A "Big U" around Manhattan's lower half, a waterfront greenway for Hunts Point, and storm-surge absorbing oyster beds for Staten Island will all be part of the city's new post-Sandy fortification plans. The designs were part of a competition that began last June, and the winners were announced by the Mayor, the Governor, and Senator Schumer at a press conference yesterday with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.
Donovan said that the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects these plans represented were only just the beginning of a nation-wide fortification strategy that would cost billions. "These oyster beds that you heard about, FEMA is watching this project very closely, thinking about not just whether it can be repeated throughout the region, but in Florida and many other places that are susceptible," Donovan said. "The models that we’re talking about here were specifically designed to be replicable, to bring not just more government funding, but to bring private sector funding as well."
The Big U, designed by the BIG Team, would cover ten miles of Manhattan shoreline, from West 57th to East 42nd Street. "The BIG team proposed to rethink infrastructure as an amenity," their proposal [PDF] reads. To that end, the Coast Guard building in Battery Park would also serve as a "reverse aquarium." The walkway along between the Manhattan Bridge and Montgomery Street underneath the FDR would have storm barriers "decorated by neighborhood artists" that fold down during a storm or when its cold, "creating a seasonal market in the winter."
There is an elevated bike path and an "urban living room." Their renderings for the berm along the East River in the Lower East Side look like the High Line meets the Everglades.
A project that would have remade Red Hook's waterfront and improved the Rockaways wasn't among the winners. "I know you were probably saying, ‘What about Brooklyn and Queens?'" Schumer said. "There’s FEMA money and there’s Army Corps money, both of which are being spent in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as in the other boroughs. These were the rebuild by design projects that won. They’re very needed. But that doesn’t mean the other boroughs are being neglected."
The mayor said the plan was to begin work on these structures "over the next few years."
"It’s hard to give you a final date on that, but I certainly think in the next four or five years you’re going to see the physical manifestation of everything we’re talking about here," de Blasio told reporters yesterday. "And then as Senator Schumer said, as I indicated at the beginning, all the other projects we’re doing right now with the Army Corps, with FEMA - the Rockaways, Coney Island, the east shore of Staten Island - all of that is progressing simultaneously. So I think you’re going to see over four or five years a hugely different physical reality in this city."
The announcement of the design winners was accompanied with the news that homeowners affected by Sandy would finally be getting relief funds.
"Until December 31, I don’t think a single homeowner had actually gotten any money," Donovan said. "Now you’re going to start to see that money flowing…They’ve been waiting a long time—much too long in my opinion, I didn’t like the prioritization the way it was."