The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced millions of dollars in funding last week for several local towns that deal with their longtime flooding problems, including $230 million for the Hoboken/Jersey City/Weehawken region.
HUD officials came to Little Ferry, N.J. on Wednesday to announce the winners of President Obama’s “Rebuild by Design” competition, in which teams of engineers submitted plans to deal with flooding issues in various regions. Two of the winning teams were in New Jersey: the Hoboken/Weehawken/Jersey City team, and a “New Meadowlands” team that got $150 for their region.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer said last week that the $230 million in Community Development Block Grant money “will enable Hoboken and its neighbors to finally solve the flooding problem that has plagued the region for so long.”
Mile-square Hoboken, as well as Weehawken and Jersey City, have notorious flooding problems in their low-lying areas. People had to be rescued from Weehawken’s “Shades” section near the Lincoln Tunnel during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Thousands of people in downtown Hoboken were trapped in their homes by flooding from that storm, and Jersey City’s downtown also has streets that flood during storms.
“I have been advocating for a comprehensive solution to Hoboken's flooding problems since I first ran for City Council in 2007,” said Zimmer, who lives in the 4th Ward in the low-lying southwestern part of town. “This project will implement a water management strategy that will comprehensively protect all of our residents, businesses, and the critical assets we share like the PATH, transit stations, and hospital. One of the elements of the plan will use parks as flood protection, creating more open space for our residents to enjoy.”
The comprehensive strategy was developed by an international team of experts led by the firm OMA. The proposal titled "Resist, Delay, Store, Discharge: a Comprehensive Urban Water Strategy" employs a multi-pronged approach to address Hoboken’s historic flooding challenges. Details of the proposal can be found at www.rebuildbydesign.org/project/oma-final-proposal.
Zimmer spokesman Juan Melli explained, “We’ve been working on the Rebuild by Design effort since almost a year ago. On Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, Mayor Zimmer hosted all the design teams for the Rebuild by Design competition in City Hall to show them our ideas for resiliency and then we took them on a tour of Hoboken. Based on that presentation, one of the teams took a particular interest in Hoboken and chose this project that ultimately won as one of their proposals.”
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner cited the flooding in the “Shades” and said, “This plan will fully protect the residents of Weehawken and could serve as a national model for regional urban resiliency.”
A press release from Mayor Zimmer noted, “Mayors Zimmer and Turner expressed their gratitude to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Senior Advisor to Secretary Donovan Henk Ovink, Senator Robert Menendez, Senator Cory Booker, Representative Albio Sires, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and all the members of the Christie Administration who worked to help make this project a reality.”
The statement curiously left out Christie himself, who was at the press conference. News sources noted that Zimmer and Christie did not exchange words at the event, and noted that it was held in Little Ferry and not Hoboken.
The city of Hoboken will hold community meetings so residents can provide their input and learn more about the opportunity.
Secaucus left out
One local town that was left all wet was Secaucus. At the last minute, Secaucus was excluded from the “New Meadowlands” proposal.
The Rebuild by Design team even congratulated Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli at the event, unaware his town was not included.
HUD officials said that the $150 million for the Meadowlands plan is only for a first phase, one that doesn’t cover Secaucus. They indicated that there will be no funding for subsequent phases.
Gonnelli called the decision “embarrassing,” saying he felt Secaucus was excluded at least in part because the town took steps to address the problems immediately after Sandy rather than waiting for the federal government to bail them out. He said he will appeal the decision.
Overall, six projects were approved by HUD for implementation. Four of those projects are in New York, including two in Manhattan.
Rebuild by Design was launched last summer in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to “develop innovative and implementable solutions to promote resilience in the Sandy-affected region,” according to Dr. Zia Khan, vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation, which provided primary funding for the competition. The competition received 148 applications from around the world. From this group, 10 interdisciplinary teams were selected to participate in the competition.
Art Schwartz may be reached at email@example.com.