2012’s Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the effect that climate change can and will have on the United States. The unprecedented devastation caused by this single event called for an equally unprecedented response. Rebuild by Design was envisioned as a competition, to reimagine how the northeast region of the United States could adapt to climate change and sea level rise predictions. After a year of intensive research, community engagement, and concept design development, Secretary Shaun Donovan of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced that six out of Rebuild by Design’s ten proposals will receive funding to begin their implementation.
These are: Living Breakwaters by the SCAPE Team, Hunts Point Lifelines by PennDesign/OLIN, Resist, Delay, Store, Discharge: a strategy for Hobroken by OMA, New Meadowlands by MIT CAU, ZUS and URBANISTEN, Living by the Bay by Interboro Team and BIG U by BIG Team.
All of the selected winning proposals weave together elements of social change with policy innovations and physical designs that broaden the purview of how public spaces and infrastructure can be protective while providing their intended functions.
In New York, Lower Manhattan will benefit from a berm system around its lower east side that quite literally bridges its park system and amenities to the low-lying vulnerable communities it currently remains isolated from. Staten Island, which is located at the heart of the NY bight suffers repeatedly from wave action in the harbor. An off shore breakwater will provide wave attenuation that may lower wave heights by several feet. On-land community hubs will provide opportunities for the next generation of ecological stewards to learn how green infrastructure also benefits marine ecosystems. Hunts Point in the Bronx is the food hub for millions of people, yet it is located in one of the poorest congressional districts in New York. Strategies for protecting it will safeguard the whole neighborhood and create public amenities along the waterfront that also improve water and air quality. Long Island was developed around a delicate system of waterways that have since become impacted and polluted. 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.
In New Jersey, Hoboken is subject to repeated flash flooding. Their comprehensive urban water strategy will deploy 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 Meadowlands project will restore water-absorbing wetland and reduce flooding in Sandy-impacted communities. The project also includes the 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.
The winning proposals are truly transformative and will serve as blueprints for how to safeguard a vulnerable region while making it more environmentally and economically resilient. A full overview of the winning proposals and the Rebuild by Design process can be found at rebuildbydesign.org