community-led design process. We’re excited to get this project funded.’

BIG in Lower Manhattan
The BIG Team has received $335 million to increase resiliency in Lower Manhattan, protecting the city against future storm surges while providing social and environmental benefits to the local community.

BIG’s scheme, called  the ‘Big U’, encircles Manhattan responding directly to the needs and concerns of the area’s communities. Running from West 57th Street south to The Battery and up to East 42nd Street, it protects 10 continuous miles of low-lying geography that comprise an incredibly dense, vibrant, and vulnerable urban area.


The concept of protection does not mean that the area will always be dry. Image: BIG

The team’s approach is rooted in the two concepts of social infrastructure and hedonistic sustainability. The Big U not only shields the city against floods and storm water; it also aims to provide social and environmental benefits and to foster an improved public realm.


Benefits would include a harbour swimming bath. Image: BIG

The team envisions three compartments that function independently to provide flood protection. Each comprises a physically discrete flood-protection zone that can be isolated from flooding in adjacent zones. At the same time, each presents opportunities for integrated social and community planning. The compartments work in unison to protect and enhance the city, yet each compartment’s proposal is designed to stand on its own.

Proposed solutions for the components were designed in close consultation with the associated communities and a number of local, municipal, State and Federal stakeholders; each proposal has a benefit-cost ratio greater than one; and each is flexible, easily phased, and able to integrate with existing projects in progress.


The bridging berm will be the first element to be built. Image: BIG

The funding 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.

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