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EVENT RECAP | Resilience & Infrastructure – Planning Today Securing Tomorrow

November 23rd, 2016

Featured Author

Rhonda Cardone

Marketing Director, NY

Dewberry

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As resilience is still a hot topic in our region since Superstorm Sandy hit the New York/ New Jersey area in October of 2012, SMPS-NY hosted a panel discussion at the City University of New York Graduate Center November 15, 2016 to hear from a few of our area’s experts on how their corresponding agencies are addressing concerns of Planning Today and Securing Tomorrow in terms of Resilience and its impact on Infrastructure.

So…where are we in resilient rebuilding in the New York/New Jersey region? Importantly, how are our communities planning for future disasters?

MEET THE PANEL

Moderater William (Bill) Kenworthey, AIA Partner at Cooper Robertson asked pointed questions of the four panelists. Each offered their viewpoint based on the clients they serve.

Susanne E. DesRoches, LEED AP, Deputy Director for Policy Infrastructure with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency discussed the NYC Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. This task force is one of the 127 initiatives proposed in PlaNYC. A combination of City and State agencies, authorities and private companies, the task force is part of the City’s long-term sustainability plan to protect infrastructure from the impacts of climate change.

Dan Petroff, Chief of Strategy and Business Development at Dormitory of the State of New York (DASNY), gave an overview of DASNY and how they are responding to the impact of Superstorm Sandy on its critical assets. DASNY oversees higher education and healthcare facilities as well as other infrastructure including dams. DASNY was at the forefront of managing assessments and addressing resilience plans for its facilities following Superstorm Sandy. DASNY and the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery are partnering on more than 60 projects valued at $166 million.

Joe Simenic, Program Director for Storm Mitigation and Resilience Office with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ) concentrated on the New York and New Jersey region where their concerns are focused on protection of their assets, managing risks and how these issues affect the their planning. PANYNJ established a Storm Mitigation and Resilience Office to coordinate repairs to its infrastructure and prepare its critical facilities for disasters in the future.

Claudia Herasme, Deputy Director of the Urban Design Office with the Department of City Planning (DCP), gave an overview of how communities have been affected and what DCP is planning to do to make positive improvements with and within communities. The City is conducting citywide and area-specific studies to increase resilience to flooding and facilitate the recovery efforts.

PANEL COMMENTARY

Claudia’s overall comments pertained to efforts at the community level. She was clear that much of the resilience programs are planned not only to rebuild and protect from future disasters but to incorporate elements in the planning and design efforts that add quality of life, well-being and an increase in economic growth to the communities impacted by Superstorm Sandy.

A significant part of the planning is on green solutions in community rebuilding by incorporating parks, plazas, walkable streetscapes, bikepaths, growth near transit and alternatives for stormwater management such as green infrastructure. The City is also focusing on energy efficient buildings to reduce energy consumption.

Joe highlighted projects representative of successful programs. These communities include Hoboken and Meadowlands, New Jersey and Red Hook, New York.

Ozlen Ozkurt, PE, PhD, CFM, Department Manager for Water and Resilience in Dewberry’s NYC office, in attendance at the program, is working with her team on Rebuild by Design: Resist, Delay, Store, Discharge Project Hoboken, Weekhawken, & Jersey City, New Jersey. The team is also working with Bill and his colleagues at Cooper Robertson on the Red Hook Integrated Flood Protection System Feasibility Study to develop solutions for these communities to meet their resilience needs.

Through collaborative partnerships between state, local and federal agencies, infrastructure such as schools and hospitals as well as transportation systems are being revitalized.

resiliency-panel

A huge take-away from our experience with Superstorm Sandy, was that emergency power is critical during disasters. Our dependence on power spans the spectrum of convenience to life threatening. Dan mentioned DASNY’s efforts to incorporate alternate energy backup into their planning. Working with utility companies, several agencies are using mapping and grid designs that distribute energy sources in parallel with and independent from the main power grid in case of future blackouts.

“How are agencies working together across the region?” All agreed that there are national task forces where resiliency representatives come together. Entities such as the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) facilitate regional discussions, however most resiliency decisions are pushed down to the state and local levels.

Going forward, it is apparent that we should be cognizant of the effects of climate change and extreme heat. Based on the recent comments from the presidential candidates, the panel was asked in their view, “Is climate change real?” Dan’s response was “Yes it is…reality wins”.

The panelists were asked “What is on your wish list?” Responses included: expediting the environmental review process quicker and certainty with federal funding.

So, my question was: “Is resilience here to stay?” A unified response from the panelists was “YES”.

As an add-on to the panel discussion: According to FEMA – New York Sandy Recovery, “since the storm hit, FEMA’s Public Assistance program has funded 4,127 project worksheets totaling nearly $9.8 billion to help restore critical infrastructure. $3 billion—has been dedicated to mitigation measures to reduce the impact of severe storms”. These numbers are rapidly changing as this is an on-going process.

Superstorm Sandy devastated the NY/NJ regional area October 2012. Agencies throughout our region mobilized. As an example, FEMA and its state and federal partners deployed nearly 8,000 personnel at the beginning of the disaster. More than 40 federal agencies participated in the response. The Air Force flew power company trucks from California. The Army Corps of Engineers installed 211 generators at vital facilities and pumped out subways and tunnels. Nearly 1,200 FEMA specialists went door-to-door in affected neighborhoods. These efforts supported the robust response of city, county and state officials, along with numerous volunteer organizations.
–FEMA, New York Sandy Recovery.

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