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THE BIG U - Will It Ever Be Completed to Protect NYC from Any Future Storm Disasters?

The BIG U is the project to create a barrier “sponge” that would help insulate the city against future Sandy-like storms. It was promised that the 16-foot steel and concrete berms would be “cleverly disguised as skate parks, public pools, urban farms, bird sanctuaries, and marshland trails.”

This large-scale integrated flood protection system to address the vulnerability of New York City to coastal flooding won the Global Holcim Awards Bronze. The “Dryline” project by a consortium headed by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group (Copenhagen/New York), and One Architecture (Amsterdam) in collaboration with the City of New York, propose a protective ribbon in Southern Manhattan using a series of raised berms and other measures to create public spaces along the water’s edge. The infrastructural barrier incorporates a range of neighborhood functions that foster local commercial, recreational, and cultural activities.

AECOM, Bjarke Ingels Group(BIG), and ONE Architecture will work on the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency (LMCR) Project, a flood-proofing and park-building measure that extends from the Lower East Side up to the north of Battery Park City.

The project is landscape architecture as public realm, design as policy, and urban planning on an architectural level,” said Kai-Uwe Bergmann, partner at BIG. In concert with heavy-duty resilience measures, the LMCR project, he said, aims to improve access to the waterfront and augment green space in the neighborhoods it will traverse.

The worst issue of all, though, may be the system’s shortcomings when it comes to actually protecting our communities from possible storm damage. The barrier is clearly intended to protect the Wall Street area, but what about waterfront communities like Red Hook, Brooklyn, who would suffer even more severe consequences?

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