The New Jersey coast is one of the country’s most iconic places, full of natural beauty and human-made attractions that draw millions of visitors every year. But as Hurricane Sandy illustrated all too well, the natural and human-made amenities that make the coast great are highly vulnerable to extreme weather events.
But New Jersey’s beaches are vulnerable to another form of erosion, namely, the erosion of the public’s right to access and enjoy them. Access to New Jersey’s beaches is protected by the Public Trust Doctrine, which states that “the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea” are common, and that “no one, therefore, is forbidden to approach the seashore.” But despite the Public Trust Doctrine and the courts’ unambiguous rulings affirming it, on a day-to-day level, “unimpeded beach access” remains something of a phantom. Towns refrain from building paths, parking lots, and bathrooms, adopt restrictive parking regulations and residential parking permit programs, and only reluctantly penalize private interests from encroaching on the beach. Homeowners, for their part, post phony “private beach” signs, bark at people to get off “their” property, and even disguise access points as front yards. And the different beach badges that all but a handful of New Jersey towns require fragment the beach, and undermine one’s ability to walk up and down it.
For this design opportunity, we propose to create “The Coastline,” a continuous, maximally accessible coastal trail that would extend from Cape May to Sandy Hook. Adapting to local conditions, the trail would double as a protective barrier in the form of protective boardwalks, seawalls, and sand carpets. Here we demonstrate how a range of high-density cities, medium density suburban communities, and undeveloped environments can leverage coastal trail to create a more attractive, more accessible, and more resilient beachfront.
As a means of increasing housing options in high and dry, high income, high opportunity areas for lowlanders displaced from the storm, we propose to take advantage of outstanding affordable housing obligations in maximum opportunity areas along the coast by building affordable housing units in superfluous parking lots near public transportation stops.
Download the boards presented by Interboro Team in 2013.