About Rebuild by Design

Working Together to Build a More Resilient Region

Named first among CNN’s Top 10 Ideas of 2013, Rebuild by Design represents an evolutionary advance in generating resilient solutions for an uncertain future clouded by climate change.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Rebuild by Design gathered the talent of the world and the leadership of the region in an innovative design competition. Placing substantive collaboration between designers, researchers, community members, and government of!cials at the heart of an iterative creative process, Rebuild by Design resulted in ten visionary design proposals that address the intersection of physical, social, and ecological resiliency. Its inclusive process has since provoked a paradigm shift in the way that planners and governments approach both disaster response and emergency preparedness.

In 2014, President Obama launched the National Disaster Resilience Competition “inspired by the success of Rebuild by Design.” The competition’s groundbreaking formula for bringing stakeholders to the heart of effective resilience planning is spreading throughout the country.

Hurricane Sandy Design Competition

“When Hurricane Sandy devastated communities in the region, we were reminded of the importance that climate change will have in all development and planning for our communities to become more resilient and sustainable.”

– Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

2012’s Superstorm Sandy was unlike any other storm seen by the northeast region of the United States. As the second most expensive natural disaster in the country’s history, the cost of resulting damage revealed the true threat that weather events exacerbated by climate change can and will pose. Sandy also marked a new era of public awareness, an understanding that helps us change our practices, thinking, and, ultimately, our way of living to address this new reality. While those affected by the storm, mainly in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, continue to push forward with the recovery process, it is clear that simply rebuilding what existed before would be a misguided approach; in fact, it would be a lost opportunity for building something greater. The impacts of climate change are forcing our developers, policymakers and communities to evolve: a necessary step to ensure that our region remains resilient enough to withstand its uncertain future.

The Rebuild by Design competition, which was named one of CNN’s 10 Best Ideas of 2013, included a year of thoughtful engagement, culminating in the announcement of winning proposals, formed by local coalitions to develop fundable, implementable solutions that will inform new policies on every level. Rebuild by Design and its partners have demonstrated that by working together in this regional design process, we can achieve ambitious, realistic, more resilient standards of development and infrastructure that respond to communities’ needs within a new, changing world.


Promoting Resilience Through Innovative Planning and Design

To address these challenges, U.S. HUD Secretary Donovan launched Rebuild by Design in June 2013 as a multi-stage design competition to develop innovative, implementable proposals that promote resilience in the Sandy-affected region. From 148 international applicants, 10 interdisciplinary teams were selected to participate in Rebuild by Design’s year-long process and competition. These teams were made up of practitioners ranging from architects and landscape-architects to regional and transportation planners, engineers and community organizers. Throughout its initial research, Rebuild by Design brought together the professional talent of the selected design teams with the commitment demonstrated by local groups, government agencies, organized stakeholders, and partner organizations to build a more prepared region.

Read more about the teams

Download the competition brief.


Research and Community Engagement

A Multi-Stage Regional Design Competition

Beginning in August 2013, ten selected design teams embarked upon a stage of intensive, community-based design driven research, analysis and outreach. Teams were guided through a mix of experiences crafted to increase their understanding of the many challenges facing communities in the Sandy-affected region as well as the incredible diversity of those communities. The regional research connected these needs with related requirements for critical infrastructure, ecology and water on the regional scale, while also addressing governance, funding and social issues.

Together, teams met with experts around the region, including government entities, elected officials, issue-based organizations and local groups, and individuals. Teams supplemented those meetings with their own research and expertise. Overall, this process included participation in workshops, forums, and tours throughout the Sandy-affected region.

This research by design and regional experience led to the development of more than 40 design opportunities –sites and concepts for interventions –which were presented to the public and in detail to a jury, the research advisory group, local and federal government agencies, and the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-DR) recipients in late-October 2013. Incorporating feedback from those entities, HUD then selected 10 Opportunities to move forward to develop a proof-of-concept plan, including heavy emphasis on community participation and engagement and with a clear focus on implementation and related costs.

Guided by Rebuild by Design’s partner organizations, the design teams developed and refined their selected ideas into implementable and fundable solutions. Working with and forming coalitions of local stakeholders –including residents, nonprofit organizations, business owners, government and elected officials, and others – to achieve the level of specificity and detail needed to drive their ideas forward. From November 2013 to April of 2014, teams convened over 350 small group meetings and more than 50 community workshops and outreach events throughout New York and New Jersey, to work with the communities and share their proposals with the general public. This process included larger public programs entitled “Scale it Up,” designed to make the teams’ designs and themes of resilience accessible and engaging to all audiences.

Click here to see the outcome of Rebuild by Design’s Research

Meet the Research Advisory Group


Jury Process and Selected Winners

In April 2014, Design Teams publicly showcased their final proposals in person to over a thousand attendees of receptions in New York and New Jersey–and many more virtually through this site. Following these receptions, the teams and their coalitions presented their designs, coalitions, implementation plans and cost benefit analyses to the Rebuild by Design Jury. On June 2, 2014, HUD announced the winning proposals.

