Posts tagged with "Build it Back Program":

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Five years later, AN considers Hurricane Sandy’s impact on New York’s built environment

Hurricane Sandy pummeled New York City almost five years ago today. Since then, the built environment has undergone substantial changes. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reflects on those first few months post-Sandy, and looks at some initiatives that are reshaping the city to withstand future storms. Shortly after the storm, AN editors reflected on the extent of the infrastructural damage in a heatless Tribeca office. Though uncomfortable, the office was more habitable than many coastal neighborhoods, including Red Hook, Brooklyn, and Breezy Point, a Queens neighborhood at the tip of the Rockaway peninsula that was gutted by fire. In NYCHA developments citywide, 80,000 tenants were without heat or electricity for weeks, the result of floodwaters that topped 11 feet. After assessing the scale of destruction, FEMA updated its flood maps, a reflection of the epic scale of destruction, adding 35,000 structures to Zone A, areas most likely to be impacted in a major storm. The total scale of the loss was great; in New York and New Jersey, 182 people died, and the Northeast coastline sustained $65 billion in damages. In the months afterward, the Department of City Planning presented a guide to storm-proofing buildings. A little more than a year later, the Department of Buildings released building codes for new residential construction and apartments over five stories to make it easier for people to stay in their homes in the event of a severe storm. Architecture for Humanity and AIA New York rallied designers to help with relief efforts, and Garrison Architects was just one firm to answer the call to action. The architects, known for sustainable modular buildings, erected a prefabricated emergency housing prototype in downtown Brooklyn that still stands today. In June 2013, state, local, and national stakeholders launched Rebuild By Design, a federal competition to design more resilient coastline in New York City and the tri-state area.  In August 2013, then-HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced 69 rebuilding initiatives designed to stitch New York's built environment back together and prepare infrastructure for future floods. Flooding put the subways out of commission, and repairs to the heavily damaged L train tunnel will suspend Brooklyn-to-Manhattan service for 18 months, starting next year. The storm exposed the vulnerability of New York's aging infrastructure, but it also created a space for art and reflection. Situ Studio salvaged boardwalk planks from New York and New Jersey for Heartwalk, its Times Square Valentine's Day installation. MoMA PS1 opened a pop-up geodesic exhibition space in the Rockaways in April 2013 as part of EXPO 1: NEW YORK, showing museum-solicited ideas on transforming the city's waterfront.  Architect Roderick Wolgamott-Romero built a massive treehouse from Sandy-felled oaks at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

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This is by no means a comprehensive look at the thousands of initiatives, local and national, that have shaped the city in the five years after Hurricane Sandy. Below, we scan some initiatives that are remaking the built environment. For housing, Build It Back is one of the city's key programs to quickly rebuild dwellings in waterside neighborhoods post-Sandy. So far, the city reports its Build It Back program has completed repairs on around 7,200 structures, or 87 percent of the housing in the program. Since its launch in 2013, the program has rebuilt almost 1,400 of the most severely damaged homes, raising them on stilts above the floodplain. Another 6,500 homeowners, many without flood insurance, received reimbursements for repairs and technical support. “As we near the end of the Build It Back program, we are continuing to make steady progress," Mayor Bill de Blasio said, in prepared remarks. "We have succeeded in getting more than 10,000 families back in safe and resilient homes and stronger communities. We have more work to do, and this program will not be done until every family is home.” Though the city is close to reaching its goals, last year the program's creator slammed Build It Back as a "categorical failure," largely because it didn't get residents back in their homes quick enough. "After the multi-billion dollar rebuilding process ends, neighborhoods will see a hodgepodge of housing types: elevations, demolitions, in-kind repairs—is that the best outcome?"asked Brad Gair, former head of the mayor's Housing Recovery Operations, at a July 2016 hearing. "Have the billions invested in infrastructure projects to reduce flood risk made our coastlines safer?" DNAinfo reported that Gair questioned the government's capacity to set up "what amounts to a multi-billion dollar corporation" in a few months to speedily re-home people. At that time, Mayor de Blasio stated that the program's work would be complete by the end of 2016. Today the Daily News reported that almost one-fifth of the 12,000-plus families in the program are still waiting for a buyout or work to wrap up on their properties.

