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The Resilient Mile

Photo credit: Nesster;;
Photo credit: Nesster

When I was growing up in suburban New Jersey, Hoboken was the Miracle Mile.

It was known for having a bar on every corner and being the birthplace of Frank Sinatra. As a teen you traveled through Hoboken sitting on the rattan seats of the Erie Lackawanna then quickly transferred to the Path Train in the decrepit station on the edge of the Hudson River to get where you really wanted to be – New York City.

Today Hoboken is a proud place, a destination in its own right. Many young families choose Hoboken for its schools and amenities. And now it has achieved a remarkable new distinction by becoming only the second city in the United States to be recognized as a Role Model for Resilience by the United Nations.

Hoboken: Washington Street Brownstones
Hoboken: Washington Street Brownstones (Photo credit: Wally Gobetz)

Over 2,400 cities and towns worldwide participated in the campaign representing a collective population of 700 million people. Hoboken is one of 45 cities recognized this year, winning for its efforts to improve its capacity to deal with flood risk and become more resilient overall by using a multi-layered approach to managing its precarious yet scenic life on the edge of the water.

The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to have supported the two projects that contributed to Hoboken’s success – one via our partnership with HUD in the Rebuild by Design competition and two via a grant to re:focus partners a social business that the foundation supported to test the proposition that future infrastructure systems could be designed and financed in ways that enhance the resilience of the places where they are located.

Complex risk: Hoboken is exposed to tidal surge at Weehawken Bay to the north and the New Jersey Transit rail yards to the south. A highly impervious urban fabric, clay ground, and inadequate drainage also make the city susceptible to flash flood.
Complex risk: Hoboken is exposed to tidal surge at Weehawken Bay to the north and the New Jersey Transit rail yards to the south. (Photo credit: OMA, New Jersey)

The comprehensive “Resist, Delay, Store, Discharge” water management strategy for Hoboken and neighboring towns of Weehawken and northern Jersey City was one of the 6 designs that won a share – in this case $230 million – of almost $1 billion in Hurricane Sandy recovery money administered by HUD via the Rebuild by Design competition. This award will mainly fund the resist component of the overall strategy.

The store component was designed in detail through the re:focus partners led RE.invest Initiative featuring a layered infrastructure design for the Northwest Resiliency Park that will provide new underground parking, surface park amenities, and storm water retention.

We want to congratulate Mayor Dawn Zimmer who has taken a lot of risk and devoted tremendous resources to finding innovative and lasting solutions to the centuries-old flooding challenges in her city.

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