Images Courtesy of HUD Rebuild by Design
The Manhattan plan (above) is for a defense that would double as a linear park. The Meadowlands scheme would protect several towns.

If all goes well, the biggest winners in a competition to spark ideas for protecting coastal areas in the wake of 2012's Superstorm Sandy may be the cities of the world. The most ambitious of the six winning schemes of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development's "Rebuild by Design" competition calls for landscaped storm-surge protection that doubles as parkland along Manhattan's edge in New York City. The scheme's designer envisions the plan as a model for all vulnerable cities.

Called BIG U, it calls for a 10-mile strip of land around the southern- most edges of Manhattan. BIG U camouflages 8- to 10-ft-tall earth berms as landscape, usable mostly as parkland yet doubling as a storm-surge barrier.

"We are creating a solution to protect the city that also offers social benefit," says Kai-Uwe Bergmann, a partner of architect BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, which is leading the BIG U team.

Like the city's High Line, which has become an international symbol of regeneration, "we intend to create the Dry Line, which is going to become a global symbol of resiliency," Bergmann adds.

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is funding BIG U's pilot phase—construction of the first two miles along the East River Park—with $335 million of $920 million in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds for New Jersey and New York. The funding was included in HUD's most recent allocation of some $2.5 billion of CDBG-DR funds for the Sandy-affected region.

Last year, HUD's Hurricane Sandy Task Force launched Rebuild by Design. Later, HUD announced 10 finalists to compete for the first phase of the project (ENR 8/19/13 p. 17). HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the six winning multidisciplinary teams on June 2.

The other five winners are the MIT CAU+ZUS+URBANISTEN team, for the $150-million New Meadowlands pilot project in New Jersey, which would restore water-absorbing wetlands and reduce flooding in Little Ferry, Moonachie, Carlstadt and Teterboro; the OMA team, for a $230-million first phase of a project to restore vulnerable New Jersey waterfront areas of Hoboken, Weehawken and Jersey City, using hard infrastructure and soft landscape; the Interboro team, for a $125-million Slow Streams pilot project to improve the north-south river corridors of the South Shore of Nassau County in New York state; the SCAPE-Landscape Architecture team, for a $60-million Living Breakwaters project in Tottenville on New York City's Staten Island; and the Penn-Design-OLIN team, for the $20-million Lifelines project to improve the Hunts Point area of New York City's South Bronx.

Construction of the pilot projects is expected in three to five years.