Hurricane Sandy’s landfall in October of 2012 devastated communities across the Northeast coast of the United States, wreaking havoc without regard for state or county lines. The ongoing struggle to recover from Sandy’s cataclysmic force is a shared regional problem – even more so, preparing for a future of rising sea levels and intensified storm surges demands a united, regional endeavor.
Rebuild by Design, an initiative of the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is a competition that focuses on bringing innovation in design to advance resilience in the Sandy-impacted region.
WXY/WEST8 was selected from 149 world-class design teams that applied to participate in Rebuild by Design, a team that includes Dr. Alan F. Blumberg , Director of the Davidson Laboratory, Stevens Institute of Technology.
Team WXY/West 8 is investigating a regional design strategy to fundamentally reduce storm surge and its associated physical and financial risks to the coastal areas of New York, northern New Jersey and Connecticut. The team’s proposal hypothesizes that a system of constructed offshore islands could significantly reduce the height of storm surges throughout the region – a measure that would directly save lives and mitigate destruction for communities all along the coast.
To test this hypothesis, Dr. Blumberg and his flood modeling group took Team WXY/West 8 preliminary design schemes into surge models developed at the Stevens Institute of Technology – the same institution entrusted to advise New York City’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resilience, as well as the City’s effort to update federal flood- zone maps accounting for sea level rise. Initial models of an arrangement of barrier islands 10 miles off the Atlantic Coast produced meaningful reductions in surge levels, suggesting a more detailed study be conducted. Such an outcome would offset projections for sea-level rise, buying the region a century of time to develop carefully-considered plans for the future, and immediately reducing outlay for other protective measures along the coast.
Moving forward, Team WXY/West 8 will scrutinize the proposal further and from multiple perspectives – developing a region-wide cost benefit analysis; creating an implementation plan that addresses policy and governance strategies in addition to physical construction and engineering issues; and exploring the potential environmental benefits that these new offshore landscapes might provide. Acknowledging that mitigation planning is critical to a resilient urban future, Team WXY/West 8 is extending the concept of mitigation to include the natural environment and its processes, establishing a more comprehensive notion of emergency relief and a more sustainable plan for resilience, and proposing a regional financing structure to pay for costs of protective systems.
Dr. Blumberg is also working with the NY City Mayor’s office on the effects of sea level rise on coastal flooding, with the NJ Governor’s Office on statewide storm surge reduction alternatives and with NASA and NOAA assessing impacts from storms of the future. Presently, he leads the New York Harbor Observation and Prediction System (NYHOPS), which facilitate an assessment of ocean, weather, and environmental conditions throughout the New York Harbor region. Dr. Blumberg will support the team’s close analysis of current coastal flooding conditions and predictive modeling for future designs.