Ten proposals are vying for funding to prepare the New York metro region for disasters like Superstorm Sandy and make recovery from such events easier, cheaper, and faster. Organized by a project called Rebuild By Design, some of the plans have evocative names, like “Blue Dunes,” while others hit the conceptual nail on the head: “Commercial Corridor Resiliency Project,” anyone? But they share a bottom-up approach for creating urban and regional design solutions that invest in the concerns and needs of local communities.
The project accomplished this by organizing multi-day tours and meetings last fall that brought its design-build teams, selected from architecture and consulting firms worldwide, together with citizens and civic leaders of towns and neighborhoods hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy. The teams were required to use what they learned in these encounters to inform their solutions, which combine flood protection with additional community concerns like improving environmental health, increasing local job and business opportunities, restoring wildlife habitat, and keeping the “flavor” of waterfront and beachfront communities alive.
Rebuild By Design is a public-private partnership organized under the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, including several regional urban design and development groups, and funded in large part by The Rockefeller Foundation. (Full disclosure: I reported on Rebuild by Design last year for the blog 100 Resilient Cities, a project that is also funded by The Rockefeller Foundation.)
The community-design team partnerships have “far exceeded our expectations,” says Amy Chester, project manager of Rebuild By Design. “Each one of them have been able to create real, solid community coalitions, and demonstrate how those coalitions shaped the ultimate designs.” Several teams have been joined by their community coalitions at this week’s presentations to the competition’s jury, Chester says. Once the jury makes its final recommendations, the winners will be selected by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, and receive Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding. Even if HUD declines some projects, they might be eligible for other funding through federal or state agencies, local transportation agencies, or other entities.