HOBOKEN, N.J. - After receiving hundreds of public complaints about obstructing Hoboken’s waterfront, the city's mayor and a project manager from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection announced new options for flood walls in the city today.
“It may be that we are not ready to do something right on the waterfront,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken.
Two of the unveiled alternatives would build flood walls on Washington Street and 15th Street, as well as along Observer Highway.
The plans drawn up by Dewberry Engineering are apart of Hoboken’s Rebuild by Design project. The city, along with neighboring Weehawken and Jersey City, was awarded a $230 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD launched a design competition in 2013 to address flood resilience.
The goal is to protect the region from major storm surges, high tides, and heavy rainfall. FEMA currently predicts a 26 percent chance of another Sandy-like storm hitting Hoboken within the next 30 years.
The first option proposed today would run a flood wall down the Hudson River's edge. The wall would begin on the Weehawken waterfront and run onto Hoboken’s 15th Street and down Sinatra Drive. The wall breaks where high ground begins, at 10th Street, and picks up again at 4th Street. It ultimately runs westward on 1st Street, before tracing along Observer Highway. The wall would vary in height, with the peak stretch being as high as 12 feet and as low as 3 feet.
The second option proposed today would allow the wall to stretch as high as 11 feet near Observer highway and Jersey City. According to this plan, the wall would begin on the Weehawken waterfront, before running along 15th Street in Hoboken and down Washington Street. The wall breaks at 13th Street and picks up again at Newark Street. It then runs along Observer Highway towards Jersey City.
The third option is similar to the second, except it involves running a small stretch of the wall down a privately-owned alley near 15th Street. Toll Brothers, developers of the Hudson Tea building and Maxwell Place, owns this alley, according to the Mayor.
The two inland options are expected to cost less and appeal to more people than the waterside wall, but there is one important caveat.
“The inland options will not give the full protection,” said Mayor Zimmer.
The inland walls would protect about 86% of the city, the waterfront walls are projected to protect 98%. Those living east of the walls could still flood if the Hudson River tops it’s banks.
The planned impact on street parking remains unclear. Dewberry, the engineering firm hired for the job, is still actively tweaking these plans.
“Dewberry will take these 3 alternatives and do additional surveying, additional engineering, flood modeling, urban amenity evaluation. Our work has just begun,” said Dennis Reinknecht, the project’s manager for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Some of those hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy came out today to support the new proposals.
“Are we gonna keep everybody happy? Probably not. But it has to be addressed,” said John Carey, a longtime Hoboken resident and commander of the Hoboken American Legion Post 107.
The post was inundated by 6 feet of water during Sandy, according to Carey. He says that all was lost, including relics from World War I and II. They almost did not reopen, just shy of their 100th anniversary in Hoboken.
“We have the money to address it. Or at least to try to address some of the problem,” he said, “And we should certainly do that.”
Flood walls are not the only part of the plan to prevent flooding in the Hoboken area.
Other components of the project include building green infrastructure around the city to slow storm water runoff. The city also plans to store storm water in basins and on green roofs, which will slow and capture water. And finally, upgrading sewer systems, outfalls and pumping systems is apart of their approach.
Hoboken is already constructing a new water discharge pump on 11th Street and Sinatra Drive, which is designed to address flash flooding and is scheduled to be completed this year.
Residents and stakeholders have until June 2016 to make a decision on which flood wall plan they prefer. There have already been numerous public meetings and opportunities for public input.
The next public meeting, which will detail these new options, is scheduled for Thursday night at 6 p.m., at the Wallace School in Hoboken. More information is also available on the project’s website.