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.