Stephen Marks, the city’s former assistant business administrator, was named by Mayor Dawn Zimmer last week as Hoboken’s first deputy municipal manager, a position that will allow him to continue certain duties in the business office while also heading the mayor’s newly-created Office of Resiliency.
The creation of that office, Zimmer said, will consolidate and formalize the wide-ranging set of initiatives the city has undertaken since Hurricane Sandy to protect the city from regularly occurring flooding and subsequent weather disasters.
Marks, who was hired in March 2012 after previously serving as Hudson County’s director of planning, will technically be the only employee in the Office of Resiliency. But in that capacity, he will head projects in conjunction with city planners as well as serving as a liaison to the private and public entities that city is partnering with through various projects.
“It’s a daunting task, it’s not going to be easy, but I’m also not going to be doing it all alone.” – Stephen Marks
Among the projects Marks has worked on since Hurricane Sandy is the city’s ongoing participation in the federally-funded Rebuild by Design competition, which will offer funding to one or more innovative plans to protect urban areas from Sandy-type storms. Hoboken’s entry, designed by the Dutch firm OMA, is a finalist in the competition.
Additionally, Marks will oversee gaining the funding to build a new flood pump near Eleventh Street and the implementation of a state-of-the-art microgrid, meant to conserve and redistribute power in the event of an outage.
He will oversee the city’s grant applications, the installation of emergency backup generators in public safety buildings around town, and work in conjunction with Director of Development Brandy Forbes on several land acquisitions.
“It’s a daunting task, it’s not going to be easy, but I’m also not going to be doing it all alone,” said Marks. “It’s an interdisciplinary office engaging in a full team effort to make these projects happen.”
Rebuild by Design
The winners of the Rebuild by Design contest, which is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, could be announced as early as April. A key component of the scoring rubric revolves around a local government’s dedication to resiliency efforts and its ability to drum up community support around such projects.
Zimmer said she thought Marks’ new title could help the city in the final round of judging (it was named a finalist in December).
OMA’s plan for Hoboken suggests that protecting the city from a future storm surge could be achieved in ways that also benefit the everyday lives of Hoboken residents. The designers have suggested an expansion of Pier A Park in an effort to absorb more rainwater and to build a “green belt” around the city – half park, half train tracks – that would act as a natural barrier.
The firm’s design is meant to combat flooding from a storm surge like Hurricane Sandy as well as flooding resulting from rainstorms during high tide.
The plan is reminiscent of its title – it “deploys both hard infrastructure and soft landscape for coastal defense (resist); recommends policies to enable the urban fabric to slow down water (delay); and includes a green circuit to trap water (store) and water pumps to support drainage (discharge),” according to the Rebuild by Design website.
A presentation of OMA’s proposal is currently on display in the entrance hall of City Hall.
CERT Team breaks century mark
Marks will also oversee the expansion of the city’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which graduated 34 new members last week, bringing its total membership to 100. The team’s leaders, Lou Casciano and Ken Ferrante, will work directly under Marks.
The team, which was founded in 2009 and assisted first responders and emergency workers following Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012, works with the city, the police and fire departments, and outside agencies during emergencies.
The team was also honored by FEMA at the ceremony, with NJ State Police CERT Coordinator Howard Butt delivering the 2013 FEMA individual and community preparedness award and also delivered the award for Outstanding Community Emergency response team initiatives.
Hoboken CERT Captain Maggie Shields received a plaque from OEM Coordinator Lieutenant Kenneth Ferrante for Exceptional Service to the citizens of Hoboken.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org