Re-Envisioning New York to Combat Sea-Level Rise

Zone 2: Creating Algal Energy

Oil tanks at Bayonne shoreline. Image credit: Matthew Baird Architects

Converting 600 disused oil tanks in Bayonne, New Jersey, from an eyesore to a resource is a key element in the Matthew Baird Architects-led team's proposal for the Southwest Palisade Bay/Kill van Kull area, including Bayonne, the Bayonne Piers, and northern Staten Island. After remediation, the tanks would be used to create biofuel from algae fed by wastewater. In addition, team members envision turning the area into a hub for recycling projects, including producing reef-building units from recycled glass, and allowing people to visit this "infrastructural territory for future expansion [created] by occupying the revitalized ruins of an industrial past":

Along the Bayonne Pier on a strip we call the "waste line," where our recycling plants are located, people will be able to explore (on foot or by car) the processes that convert trash into useful products. Hiking or driving in this reactivated post-industrial landscape connects people to a new natural order.

Zone 3: A Resilient 'New Aqueous City'

A New York "governed by flows rather than zones" would be a city more socially, economically, and climatically resilient to sea-level rise and storm surges, according to the nArchitects-led team, which focused on the South Palisade Bay/Verrazano Narrows area, including eastern Staten Island and Bay Ridge and Sunset Park. A dispersed infrastructure of new piers, islands, ferry stops, inflatable barriers, waste-treatment wetlands, elevated residential neighborhoods, and waterfront development corridors are all part of the team's plan to create "a progressive extension of city life from land to water." In this "New Aqueous City,"

Infrastructural islands, located within the shallow areas of the estuary, create an archipelago of slowly accreting habitat. During a storm surge they also connect via inflatable barriers ("urban airbags"), forming a protective line of defense for the city's new multilayered edge.

Zone 4: An 'Oysterpelago' Hearkening Back to Colonial Days



Oyster farming on the Gowanus Canal. Image credit: SCAPE Landscape Architecture

The SCAPE Landscape Architecture team looked to the past for inspiration in re-imagining the Northeast Palisade Bay/Buttermilk Channel and Gowanus Canal area, including Governors Island and Red Hook, a site that was once an "archipelago of small islands interconnected by shallow tidal flats and meandering waterways that teemed with oysters and aquatic life." Oysters and mussels re-introduced to the area would "colonize the sub-tidal and inter-tidal reef netting, filtering excess nutrients out of the water" and creating a new public reef to protect against storm surges:

Impromptu islands emerge through the process of sedimentation in the slowed and protected waters of the flats, providing sanctuary for horseshoe crabs, marine birds, and the occasional seal. Public space with boat hookups, BBQ grills, diving platforms, and amphibious trails form a signature new regional "blue" park network.

The underlying "oyster-tecture," consisting of a series of oyster nurseries combined with underwater rope scaffolding for reefs would "generate a new public landscape for the New York Harbor and enables a new [cleaner, protected] water-based Gowanus community to take shape in the inland zone."

From Ideas to Implementation?
Models, drawings, and other documentation of these plans will be displayed in MoMA's Architecture and Design Galleries from March 24 to August 9. The proposals have already drawn interest from planning officials at the mayor's office and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a promising sign that these or similar ideas may actually be implemented in the region at some point.

"With impending sea-level rise, the stakes... have never been higher. The fantastic collaborative solutions of these five teams... do much more than just protect our region from flooding. The projects address energy production and use, ecological health, sewage overflows, and global green shipping," wrote architect Catherine Seavitt, the coauthor of a study of the bay that influenced the MoMA/P.S.1 project. "Perhaps most importantly, they have captured the imagination of a regional community that celebrates this body of water that Giovanni da Verrazano called 'a very agreeable location situated within two prominent hills' upon his first sighting of the Upper Bay in 1524."

More about sea-level rise:
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Nile Delta Poised to Be Sunk by Sea Level Rise - Groundwater Salinity Already a Growing Problem
4,000 Square Miles of Mississippi Delta Inevitably Drowned Due to Sea Level Rise: New Estimate Shows
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Sea Level Rise Best Case Scenario: 50cm Rise, 10% of World Population Hit
A Little Sea Level Rise Won't Hurt Anyone, Will It?
See For Yourself: Interactive Sea Level Rise Explorer

Tags: Architects | Cities | Exhibits | Global Warming Effects | New Jersey | New York City | Urban Planning

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