NYs Clever New Park Will Weather Epic Storms and Rising Seas

On July 19 Governors Island, a172-acre parkabout half a mile offthe southern tip of Manhattan, will open its new centerpiece: “The Hills”—as the four enormous mounds are called—will span ten acres and give visitors amazing views, art installations, and plenty of space for play and relaxation. They’ll also be a model for protecting a city vulnerable to climate change-powered storms and sea level rise.

When the Trust for Governor’s Islandimagined the site in 2006, the term resiliency wasn’teven in the vocabulary of New Yorkers, says Trust president Leslie Koch. This was years before Superstorm Sandy, after all. But in 2007, Koch and her colleagues selected West 8, a Dutch architecture and landscape design firm known for the attention it pays to the threat of climate change, to lead the project.“We got a crash course in what it meant, before everyone else,”says Koch.

The Hills also works as a beautiful park. The rolling hillsinviteyouto explore by hiding destinations just beyond your line of vision.Atop the undulating mounds, the projects botanical team has planted over 40,000 shrubs and almost 3,000 trees. The team has overplanted those treessignificantly, allowing natural selection to weed out the ones that wont make it in this harsh, windswept place, and creating a soil base that is extra rich in nutrients and bacteria. In essence we learned to accept that nature’s not changing, says Koch. Its how are we going to live in it, not how are we going to stop it. She adds: This kind of thinking should be happening with every development in New York City.

For Geuze, who trained as an agricultural engineer, none of this is new territory. This is what Ive done for 90 percent of my projects, he says, pointing to workslike theNew Hondsbossche Dunes in Petten the Netherlands,designed as a natural landscape as opposed to a sandy dike. There is a lot of talk about sustainability in the media. But in my profession—landscape architecture—sustainability has been the core issue since the 19th century. Without it your project will fail.

Conceptual flood protection plan along the East River. City of New York

The battle to prepare New York for rising tides is just beginning. In 2013, shortly after Hurricane Sandy, the city launched the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency. The plan outlined countless measures to address resiliency, ranging from the installation of flood protection infrastructure, to increased accessibility to drinking water during storms, to the passage of measures that wouldease the elevation of building systems. Today, most of those initiatives are in progress or completed.

We are never going to be where we want to be. We always want to be safer, says Amy Spitalnick, a spokesperson for the city. But I think were moving forward more aggressively than anticipated, both in terms of securing the dollars and executing the projects. The citys Building Resiliency Task Force, a group established by the New York Chapter of the US Green Building Council, estimates the city is about halfway to meeting its resiliency needs. Projects like the Hills show that those needs can come with a dose of fun, too.

Read more: http://www.wired.com/2016/07/nyc-park-built-withstand-epic-storms-rising-seas/