Lower East Side Awarded $335 Million For East River Barrier

HUD Secretary Donovan, Sen. Schumer, Governor Cuomo at the Riis Houses this morning. Photo via GOLES' twitter feed.

HUD Secretary Donovan, Sen. Schumer, Governor Cuomo at the Riis Houses this morning. Photo via GOLES’ twitter feed.

This morning at the Jacob Riis Houses, top local and federal officials gathered to announce the winners of a design competition meant to protect vulnerable areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy from future storms.  Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, said $335 million would be allocated to create a barrier along the East River on the Lower East Side.

The berm will form what the officials called an “environmentally friendly public space” protecting more than 50,000 residents, as well as the Con Edison Plant.

More to come…

UPDATED 12:08 p.m. Here’s more about the winning proposal submitted for the “Rebuild by Design” competition:

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The Big U is a protective system around Manhattan, driven by the needs and concerns of its communities. Stretching from West 57th street south to The Battery and up to East 42th street, the Big U protects 10 continuous miles of low-lying geography that comprise an incredibly dense, vibrant, and vulnerable urban area. The proposed system not only shields the city against floods and stormwater; it provides social and environmental benefits to the community, and an improved public realm. The proposal consists of separate but coordinated plans for three contiguous regions of the waterfront and associated communities, regions dubbed compartments. Each compartment comprises a physically separate flood-protection zone, isolated from flooding in the other zones, but each equally a field for integrated social and community planning.

The compartments work in concert to protect and enhance the city, but each compartment’s proposal is designed to stand on its own. Each compartment was designed in close consultation with the associated communities and many local, municipal, state and federal stakeholders; each has a benefit-cost ratio greater than one; and each is flexible, easily phasable, and can be integrated with in-progress developments along the City’s waterfront. Bridging Berm provides robust vertical protection for the Lower East Side from future storm surge and rising sea levels. The Berm also offers pleasant, accessible routes into the park, with many  unprogrammed spots for resting, socializing, and enjoying views of the park and river. Both berms and bridges are wide and planted with a diverse selection of salt tolerant trees, shrubs and perennials, providing a resilient urban habitat.

Between the Manhattan Bridge and Montgomery Street, deployable walls are attached to the underside of the FDR Drive, ready to flip down to prepare for flood events. Decorated by neighborhood artists, the panels when not in use create an inviting ceiling above the East River Esplanade. At night, lighting integrated into the panels transforms a currently menacing area into a safe destination. Panels can also be flipped down to protect from the elements, creating a seasonal market during the winter.

The east and west boundaries of the Battery were key inlets during Hurricane Sandy, allowing floodwaters to rush into Lower Manhattan and shut down the nation’s – and the world’s – premier financial district. Enhancing the public realm while protecting the Financial District and critical transportation infrastructure beyond, the Battery Berm weaves an elevated path through the park. Along this berm, a series of upland knolls form unique landscapes where people farm, sunbathe, eat and engage with world class gardens. In place of the existing Coast Guard building, the plan envisions a new building programmed as a maritime museum or environmental education facility, whose form is derived from the flood protection at the water-facing ground floor. This signature building features a “Reverse Aquarium” which enables visitors to observe tidal variations and sea level rise while providing a flood barrier.

UPDATE 3:42 p.m. Here’s reaction from State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:

Our Lower Manhattan community was devastated by Superstorm Sandy and it is vitally important that we begin protecting our shoreline from future storms and rising sea levels. The Bjarke Ingels Group’s “Big U” resiliency plan will not only offer us crucial protection from flooding, it will be a wonderful improvement to our East River waterfront. The bridges and berms envisioned by the plan will serve as beautiful park space, providing greater access to the river even as we are better prepared for disaster.

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