In October 2012, as Hurricane Sandy approached New York, Alexandros Washburn defied evacuation orders and stayed fast in his home in Red Hook, watching as his street flooded and became a "full-fledged river." But he had good reason; the city's chief urban designer wanted to observe first-hand "the dynamics of the storm surge and its effect on our streets and structures."
In an excerpt on Places from his new book The Nature of Urban Design, Washburn recounts his experience during the storm and the hugely complicated — and ongoing — municipal recovery and response. Like average citizens, he's tangled up in the bureacracy of rebuilding: "For weeks I have been working on plans to rebuild the ground floor of my house. It’s frustrating; the rules keep changing. A couple of months ago, the mayor issued an executive order mandating higher levels for rebuilding. Then the federal government issued a new set of 'advisory base flood elevations.' Now those are rumored to be changing, too. The new flood height is almost five feet above my ground floor. I’m as confounded as my neighbor: What do I do?"