New York and New Jersey region to receive huge new post-Sandy flood defenses


June 4, 2014

Denmark's Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has been awarded $335 million to improve lower Manhattan's flood and storm defences (Photo: Rebuild by Design)

Denmark's Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has been awarded $335 million to improve lower Manhattan's flood and storm defences (Photo: Rebuild by Design)

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The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced the six winning proposals of its Rebuild by Design competition. Approximately $920 million is being awarded to the winners, in a bid to improve flood and stormwater protection at six vulnerable areas around New York and New Jersey.

Though flood and storm protection is the main focus the competition, the proposals generally feature some degree of urban regeneration too, such as the construction of parks and other mixed-use public spaces. Here's a quick look at each of them.


Perhaps the most eye-catching proposal comes via Denmark's Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The firm has been awarded $335 million to bring about its "BIG U" proposal, which comprises a 10 mile (16 km)-long coastal protection system that skirts lower Manhattan's coastline.

BIG's coastal protection system feature large berms – or embankments – which are made up of a sea-facing concrete wall covered by compacted earth and a turf top. The firm will also construct bridges which can be flipped down to create a water barrier in the event of a catastrophic storm.

New Meadowlands – MIT CAU, ZUS and Urbanisten

The "New Meadowlands" project is the product of a collaboration between MIT CAU (MIT's Center for Advanced Urbanism), ZUS and Urbanisten. It concerns the protection of the Little Ferry, Moonachie, Carlstadt, and Teterboro areas from flooding with new robust defenses.

The project has been awarded $150 million and will feature the creation of a large natural reserve that is surrounded by wetlands, in addition to a large reinforced berm that will provide flood protection to residents.

Living Breakwaters – SCAPE

NYC-based Scape Landscape Architecture has been awarded $60 million to bring about its "Living Breakwaters" proposal, which features a particularly environmentally-focused approach.

The proposal shuns the use of large berms or sea walls in favor of a series of breakwaters and artificial reefs. There will also be a drive to increase awareness of the risks of living close to the water, and the construction of artificial micro-habitats which can house fish, shellfish and lobster.

Living With The Bay – Interboro Partners

Long Island, New York's Nassau County shall receive newly-strengthened bay defenses, courtesy of NYC-based firm Interboro Partners, which has been awarded $125 million.

"The goal of the plan is to make the communities around the South Shore’s bays more resilient in the face of future extreme weather events and sea level rise, but also strengthen what makes living near the bays great in the first place," states the "Living With The Bay" project brief.

To bring this about, Interboro calls for artificial marshes and dikes, sea walls and berms, in addition to large channels with which to manage storm water runoff. The project also envisions that water from the local Mill River shall be stored and filtered, before being reused.

Lifelines – PennDesign and OLIN

PennDesign and OLIN have been granted $20 million to continue to develop their joint "Lifelines" proposal, slated for Hunts Point, South Bronx, New York. The proposal tackles the modernizing of the local industrial waterfronts, and the reinforcement of existing flood protection in a bid to secure the lives of the local people, the $5 billion annual economy, and over 20,000 jobs.

Resist, Delay, Store, and Discharge – OMA

Amsterdam-based OMA aims to make Hoboken, Weehawken, and Jersey City less prone to flash floods and storm surges with a four-step approach, dubbed "Resist, Delay, Store, and Discharge." HUD has granted the project $230 million.

Resist involves the building of both sea walls and careful landscaping, in order to produce a more hardy coastline. Delay refers to new urban infrastructure such as storm drains to slow heavy rainfall runoff and thus prevent flash-flooding.

Store shall feature the collection and re-use of rainwater, and, finally, Discharge will see the construction of new alternative routes for floodwater to escape, combined with the addition of powerful pumps to remove water when needed.

Source: Rebuild by Design

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

All very nice and thoughtful, and quite useful too. However, we're still going to have to build massive flood barriers of some kind to prevent the Atlantic from flooding us again. A barrier has been in place in London for 30 years, and paid for itself many times over. They're also discussing how to improve it going forward. Our area of vulnerability is larger but we'll have to bit the bullet sooner or later.


For dealing with rain encourage building owners to build rain water storage tanks and trickle out the accumulated water. For new construction and major remodels this the trickling out the water could be done by flushing the toilets.

To protect from storm serge build water proof doors on the access points. If the public works department and other agencies would have made the plans in advance they could have easily sealed the subways, electrical, and communication systems from Sandy with sand bags but you have to plan it in advance so you don't miss a single vent.


Build in the swamps, build in the flood plains, and let the taxpayers foot the bill every time you get inundated? I'd prefer another option, thank you very much. This kind of stuff really gets me riled.


@ ljaques This in New York City not New Orleans.


Waste of money! Nature will overcome and we'll be crying and wasting more money trying to retain obsolete infrastructure! Move to higher ground and resolve the issue now...

Brian Allan
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