February 2, 2014

Rebuild by Design initiative gathers public input to envision a more resilient Hunts Point

On January 28th, nearly a hundred residents from Hunts Point and surrounding communities came together to discuss how to make Hunts Point resilient against future storms and disasters. Co-hosted by The Point CDC, Sustainable South Bronx, and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, representatives from Penn Design and OLIN Studios presented information about the importance of protecting Hunts Point and held  a focus group designed to solicit input from the community as part of the Rebuild By Design initiative. The initiative is part of the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, and is meant to address “…structural and environmental vulnerabilities that Hurricane Sandy exposed in communities throughout the region [while] developing fund-able solutions to better protect residents from future climate events.”

While the Bronx is the only county in the city not to be a recipient of funding through the NY Rising Communities Reconstruction Program, the President’s office did recognize that Hunts Point plays a significant role in the region as it is home to the Hunts Point Food Market, housing  over 25,000 jobs and creating $3 billion dollars in direct economic activity in the region. More importantly, food that comes into the Hunts Point distribution system feeds the entire region, and any disruption can have “catastrophic” consequences, particularly for city, as it operates on a two day food supply.

But Hunts Point is more than just the market. The peninsula is home to over 52,000 people as per the 2010 census, residents with limited access to public transportation and to their waterfront, a community partially cut off from the rest of the borough by highways and truck traffic, contributing to higher rates of asthma, and other quality of life issues. Rebuild By Design seeks to aid both the economy and the community to become more resilient to future storms by addressing the weaknesses exposed during Hurricane Sandy.

The focus groups lead by the Penn Design/OLIN Studios group allowed Bronxites to help plan new protections for the peninsula and beyond, with one group calling for creating a larger resiliency plan for to include the Mott Haven and Port Morris waterfront. As each table reported back to the larger group, feedback included everything from green roofs and gardens to new access ramps to the Bruckner Expressway for trucks to an independent micro-grid to power the peninsula. All of these ideas were meant to address the shortcomings in the design of the community that residents faced first-hand during and after the storm.

The planning process is far from over, as the development of proposals will be refined and proposals will be evaluated by an expert jury, with  winning design solutions capable of being implemented with disaster recovery grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as other sources of public and private-sector funding. To find out more information about the Rebuild By Design Initiative, visit their website at http://www.rebuildbydesign.org/what-is-rebuild-by-design/#challenge. To learn specifically about the initiative for Hunts Point, visit this link: http://www.rebuildbydesign.org/project/hunts-point-lifelines/#details.

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