New York City Building Radical Storm- Proofing Systems

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Nearly two years after Hurricane Sandy
tore into NYC, the city’s still not much
more prepared than it was then. So news
that the Federal government has doled
out $540 million to fund a handful of
flood-proofing infrastructure projects this
week is a welcome surprise. Not to
mention that the systems look pretty
damn cool.
A few months ago , we wrote about
Rebuild by Design , a competition that
looked for proposals to retrofit the city
and the surrounding region for a stormy
future. This week, Housing and Urban
Development Secretary Shaun Donovan
announced the winners of the
competition, and meted out more than
half a billion dollars to build them. Let’s
take a look at what’s coming.
A 16-Foot Barrier Along Manhattan’s Edge
The big winner in the announcement was
a proposal called the Big U, designed by
Bjarke Ingels Group, which imagines a
massive barrier of dikes, berms, and other
barriers around Manhattan. HUD awarded
the group $535 million to build the first
stretch of the eight-mile-long ring. The 16-
foot-high section will protect the fragile
Lower East Side from storm surges with a
tall grass escarpment.
An Underwater Oyster Shelf
HUD also awarded $60 million to rebuild
an underwater stone shelf and oyster
reefs that will protect Staten Island’s
South Shore, one of the hardest hit areas
in the entire region during Sandy. New
“micropockets” of finfish, shellfish, and
lobsters will slow surges and bring
ecological complexity back to the
coastline. “The proposal is going to create
a living breakwater that will reduce wave
action and erosion and lower risk from
heavy storms,” said Donovan.
Protecting NYC’s Most Vital Food Source
Hunts Point could be the most important
place in the city, though you may not
realize it. This peninsula in the Bronx is
the critical hub that supplies most of the
city’s food. During Sandy, it was hit
particularly hard, drawing attention to the
risks involved with it being shut down.
Donovan has awarded $20 million to
study the feasibility of the project—it’s
not starting construction just yet—which
will protect the market with a series of
levees, parks, and other flood-mitigating
systems. There will also be a new pier,
designed to keep functioning regardless
of storms.
We still don’t know when work will begin
on each project, since HUD only just
awarded the money, but it’s likely we’ll
be hearing more soon. And New Jersey
and the surrounding New York region
also received some of the cash, too,
funding the construction or study of three
other flood-proofing proposals.
All in all, $920 million ended up being
awarded this week. And though it’s been
more than 20 months since Sandy struck,
that’s a pretty quick turnaround for the
hulking federal and state governments
involved in the process. We’ll have more
updates when construction begins.

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