WXY and West 8 Explore Protecting NYC from Floods Using Barrier Islands

by , 11/18/13

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Ever since Hurricane Sandy rocked New York’s shores, designers have been trying to figure out new coastal protection systems to prevent the city’s low-lying waterfront neighborhoods from flooding again. Some plans call for floodwalls but WXY and West 8 have chosen to explore a different solution – man-made barrier islands. The two design teams are in the third stage of an initiative called “Rebuild by Design” where they hope to engage science experts in a plan to create flood-protecting barrier islands in the Hudson River Plume, the interconnected waterways of New York and New Jersey, the Long Island Sound, and the coastal waters of the  Mid-Atlantic.

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To better understand the causes of flooding, the design teams will talk with experts about the interconnected waterways between New York, New Jersey, the Long Island Sound, and other Mid-Atlantic coastal waters. Barrier islands could provide a natural and environmentally friendly way of protecting coastal cities without having to spend money on building up new infrastructure.

Through this investigation of barrier islands as the first layer of storm protection, the group has realized there’s an opportunity to reshape the Mid- Atlantic coastal shed from Cape Cod to Cape May. There are also additional benefits of creating natural barriers to consider. Similar barrier islands around the world have been used for large-scale wind energy installations and sites for sewage treatment. And the new green spaces would also help balance the surrounding ecology by creating new plots for plants and animals to roam on.

WXY and West 8 have already completed Stage II of Rebuild By Design. The U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development-funded study evaluated how new reef barriers would perform without the use of closures or surge gates. The designers crafted models for storm-surge flooding using historical storm data with help from the Stevens Institute of Technology and ARCADIS.

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Images © WXY and West 8

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2 Comments

  1. Shane Novak April 7, 2014 at 4:07 pm
    Barrier islands are a great idea. But.. Knowing how New York/Jersey works, in a generation, if there are no storms or flooding, the real estate companies will build on it calling it the Hampton South and a storm or flood will hit and then they would have to build another set of barrier islands.
  2. jameswilson November 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm
    "Barrier islands could provide a natural and environmentally friendly way of protecting coastal cities..." Such arrogance...one would think we would learn. Loren Eiseley, in his books, places a beautiful perspective on thoughts and acts such as this. Hurricanes and winter nor'easters have a way of taking barrier islands out, and creating "Inlets" in short order. A gander of east-coast maps from the 1800s to today will show a history of what once was. The Outer Banks of NC, following storm after storm...hit by hurricane Isabel...and others...they rebuild and then again ask themselves if it worth it? The nor'easter that hit the city Feb. 2013,with winds over 100mph, storm surge over 4 feet..."what difference does it make?" Build away..the federal government will pay. Build new homes right on the sands, federal flood insurance is very cheap to buy. Even without it the government will cover your decision..Ocean front, water front, forget it, drive the pilings right in the ocean, surround my 10,000 sq.ft. home with ocean waves lapping all around me, let the storms blow, federal insurance...