Posted on May 11, 2021
Hurricane-force winds and a 14-foot storm surge submerged roughly 80% of the bowl-shaped city, causing an estimated $100 million worth of damage.
Now, the city is breaking ground on a multimillion-dollar resiliency project aimed at preparing for the next storm.
“We know that, given the impact of climate change, it is not a question of if,” said Dawn Zimmer, who was the city’s mayor at the time and turned down a re-election campaign to focus on climate change resiliency. “It is when Hoboken and this region will be struck by another severe storm.”
At a groundbreaking Thursday morning on the Hoboken waterfront, state, local, and federal officials touted the roughly $230 million Rebuild By Design project as a model of resilient development.
“Government can work when we have the will to make it work,” said U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, who attended Thursday’s groundbreaking as part of her first official trip. “President Biden and Vice President Harris are serious about resiliency and prepping for the future. That is what infrastructure is. It is a foundation to build for the future.”
In 2014, the federal government announced that Hoboken was one of six locations selected for a storm resiliency grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city was awarded $230 million for a proposal that came to include four components: Resist, Delay, Store and Discharge, each named for the function they will perform.
Construction on the project will start with a $5 million slate of modifications to Hoboken’s sewer system as part of the “Discharge” component. Construction crews will separate the city’s sewer system into separate lines for stormwater and sanitation, a move aimed at avoiding what Zimmer called “a toxic brew of Hudson River water combined with raw sewage” during Sandy.
Following that step, officials plan to begin construction on the “Resist” component, a network of nearly 9,000 feet of barriers and flood walls. The structures will be spread throughout the city, from its border with Jersey City in the south to the Weehawken border to the north.
The city will also be protected by a network of “green and grey infrastructure,” according to the project’s website, which would incorporate basins, green roofs, and other water capture systems to mitigate flooding.
Construction on the project is slated for completion in 2025.
In his remarks Thursday, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla emphasized that the construction will be incorporated into the city’s landscape.
“We are not building these big ugly seawalls to push back storm surge,” Bhalla said. Instead, the barriers “will be built into the urban fabric of our community in a way that blends.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called the project “the future of American infrastructure.”
“It will challenge and reset our very understanding of what it means to be a modern American coastal city in the face of climate change,” he said.