In the Wake of Hurricane Sandy, Design a More Resilient Rockaway

Rockaway, Queens, a low-lying area in New York City, was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, so a fascinating new design competition seeks to create a more resilient and sustainable form of development for this vulnerable area, and, really, others like it in New York City and other coastal cities. FAR ROC [For a Resilient Rockaway] is a design competition that will delve into “innovative strategies for the planning, design and construction” of a more resilient place at Arverne East, an 80+ acre site on the Rockaway Peninsula. Their ambitious goal: new best practices for development in waterfront areas.

The conference organizers, which include the NYC Department of Housing and Development, AIA NY, and others, write that finding a new approach will be tricky, given many argue that some flood-prone areas should really be left undeveloped. “Costly damage to buildings, roads, and utility systems by the storm raises the controversial question of whether areas of particular geographic vulnerability should be rebuilt, maintained and defended, or simply abandoned.”

Averne Avenue is located in FEMA Special Flood Hazard Area Zone A section of the Rockaways, a place that “experienced significant storm surge inundation” during the storm. Within the 80+ acre location at Averne East, the jury will be looking for imaginative yet practical designs for a “comprehensive, mixed-use, mixed-income, sustainable and storm-resilient community that will meet the new physical and regulatory challenges of waterfront development while maintaining a balance between innovation and affordability. Proposed solutions should promote new housing, employment, and recreational opportunities for area residents and visitors from throughout the region.”

To be specific, landscape architects and other design professionals proposing new design solutions will need to work with 1,500 units of housing, with a mix of low to mid-rise buildings; up to 500,000 square feet of commercial / recreational space; a 35 acre nature preserve; a 9 acre dune preserve; and 3.3 acres minimum of active and/or passive open space.

They add: “The project must incorporate all new infrastructure [roadways, water mains, sanitary and storm sewers, utilities, smart grids, etc.] and both active and passive landscaped open space on the site bordering the Atlantic Ocean waterfront. Proposals should emphasize sustainability and resiliency but present a quality, marketable, and constructable project.”

Once submissions are received, the jury, which includes landscape architect and ecologist Alex Felson, ASLA, will select four finalists. These finalists will each be provided with $30,000 to further flush out their concepts. The winner, who will be announced before the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, will receive an additional $30,000.

Submit your concepts by June 14.

Another design competition worth exploring: Washington, D.C.’s water utility, DC Water, just launched a $1 million green infrastructure competition to help the District fix its combined sewer overflow (CSO) problems. Green infrastructure projects can include green roofs, rain gardens, rain barrels, and pervious pavements, removing impervious surfaces, and using other natural means to capture and infiltrate rain water. They are targeting the Potomac and Rock Creek drainage areas in D.C.

They write: “This challenge will serve as a model to support DC Water’s proposal to conduct a large-scale, multi-million dollar demonstration project in the Potomac and Rock Creek sewersheds” and also help them “evaluate the feasibility of using green practices, in place of or in conjunction with ‘gray’ engineering solutions.”

Image credit: Rockaway, Queens / FAR ROC

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