Hundreds Discuss Rebuilding the Jersey Shore

jersey shore, Superstorm Sandy, rebuildingHundreds gathered at Monmouth University to discuss how to rebuild New Jersey's coastal region following Superstorm Sandy.

Superstorm Sandy presented New Jersey with the opportunity to change how it uses vulnerable land. With the scientific community stressing that sea levels are rising and more intense storms are on the horizon, the imperative to do so seems clear.

The recent rise in sea level has caused the baseline for coastal flooding to increase, a trend that has enormous implications for future land use development policy, said Anthony Broccoli, professor of atmospheric science and director of the climate and environmental change initiative at the School of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University.

"While the meteorology of Sandy is once in a lifetime, the impacts will not be," Broccoli said.

People need to look forward and adapt to new circumstances and roles that a natural disaster creates, said Ed Blakely, former executive director of the Office of Recovery and Development Administration in New Orleans.

"Start with the future, not with the past," he said, urging conference participants to resist the temptation to repair just buildings with funds received, but instead to rebuild entire communities.

Blakely offered the following guiding principles toward post-disaster renewal:

  • partnership among all government agencies;
  • speaking with one voice;
  • regional opportunities;
  • the right mixture of state and federal funding;
  • building local capacity;
  • building better, not just repairing.

Tim Crowley, the director of the Mitigation Division in Region II of FEMA in New York, stressed advisory-based flood elevations (ABFEs), community resilience and community-based informed decision-making.

"What resonates in one town may not resonate in another town," he said, adding that a Coastal Outreach Advisory Team should be assigned to work with individual communities.

Crowley continued with a discussion about the importance of a mitigation plan that serves as the foundation for reducing further risk and preventing further damage.

Construction standards that currently exist do not protect citizens because they do not account for changes in risk, said Mark Mauriello, former Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Mauriello discussed dune-building as an obvious way to mitigate increased risk because of its being so well known already. Dune-building is a positive step to protecting the coastline regardless of how it affects scenic ocean views, he said.

"If you can see the ocean, the ocean can see you, too," he said.

Building design can preserve community identity while improving resilience, said Brian O'Looney AIA LEED-AP, a partner at Torti Gallas and Partners of Silver Spring, Md.

O'Looney offered specific ways to tackle problems that Superstorm Sandy exposed, including a "smart vent" that helps equalize water pressure on a structure's foundation, a hipped roof that provides better wind resistance, and "tuck-under" parking that can take advantage of mandatory minimum ground-floor elevations and enable increased density in areas where rebuilding is encouraged.