New York eyes post-hurricane housing needs

September 30, 2007 at 5:18 pm Leave a comment

What if a Category 3 hurricane leveled an entire city neighborhood and left nearly 40,000 families homeless?
That’s the question the city is asking architects to answer as part of a competition to design long-term temporary housing for residents displaced by a catastrophic hurricane or other disaster.

“Getting people out and keeping them safe during the storm is one thing, but let’s say there was enormous damage done to the housing supply in this city — then what?” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday at a news conference announcing the competition at Gantry State Park on the East River in Long Island City. “What do you do after the first 24 to 48 hours, after the first week?”

Co-sponsored by the city Office of Emergency Management, the Rockefeller Foundation and Architects for Humanity New York, the contest was devised to solve what officials call a uniquely urban problem: There isn’t enough room for trailers or other types of existing, single-family temporary housing to serve the number of people who might be displaced if a storm were to hit a major metropolitan area like New York.

For example, the average density of a trailer park is 10 households per acre, while the average density of Manhattan is 200 households per acre, city officials said.

“We have all heard the news — hurricanes have increased in severity and frequency and we have all seen the consequences of poor planning in places like New Orleans,” said Maria Blair, an associate vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation, which is donating $175,000 to fund the contest. “We all have an obligation to ask what if.”

She said the foundation plans to replicate the contest in other urban areas that face storm or flooding problems due to climate change.

The competition creates an elaborate scenario in which a fictional city neighborhood — Prospect Shore — is hit with a major storm that leaves 38,000 families homeless. A map of the neighborhood has been created based on a composite of the elements of 12 waterfront communities in New York.

Contestants have to come up with a plan to provide housing for displaced residents that can be erected quickly, is sturdy enough to be used for a year or more and can be taken down and re-used in the event of another disaster.

A panel of urban planning, architecture and engineering experts will judge the entries and 10 finalists will each be awarded a $10,000 stipend to flesh out their plan in more detail. Contest registration begins Oct. 15 and ends Nov. 23. Entries are due by Dec. 14.

Officials said they are not sure what will be done with the winning design, although it could ultimately be incorporated into OEM’s disaster management plans.

“We don’t have any idea what kinds of solutions will be submitted,” the mayor said. “There isn’t an easy answer. I don’t think anybody has tried to address this before.”



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