At our Technical Roundtable on August 14, Ariella Rosenberg Maron (Happold Consulting) discussed the Sandy Success Stories Project, which features 19 case studies of buildings, locations and design features that proved to be resilient during Superstorm Sandy. The report was commissioned by a collaboration of civic organizations to investigate how and why some parts of New York and New Jersey were left relatively unscathed, and to inform policy makers that while the adoption of new resiliency measures is certainly needed, there are many valuable lessons to be taken away right now.
The case studies were divided into four categories: waterfront parks, beaches, building sites and citywide initiatives.
Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) and the Bronx River Parks (BRPs; Concrete Plant Park and Soundview Park) are three examples of resilient waterfront parks. BBP was designed to withstand sea level rises and has good drainage, with berms that are strategically placed to mitigate flood impacts and use salt-tolerant plants to encourage rapid drainage. The softened shoreline (rather than rigid waterfront walls) absorbed the waves during the storm and protected the buildings behind the park.
The BRPs were recently restored to the historic floodplain, and along with restored wetlands and strategic landscaping, the floodplain acted as a natural bowl, capturing much of the water and acting as a buffer to neighboring development.
The Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association in Far Rockaway established two sand dunes in the early 1990s to protect historic bungalows between Beach 24th and Beach 27th Street from storm events. The woody trees and shrubs provided wind protection and held the dunes together, and the double dune system meant there were two lines of defense against Sandy – the first dune was lost but the second dune stood strong and almost no damage to buildings behind the dunes occurred.
Also in the Rockaways, newer buildings in the Arverne by the Sea development were protected by a beachfront preserve, and had good stormwater management and concrete slab foundations.
The Lower East Side People’s Mutual Housing Association had disaster response plans on hand at their newer buildings in the LES, and boilers on the roofs to retain heating. The Solar 1 building had deep foundations, water and air tight construction, and elevated electrical wiring. The NYU Cogeneration Plant on Mercer Street was able to “island” or isolate itself from the Con Edison grid after the storm, and this meant the 22 NYU buildings connected to the Cogen Plant maintained electricity, heating and hot water.
City-wide initiatives such as the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan and the use of more sturdy alternative boardwalk materials also proved to be resilient.
Two key themes emerged from the Sandy Success Stories Project:
1.Initiatives to support sustainability have included resiliency; and
2. The incorporation of multiple mitigation measures ensured the best protection from Superstorm Sandy.
During the roundtable discussion, it was agreed that while sustainability (a long-term investment) and storm resiliency (the ability to bounce back quickly) are two separate concepts, they must go hand-in-hand when developing weather resilience policies.
Ariella reminded the roundtable of the importance of retaining a record of equipment information and insurance policies offsite (either at a physical storage place or in the cloud) as part of a disaster response plan, so that replacement parts can be ordered quickly. Ariella also shared her view that the biggest takeaway for her from the Sandy Success Stories Project was the increasingly important role of cogeneration facilities, and their ability to be used as a backup energy supply. With the exception of a few instances, renewable solar installations connected to the grid were not able to provide power during extended outages. But better inverters and connections to the utility can allow solar power to play a larger role in the future.
It’s clear that the Sandy Success Stories Project has provided many valuable insights and lessons that must inform future storm resiliency policies.