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Burned by Sandy, Hoboken Seeks to Become Model for Hurricane Resilience

The low-lying city of 50,000 across the Hudson River from Manhattan was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Mayor Dawn Zimmer wants to city to serve as a model for how to develop a uniquely urban approach to extreme storm preparation.
February 14, 2013, 1pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Kate Zernike profiles the efforts of mayor Zimmer "to make it a test case for a new model of hurricane resilience, one that could be translated to other cities in the Northeast that rising seas have increasingly turned into flood plains."

The nation's traditional response to the threat of hurricanes has been shaped by the sprawling coastal development of the American southeast: "evacuate during the storm, then elevate the buildings or retreat inland to protect against the next onslaught." But these responses aren't appropriate for the densely populated cities of the northeast that are also in harm's way.  

“The rules don’t work,” Mayor Zimmer said. “They’re looking at a fairly suburban approach. We need to carve out an urban approach. Because today it’s Hoboken, tomorrow, Boston.”

Zimmer has proposed an ambitious menu of solutions, including: hardened defenses, a "mini-grid" of mixed energy sources, relocating residents vertically out of basements and ground-level apartments, installing microgenerators and building green infrastructure.

"Ms. Zimmer has discussed her proposals with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Flood Insurance Program and is hoping that both can provide money from their hazard-mitigation program," notes Zernike. "She is also applying for grants from the state, which will parcel out the recovery money that Congress approved last month."

“'It’s very hard to change cities that have been developed for a certain way for 100-plus years,' said Adam Zellner, who works with Greener by Design, a New Jersey firm working with Hoboken and recovery agencies. If it works, he said, 'It’s a great demonstration because if you look at cities between Philadelphia and Boston, a lot of them have development patterns that are very similar.'”

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Published on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 in The New York Times
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