MIT CAU + ZUS + URBANISTEN with Deltares; 75B; and Volker Infra Design


The team of MIT CAU + ZUS + Urbanisten proposes a grouping of resiliency districts at the edges of the flood zones of the metro area of NY-NJ. Each resiliency district will have its own layered approach that combines emergency infrastructure, evacuation capacity, ecological protection/absorption landscape infrastructure; as well as a development mix of light manufacturing/warehousing with residential. Every dollar of federal investment should help address a wide portfolio of risks – storm surge, rainwater events, and heat islands; and cover a spectrum of vulnerabilities – economic, social, and pollution.

Combining geo-referenced data on both risk and vulnerability spectra, we conclude that crucial investments are at river deltas, where rising seawater can penetrate inward and urban stormwater flows outward. Most importantly, the low-lying flood zones of these deltas contain, almost without exception, a disturbing combination of critical infrastructures, polluted land and compromised ecosystem services, and vulnerable neighborhoods. The densest juxtapositions can be found in the metropolitan area of NY-NJ. Roughly 2.5 million people live in the flood zone in New York City /Greater Jersey Area. Roughly 66% of the most vulnerable populations (2.5 Standard deviations from the mean) live 1/2 mile from the FEMA Flood Zone. About 29% of the most vulnerable populations (2.5 Standard deviations from the mean) live in the FEMA Flood Zones. 39 of the 52 liquid fuel storage terminals in the NY/NJ area are located within the flood plain and these contain 80% of the total area fuel. 75% of the net annual generation comes from 27 power stations that are in flood zones.

Across the metro area we have identified crucial flood zone landscapes whose performance and ecosystem dynamics have been lost over time due to development pressures. These landscapes are in the Meadowlands (NJ), the western edge of the Hudson river (NJ), parts of lower Manhattan (NY), and the creeks of Brooklyn/Bronx (NY).

One million new inhabitants are projected to join the metropolitan area over the next decade. While it makes sense from an energy and sustainability point of view to invite them to join the urban compact zones, locating them in the few remaining open low-lying areas without major upgrades to its design and performance is not an intelligent choice.

For the MIT team, Professors D’Hooghe, Alan Berger, Sarah Williams and James Wescoat have contributed to this report. For ZUS, Kristian Koreman, Elma van Boxel an for De Urbanisten Florian Boer and Dirk van Peijpe contributed. Graphic support comes from 75B, eco-engineering knowledge from Deltares and infra intelligence from Volker Infra Design.

View the team’s latest project updates on their finalist page.

Winning Proposal

Finalist Proposal

Other Proposals by MIT CAU + ZUS + URBANISTEN