The initiative will use waterfront infrastructure such as berms, breakwaters, marshes and wetlands. There will also be a public beach.
As sea levels rise, a development in New York is aiming to set a higher standard for urban waterfront resilience and transform residents’ relationship with the river.
Real estate development firm Two Trees Management has unveiled plans for River Street, a mixed-use initiative with an “unprecedented” resilient waterfront park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The River Street Waterfront plan, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and James Corner, Field Operations, will create 2.9 acres of public open space and another three acres of protected in-water access, including natural habitat.
Rather than building walls and hard surfaces, the River Street plan uses waterfront infrastructure such as berms, breakwaters, marshes and wetlands. These are designed to increase resilience by taking the energy out of storm surges, reducing flooding, providing more room to absorb water and slow down its retreat, and cutting erosion risk.
The plan, to be built on a site formerly used by utility company Con Edison to store oil tanks, also includes a new tidal basin which is capable of holding four million gallons of water and designed to flood, mitigating damage from receding waters.
“Elevating the standard for coastal resiliency in the region, the River Street plan is a breakthrough in urban, resilient development which honours Two Trees’ commitment to cultivating dynamic, community-centred neighbourhoods,” said Jed Walentas, principal of Two Trees Management. “In the wake of [Hurricane] Sandy, this project will mitigate the potential impact from future storms while transforming New Yorkers’ relationship with the water through wading, boating and other waterfront activities."
Two Trees Management says it wants to raise the bar on resilient design, privately funded infrastructure and integration of community priorities.
The designers say they have taken inspiration from models used in places like the Netherlands.
Dirk Sijmons, founder of H+N+S Landscape Architects, emeritus professor, Landscape Architecture at TU-Delft, and state advisor on Landscape and Urbanism of the Netherlands, said, “Delta and coastal cities nowadays have to face the new normal. What used to be an uncomplicated water edge is turning into the new frontier when it comes to protecting city and hinterland against the rising sea level and increased discharges of rivers. One of the more interesting ways to do so is putting up a forward defence to create a zone where wave attack will be mitigated.
"The River Street project produces an elegant twinning of water safety, marine ecology and the social ecology of the community by using formative natural processes such as reef-building, oyster banks and salt marshes, showing that natural techniques can be the civil engineering of the future."
The masterplan includes two BIG-designed mixed-use buildings with 1,000 units of housing, 250 of which will be below-market-rate; a 47,000-square-foot YMCA; 30,000 square feet of neighbourhood retail space; and 57,000 square feet for office space.
The project’s public spaces, which have been designed with community input, will introduce a public beach and water areas for activities such as boating, fishing, tide pool exploration and, in the future, swimming.
Michael Berkowitz, president of 100 Resilient Cities, the Rockefeller Foundation’s global climate-resilience initiative, said: “As cities all over the world contemplate redeveloping industrial waterfronts with an eye towards increased access, they are also designing for storm surge and sea-level rise. The River Street project can serve as an example of how designers, developers and cities can realise this resilience dividend of better public space and protection against climate change.”
The River Street project can serve as an example of how designers, developers and cities can realise this resilience dividend of better public space and protection against climate change.
Two Trees also developed nearby Domino Park, a privately funded public space which also features resilient design and claims to unlock space previously inaccessible to the Williamsburg community for over a century. The addition of River Street will create a stretch of continuous waterfront public space along the North Brooklyn Waterfront.
In its fifth assessment report in 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said that the continued warming of the planet, without major reductions in emissions, would see global waters rising by between 52cm and 98cm by 2100. Some experts believe this is a conservative estimate.
You might also like: