United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Governor Phil Murphy, legislators, and local officials broke ground on the Rebuild by Design Hudson River Project in Hoboken this week.
The resilient infrastructure project, made possible by $230 million in Superstorm Sandy recovery funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, aims to protect Hoboken and portions of Jersey City and Weehawken from storm surge flooding and rising sea-level threats posed by climate change.
Murphy and Fudge celebrated the groundbreaking alongside several federal, state, and local partners, including U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Congressman Albio Sires, Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Shawn LaTourette, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, and former Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
“Superstorm Sandy devastated communities throughout the tristate region,” said Fudge. “We needed bold action to rebuild and prevent damage from future natural disasters. I am proud to join Governor Murphy in this groundbreaking, made possible by a partnership between local, state, and federal government. This site is an example of the powerful promise of investing in our infrastructure to ensure more resilient and prosperous communities for generations to come.”
“Our partnership with both the federal and local government to build a stronger and more resilient future for New Jersey’s waterfront communities is transformational,” said Murphy. “The comprehensive and innovative Rebuild by Design infrastructure project will mitigate the range of weaknesses along the Hudson River exposed by Superstorm Sandy and provide a suite of innovative solutions to address sea-level rise. Smart, future-focused infrastructure that will make our communities more resilient from the adverse effects of climate change, while creating good-paying jobs, is the future of American infrastructure.”
Years in the making
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development authorized funding for the project in 2014 as part of a design competition that followed widespread flooding from Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
The storm transformed Hoboken into an “island unto itself” with portions of the city under seven feet of water and residents stranded without electricity, heat, and clean water.
The project which aims to protect against future storm events consists of four integrated components—resist, delay, store, and discharge.
They include a combination of hard infrastructure and soft landscaping to defend against storm surge and flooding, interconnected infrastructure to store and control stormwater runoff, and water pumps and other drainage projects to support controlled drainage during and after storms.
The groundbreaking comes after years of diligent work by the NJ DEP, local planners, and residents who participated in public community meetings, stakeholder meetings, workshops, and surveys.
It represents the start of construction on the first phase of the project, a $5.26 million investment in modifications that include much-needed upgrades to portions of Hoboken’s aging infrastructure.
This work will convert portions of the area’s combined sewer system into separate sanitary and stormwater lines.
Construction will begin at 20 downtown locations, 14 of which will be conducted overnight, spanning over a roughly seven-month period from the border of New Jersey Transit rail lines north to roughly Third Street. This work will pave the way for the installation of flood-risk reduction infrastructure.
This infrastructure includes hard structures such as an 8,846-foot resist barrier or floodwall from grade level up to 11 feet in some places, deployable gates, and subsurface foundations as well as landscape architecture elements and a new park in northern Hoboken along the waterfront.
The resist structure will be primarily in southern and northern Hoboken.
The southern barrier would begin on the east side of Washington Street at Newark Street and extend south toward Observer Highway. The barrier would begin at about grade level before climbing to about six feet near the intersection of Washington Street and Observer Highway.
At Washington and Observer, a rolling gate would be deployed to block the street during a storm surge. The barrier would cross onto NJ Transit property behind the NJ Transit pump house and extend west out of public view. It would then reemerge on Observer Highway at about 11 feet high in front of the NJ Transit engine house.
From there, the barrier would continue west along the southern portion of the Observer Highway bike lane in front of the engine house before once again turning onto NJ Transit property, where it will continue toward Marin Boulevard.
The northern barrier will extend from 19th Street in Weehawken past Weehawken Cove through what will be Hoboken Cove Park to 15th and Garden Street.
It then will run along Garden Street to the alleyway between 14th and 15th streets and then turn right on Washington Street before stopping at 13th Street.
The resist structure will be built from ground level near 13th Street to over six feet high near Garden and 15th streets.
Construction of the resist structure is scheduled to start in early 2022.
Originally, the project had a completion deadline of September 2022, which the team would have to meet in order to receive the $230 million in relief funds.
Last year, the funding deadline was extended until September 2023, but, according to Dennis Reinknecht of the Office of Flood Hazard Risk Reduction Measures for the NJ DEP, the DEP seeks a deadline extension of two more years to complete the project by the end of 2025.
“Climate change is not some far off prospect; it is here now, and its impacts on New Jersey communities will only worsen,” said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette. “The Rebuild-by-Design Hudson River Project is an innovative investment in New Jersey’s infrastructure and an example of the climate resilience engineering that will help protect New Jersey from climate threats. Once fully complete, RBD-Hudson River will protect lives, property and infrastructure along the Hudson River, and represents just one of many nation-leading efforts that New Jersey is undertaking to reduce and respond to climate change.”
A model of resilience
“Help is finally here for Hoboken in our effort to substantially reduce flood risk with today’s historic groundbreaking of Rebuild by Design,” said Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “This project will now serve as a model for the rest of the country, integrating proven resiliency features with community amenities and a park that will help prevent storm surge from breaching our community, like it did during Superstorm Sandy. I’m very grateful to our partners in government at the federal, state and local levels for their steadfast commitment to helping Hoboken adapt to climate change, and look forward to the project’s completion in the years ahead.”
Said Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, “Now we are beginning! This has been an extremely complicated and, at times a difficult process. I want to thank all those involved in this tremendous undertaking. I look forward to its competition for the safety of Weehawken, Hoboken and Jersey City residents. “