The mayor of Hoboken, N.J., supports region-wide storm-surge resistance in the long term but is pushing for added local protection in the short term. Experts at a recent forum on Superstorm Sandy's impact in the New York-New Jersey area agreed: Plan regionally but act now locally.

"There has to be protection on a local level plus a regional approach," said Dawn Zimmer, Hoboken's mayor since 2009, at the "Impact of Sandy's Storm Surge on NY/NJ Infrastructure" seminar, sponsored by the ASCE Metropolitan Section and held in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 8-9.

The densely populated "Mile Square" city, population 50,000, faces Manhattan on the west bank of the Hudson River. Sandy's Oct. 29 storm surge devastated the city's low-lying west side, said Zimmer. More than half the city flooded, stranding tens of thousands of residents for days, shutting power for a week and causing more than $100 million in private-property damage.

To boost its power system's redundancy, Hoboken is exploring microgrids and distributed power generation from multiple energy sources. It is impossible to raise row buildings as a means of flood protection, so the city is pursuing a community-based approach to prevent stormwater runoff from entering the sewer system as well as planning to acquire land for an underground detention system. Zimmer also said the city expects to install more water pumps.

The mayor is frustrated by the red tape to get funding for the initiatives. Deadlines for grants don't offer a lot of time to create an integrated solution, she said.

Though Zimmer and other officials support a long-term regional solution, such as storm-surge barriers, the consensus was that immediate protective action is necessary. For example, in advance of the looming hurricane season, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's New York City Transit is installing subway entrance barriers and more.

"Taking care of openings is critical," said Antonio Cabrera, track engineering officer for the department of subways.