Winning design solutions will be implemented using CDBG-DR funding as well as other public and private-sector funding sources.

Meet the Rebuild by Design competition Jury.


Partnerships and Funders

During the competition, Rebuild by Design was guided by four partner organizations:

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge, Municipal Art Society, Regional Plan Association and Van Alen Institute.







Lead support for Rebuild by Design is graciously provided the Rockefeller Foundation. Additional support during the Hurricane Sandy Design Competition came from Deutsche Bank, Hearst Foundation, the JPB Foundation, Surdna Foundation, and the New Jersey Recovery Fund.





Meet Our Team

Henk Ovink, Principal of Rebuild by Design

Henk Ovink was recently appointed by the Dutch Cabinet as the first Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. “Worldwide, water is the connecting issue, the number one global risk and the opportunity for comprehensive cultural change.” Ovink is Principal of 'Rebuild by Design’ and was Senior Advisor to the former US Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task. He was both Acting Director General of Spatial Planning and Water Affairs and Director National Spatial Planning for the Netherlands.

Ovink is member of the International Advisory Board for the City of Rotterdam. He was Curator for the 5th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2012 ‘Making City’ and initiated the research program Design and Politics, the connecting chair at the TU Delft and initiated and is chief editor for the series of publications with nai010 Publishers, called ‘Design and Politics’.

Amy Chester, Managing Director

Amy Chester is responsible for Rebuild by Design’s day to day operations, management, fundraising, and strategy. She brings considerable experience from numerous arenas of urban affairs, including community engagement, policy, communications, and real estate development.

In her previous work under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor for Legislative Affairs and as a Senior Policy Advisor, she was responsible for the public engagement strategy of PlaNYC, the Mayor’s sustainability agenda, which included initiatives such as the Million Trees Campaign, congestion pricing, and the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. Other experiences in New York City government have included positions at the New York City Council, where she successfully ensured the inclusion of affordable housing in large-scale neighborhood rezonings, and at the New York City Housing Authority, where she developed affordable housing and a charter school for Harlem Children’s Zone.

Outside of government, Amy has also consulted for numerous nonprofit organizations and on many electoral campaigns. At the Freelancers Union, she was responsible for the design and construction of two medical practices. As the lead organizer for Listening to the City, she led the way for a democratic process to help plan the World Trade Center site redevelopment.

Amy was raised and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Nupur Chaudhury, Senior Project Manager

Nupur Chaudhury ensuring that the ideas generated during the Rebuild by Design competition continue to be cultivated, and that community stakeholders remain engaged as implementation goes forward.

Nupur has worked at the nexus of urban planning and public health with projects in Ecuador, India, and Brooklyn, with organizations such as the Clinton Foundation, UNICEF, UN-Habitat, the InterAmerican Development Bank, Community Solutions, and New York City’s Department of City Planning. Her interests lie in bridging city agencies and professionals in the fields of urban planning and public health to facilitate changes that improve health outcomes.

Nupur received her BA in the Growth and Structure of Cities from Bryn Mawr College, her Masters in Urban Planning from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service in 2009, and her Masters in Public Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in 2010. She was awarded the Indicorps Fellowship in 2005.

Nupur serves on the board of University of Orange, a free “people’s university,” and on the board of Made In Brownsville, an initiative that fosters creativity in under-served youth in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and is a founding member of Subcontinental Drift NYC. She loves gardening and dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Lynn Englum, Policy Manager

Lynn Englum is Rebuild by Design’s policy manager. Her work focuses on identifying and addressing policy barriers to resiliency implementation and working to promote governance structures and regional coordination that allow communities to better prepare for a changing climate.

Previously, Lynn worked at the World Wildlife Fund, focusing on climate change, renewable energy, resiliency, and cities. Lynn's commentary has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, Climate Progress, and Sustainable Cities Collective. Lynn started her climate career at the Center for American Progress, researching climate and energy. She received her MA in Global Environmental Politics from American University and her BS in Public Affairs & Environmental Management from Indiana University.

Lynn is a cycling enthusiast who enjoys long bike rides and not getting hit by NYC drivers.

Tara Eisenberg, Research Manager

Tara Eisenberg coordinates Rebuild by Design’s ongoing research projects, facilitating a longitudinal survey of coastal unbuilding, the formation of an international resiliency network, and more. Tara joined Rebuild by Design in 2013 through NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge to support and develop the competition’s research stage.

Tara is a lifelong New Yorker and studied at NYU for both her BS and MA degrees. Formally, her studies have spanned the course of art, mathematics, and environmental education; informally, she is an expert at connecting people, places, talents, and research. Tara is passionate about environmental design, having worked in the green building sector prior to joining Rebuild by Design. She believes collective action and education are key components to responding to our changing climate. You can usually find Tara riding her bike around Brooklyn or chopping vegetables.

