LIVING WITH THE MARSH: OPTIONS FOR STATEN ISLAND’S EASTERN SHORE

Interboro Team
New York

Less than four months after Hurricane Sandy devastated New York, Governor Cuomo announced an ambitious new home buyout program: homes destroyed or heavily damaged by the storm could be sold to the government at 100 percent of their pre-storm value. Calls for “managed retreat” are usually political non-starters, but in the tight-knit, blue-collar, Staten Island community of Oakwood Beach, 170 of 184 Oakwood Beach homeowners registered to be bought out pretty much immediately.

Why? A community of modest bungalows built on a highly vulnerable marshland, Oakwood Beach was extremely vulnerable, and had recently been devastated by a nor’easter, a marsh fire, and another hurricane. And indeed the Governor’s deal was generous. But one reason that has been overlooked has to do with the fact that the residents had a say in determining what would happen to Oakwood Beach once they left it behind. Dismayed at the prospect of the land being redeveloped, homeowners put pressure on the Governor to promise that the land would be turned into open space.

For this design opportunity, we first of all propose to capitalize on this opportunity by designing a park in post-occupancy Oakwood Beach that could be a model for what to do with land that communities leave behind. Our hope is that if planned and designed properly, such a park could change the conversation about “managed retreat,” and incentivize other vulnerable communities to collectively retreat too.

Our proposed Oakwood Beach Park proposes to:

●      closely involve former residents of Oakwood Beach in its planning and design

●      grant former residents of Oakwood Beach an easement that allows them to lightly occupy designated areas

●      be a highly accessible, attractive regional amenity

The second component of our plan is a menu of protect, adapt, and retreat options for other communities on Staten Island’s Eastern Shore. This includes:

●      a “cut and fill” project that would elevate homes on fill from an on-site excavation that could simultaneously contribute to the restoration of the tidal marsh and the health of the Lower Bay

●      a protective berm around the Oakwood Beach Water Pollution Control Plant that doubles as a recreational amenity

Download the boards presented by Interboro Team in 2013.

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