Suzanne DiGeronimo, FAIA, On Super Storm Sandy

October 29, 2019

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Suzanne DiGeronimo, FAIA, On Super Storm Sandy







Who can forget Super Storm Sandy, seven years ago October 29, 2012?  It was a storm surge convergence of three environmental effects, low pressure, high tide, and a full moon.  Storm surge whips up sea volume off coast, so the 14-foot-high tides created flooding no one in our region had planned nor anticipated.  Super Storm Sandy was not even of a magnitude to be categorized as a ‘hurricane;’ which would have added high winds and rain to the disastrous event. 


Storm surge is a separate phenomenon from sea level rise.  Sea level rise is the slow but insidious march of sea level, higher and higher.  Sea Level rise is caused by Artic and Antarctic ice melting, by lower temperatures of sea water.  Scientists discuss a variety of theories as to the amount of sea level rise, we’ll all experience within 10 years, 50 years, 100 years.  Scientists all have agreed however, that seas are rising. 


My firm completed two projects, one with NJ and another with NYC funded by HUD Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) where my firm elevates 900 homes along the Jersey Shore, Brooklyn and Queens.  In Brooklyn’s blocks and blocks of single-family row houses, only a few homeowners qualified.  Not a design issue – first floors become garages, kitchen / living rooms are where bedrooms formerly existed, and a bedroom addition tops the roof.  Homes so elevated would look like a tooth sticking up along the rows.  That house elevation cost is about $1M.  However, a sea gate at the inlet where the water entered would cost $250,000 and protect the entire Brooklyn neighborhood.  I think we can do this better.    


I am a volunteer member of the Storm Surge Working Group, a group of stakeholders dedicated to the premise that the protection of the greater Metropolitan Region against catastrophic flooding from ocean storm surges, climate change, and rising sea levels can best be secured by a regional approach that transcends geographic and political boundaries.  We advocate for a system of outer regional gates in conjunction with (low) land-based barriers as part of layered protection against flooding from storm surge and sea level rise.


US Army Corps of Engineers NY District is conducting the NY NJ Harbor and Tributaries Study (HATS) evaluating six alternatives to protect against floor risk along with preliminary costs, benefits, and environmental considerations.  Alternative Two considers a gate between Sandy Hook NJ and Breezy Point NY, gates at East Rockaway inlet, Jones inlet, and north at the East River.  Only alternative two protects NJ communities in along the Raritan Bay, Sandy Hook Bay, and along the Raritan River Two Rivers area.  USACE has published an Interim Report.  


US Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District is conducting the NJ Back Bays Study (NJBB) to protect the NJ shore with a system of sea walls, dunes, and gates.  USACE has published an Interim Report.


Get involved!!  Stay involved!!  Provide feedback on the findings and assumptions and inform investigations for the next phase of study.  Expert architects needed.    

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