Josh Bisker, Communications Manager

Josh Bisker is Rebuild by Design’s communications manager. Before joining Rebuild by Design, Josh participated in its community design workshops, sharing his perspective as a volunteer responder after Hurricane Sandy. During the period following the storm, he had organized a prolonged bicycle-based relief initiative, worked with Occupy Sandy in the Rockaways, and captained NYU’s local response initiative in Greenwich Village.

Prior to Rebuild by Design, Josh worked for the NYU Office of Government and Community Affairs, and occupied various roles in the publishing industry. An ardent bicycle activist and advocate for equitable transportation, he organizes with the international Bike Collectives Network and the NYC-based organization Right of Way. He is also a performance artist, co-captaining the Super Fun Variety Show and appearing as part of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus.

He is currently working toward a master's degree in urban planning at the NYU Wagner School of Public Service.

Juliet Gore, Project Assistant

In addition to all administrative duties, Juliet handles all office logistics and coordinates a wide range of essential tasks for Rebuild by Design. Juliet provides general support to senior staff and helps with additional projects as well.

Juliet earned her BA in Liberal Arts from Franklin and Marshall College, majoring in Sociology with emphasis on urban planning. She is passionate about regional planning and sustainable development- key elements of her senior thesis, “Planning in Response to Natural Disasters: A Case Study of Hurricane Sandy and New York.”

Juliet’s recent work experience was at Regional Plan Association (RPA) in New York as a Project Intern. At RPA, she was actively engaged in developing a comprehensive progress report for the BGreen 2020 Sustainability Plan for Bridgeport, CT- published in November, 2013. In the summer of 2012, Juliet worked in the District Office of Congresswoman Nita Lowey as a Congressional Intern.

As she continues to work for Rebuild by Design, Juliet plans to pursue a master's degree in urban planning. In her free time, Juliet enjoys reading Eric Larson books and spending time outside.

Eric Klinenberg, Research Director

Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge leads Rebuild by Design’s research as principal investigator. Dr. Klinenberg is also editor of the journal Public Culture, and an affiliated faculty member of the Wagner School of Public Service and the Department of Media, Culture, and Communications.

Klinenberg has been studying cities and climate change since the 1990s, when he conducted research for his first book, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. In 2013, he authored the influential article “Adaptation: Can Cities Be Climate-Proofed” in The New Yorker, and since Sandy he has organized a series of public events around Sandy, Climate Change, and the Future of New York City.

Daniel Aldana Cohen, Research Assistant

As a research assistant, Daniel is working with the research team to shape and direct the International Resiliency Group. Daniel Aldana Cohen is a PhD candidate in sociology at New York University, where he studies the interplay of climate politics and social movement protest in global cities, especially São Paulo and New York. Recent work has recently appeared in The Journal of World-Systems Research, Public Books, NACLA, and the Center for Humans and Nature. Daniel co-founded the Superstorm Research Lab; he has written for and co-edited the Social Science Research Council’s Possible Futures online magazine and served as assistant editor for Public Culture. He is a co-editor of Notes From Canada's Young Activists (Greystone, 2007).

Liz Koslov, Research Assistant

Liz Koslov is a PhD candidate in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. Her research interests include housing and relocation, urban redevelopment, and the sociology of climate change. She is currently working on her dissertation, an ethnography of the home buyout process on Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy. As a research assistant with Rebuild By Design, Liz is helping to develop a survey that will track the long-term social, economic, and health outcomes of post-Sandy relocation and rebuilding in New York and New Jersey. Liz is also a member of the Superstorm Research Lab and the Cities, Culture, and Climate Change working group at NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge. Before coming to NYU, Liz received an MSc in Culture and Society from the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics and a BA in Communication and Spanish and Latin American Literature from the George Washington University. In her free time, she enjoys cheering on the Mets, reading crime fiction, and searching for Staten Island's best pizza.

Gordon Douglas, Postdoctoral Fellow

As the Rebuild by Design Postdoctoral Research Fellow at NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge, Gordon is conducting fieldwork in two communities severely flooded during Hurricane Sandy, examining the storm's impact on community identity. He is also collaborating on a study of social inequalities of climate vulnerability, and helping to design a longitudinal study of attitudes toward climate change and resilience efforts throughout the Sandy-affected region.

Gordon received his PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago in 2014. With research focused on local cultural identity, urban and environmental planning and development, and people's interactions with their physical surroundings, Gordon's writing and photography have appeared in Architect Magazine, City & Community, Urban Studies, the Journal of Urban Design, and other publications. His forthcoming book concerns people who create unauthorized but functional and civic-minded "DIY urban design" contributions and what these informal improvement efforts tell us about the state of the contemporary city.

Priya Mulgaonkar, Research Assistant

Priya Mulgaonkar is a Research Assistant for the study on managed retreat in Staten Island, Long Island and New Jersey. She is an 4th year undergraduate at NYU studying Sociology, Environmental Studies and French. She wants to understand the role of grassroots volunteerism in climate resiliency and devise ways to make the climate justice movement more inclusive. When she isn't reading about social injustice and climate change or organizing for NYU's Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign, she's usually baking bread, cruising around on her bike, or frustratedly trying to teach herself the electric bass.