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AIA Offers Post Sandy Redevelopment Tips
May 13th, 2013
By Rayna Katz

NEW YORK CITY-Culling input from the city’s design community, the American Institute of Architects New York chapter announced on Thursday that it had issued a report detailing short-, medium-, and long-term options for rebuilding efforts and preparing the city for future storms. The “Post-Sandy Initiative” report examines the hurricane’s effects on buildings, neighborhoods, and the region, and offers next steps to support stakeholders in smarter rebuilding, the announcement states.

In the days after Hurricane Sandy, AIANY brought together the chairs of its 12 most relevant committees to discuss how the organization could assist the city in preparing for future disasters. Soon after, AIANY reached out to others in the city’s design community to collaborate on the Post-Sandy Initiative. The organizations involved include the American Council of Engineering Companies, American Planning Association New York Metro Chapter, American Society of Landscape Architects New York Chapter, Citizens Housing & Planning Council, New York State Association for Affordable Housing, Regional Plan Association and Structural Engineers Association of New York.

“Superstorm Sandy resulted from the confluence of several unique circumstances,” notes Lance Jay Brown, co-chair of AIANY’s design for risk and reconstruction committee, who oversaw the Post-Sandy Initiative. “We need to learn from that in order to address other threatening factors that may emerge from the next storms.”

According to the announcement, some of the report’s key proposals—geared for design professionals, the real estate community, institutional leaders, and policymakers—address transportation and infrastructure; housing; critical and commercial buildings; and waterfront development.

In transportation, experts were advised to identify strategies for the redundancy and resiliency of transportation systems and infrastructure at the greatest risk; improve interagency and interstate communications and inform residents about backup plans for transportation, power, fuel, and locations for assistance.

On housing, AIA advised officials to work with FEMA and National Flood Insurance Programs to create a multifamily design guide and adjust zoning regulations to account for new flood maps. In terms of what AIA calls “critical and commercial buildings,” it advised that existing critical buildings in harm’s way “that cannot be hardened” be replaced, except for those with historic or cultural significance and it suggested the development of regional protective systems that either enhance, or eliminate the need for, individual building responses.

Finally, on the waterfront, AIA suggests the development of “ground-up, incremental approach to waterfront resiliency that, in part, includes giving property owners with a menu of strategies; and it proposed creating waterfront labs to investigate strategies that could mitigate storm surge and prevent erosion.

Adding AIANY chapter president Jill Lerner, “Moderating past mistakes through careful planning, becoming more energy independent, and requiring sustainable design and construction practices will help reverse the vulnerability New York City has inherited from centuries of misguided development. AIANY looks forward to debating the ideas in this report with policymakers and New Yorkers who will benefit from a rich conversation about protecting our city.”