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All along the city's 520 miles of coastline, new dunes, bulkheads, and sea walls are intended to prevent the catastrophic flooding that characterized Sandy. Even with the latest interventions, is New York City really prepared for another superstorm? While offering hope for a more resilient future, new climate projections sow doubt on the city's viability over the next century and beyond. A new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that floods that with a high-water mark of 7.4 feet could hit the city once every 25 years, and the same level of floods could come as frequently as every five years between 2030 and 2045. Superstorms could be more intense, but modeling indicates that they would move further offshore. In response, the city is tackling the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project, a plan to flood-proof Manhttan's east side. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is erecting flood protection on Staten Island's east shore, and it is planning to build a barrier in Jamaica Bay, Queens. The Governor's Office of Storm Recovery is spearheading the Tottenville Shoreline Protection Project and Living Breakwaters, two resiliency strategies at the southern tip of Staten Island. None of these massive projects have yet broken ground.
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Q+A> Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora, New York City Department of Design & Construction

On March 9, New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and Chief Architect Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo unveiled guiding principles for the revamped capital construction program, Design and Construction Excellence 2.0, at the Center for Architecture. AN spoke with Commissioner Peña-Mora about Build it Back, revitalizing neighborhoods through civic projects, great architecture within budgets, and how small firms can partner with the DDC. The Architect's Newspaper: In his State of the City address, Mayor de Blasio cited three neighborhoods—Brownsville/Ocean Hill, the South Bronx, and Far Rockaway—for targeted revitalizations. Through the Design Excellence Program, the DDC has major civic projects in design or under construction in all of those neighborhoods. What is the DDC's role in facilitating neighborhood transformation? Commissioner Peña-Mora: In the Chief Architect's office, we have this inter-client conversation where we look at how the different projects in a neighborhood can support each other. For example, in Brownsville, we have quite a few: [There's] Rescue 2, by Jeanne Gang, but we also have some library projects, we have some plazas. We wanted to really talk about how each one of these projects can support what is happening in the others and help the whole neighborhood. We're looking at a neighborhood approach, those are some of the conversations that we're having. The issue is that each agency (City Planning, NYC DOT) looks for funding for their own projects, but since we're actually doing the same neighborhood for all those agencies, we can see the whole map of all the projects and how to integrate them. Many of the projects commissioned under the Design and Construction Excellence program are inventive, beautiful buildings from high-profile architects. Critics have noted, though, that these projects often run far over budget and behind schedule. What is the ideal balance between cost-effectiveness and beauty in civic architecture and public spaces? I do not subscribe to the thought that because a building is beautiful [it is] more expensive. I think there are a lot of factors that play into the cost of a project. Sometimes the scope changes, or the duration of the market; some of those projects, when the scope changes, they have to be stopped while we get more funding. Sometimes, those project have gone through the fiscal recession, and when you restart those projects, [Agencies] have to say, "Okay. At that time I was thinking I wanted to do this, and now I'm thinking that I want to do that." Each project is unique, and each cost overrun and late project has its own story, and I wouldn't say that's because these are beautiful projects, or that they're done by a [famous] architect. I would say that they're not necessarily correlated, but again, I haven't done all the research for it. Let's talk about Build it Back. So far, over 1,200 rebuilds have been completed. What's next for the program? Right now, part of our portfolio are three different segments: HPD is doing one group, we are doing one, and "choose your own contractor" is another group. We have around 1,700 homes that we have to elevate, reconstruct, or rebuild. Mayor de Blasio has asked us to finish the program by the end of this year. Right now, 95 to 99 percent of our homes are in design, and we hope that we are going to start the construction phase in the summer to be completed at the end of the fall. What is so important about the Build it Back program, you know, is a lot of people talk about the houses, but I like to refer to the homes. Each one of them has a very personal, different family story. We just finished one in 120 days. The family was expecting a baby, and we wanted to finish the project before she was born. Although Baby Nora came early, it was so rewarding to see that family in that elevated home, that resilient home, that has been restored. This is a story that will repeat 1,000 times, for each family that we are helping. Normally, we work through agencies, and this is the first time we're working directly with New Yorkers. So, it's quite different for us, but very rewarding. What's one piece of advice you'd give to smaller architecture firms who are looking to work with the DDC for the first time? We just went though a competition, and we did this new category called the micro, in which we allowed [firms of] less than five people to propose [projects]. Small firms should never be discouraged if they didn't make the competition that just finished. They should be preparing for the next one that coming in two to three years, and also be looking for other opportunities with the DDC. We also have a stand-alone competition, but the stand-alone usually requires larger firms, so smaller firms should be looking to collaborate with other small firms to create consultant [groups] to be able to work on our projects.
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De Blasio, Schumer Announce A Flood of Cash for Sandy Relief

Seventeen months after Superstorm Sandy pummeled New York City, Mayor de Blasio and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced major changes to the city’s Sandy relief efforts. At an announcement in late March in the Rockaways, Mayor de Blasio said that $100 million of federal money has been reallocated into the city’s Build it Back program, which will help storm victims regardless of their income or priority level. The mayor’s office says that funds from this program are already being sent out. In an effort to further cut red tape, the mayor also announced new staffing and policy changes to accelerate the delivery of resources to those impacted by the storm. “Today’s announcement is a down payment, and I look forward to this administration taking additional steps to ensure Sandy victims who went into their pockets to pay for repairs themselves will be quickly made whole. The De Blasio administration deserves major credit for tackling this problem quickly and making necessary changes to a program that wasn’t working well at all,” said Senator Schumer in a statement.