GA's (preliminary) take on "The Walls"

Everybody's got an opinion on "The Walls," also known as the Rebuild-by-Design Concept Plans; a pop-up group called "Save Our Streets (SOS)" has declared war on "the Wall," alarmed residents have packed recent Rebuild-by-Design meetings. 

GA has a unique perspective having lived both sides of the controversy. (1) My first home purchase was in 1996 on the Hoboken waterfront (1st and River); the panoramic view of NYC from the roof (deeded exclusive roof rights) and windows on 1st Street were a major selling point for the 4th floor, walk-up.  In 2002 the 14-story Hoboken Waterfront Corporate Center (Wiley & Sons building) was built blocking GA's gorgeous waterfront view, and sunlight.  (2) In 2012, GA's home on Willow Terrace flooded, with massive property damage and property loss.

So... GA can relate to the feelings of concerned residents living on the waterfront AND the reality that climate change and rising sea levels cannot be avoided.  Did you hear, it may hit 70 degrees on Christmas.  When (not if) we get flooded again, no one will want to buy in Hoboken; your property will be worthless.

Okay, to the plans.

I need clarification on the elevation markers. It seems the "above ground elevation"  is the height as it would appear at ground-level, and not the actual built height (including structure below ground and/or below water line).  That is a BIG 'marketing' point. Because the "ground elevation" heights are much lower than the heights noted: take a look:

Well, here goes:

Concept A sucks.

Concept B "no"- doesn't protect Hoboken Terminal, seems to protect the northern part of Hoboken, so the rest of us can float away?

Concept C- GA's choice.  This one has "in water revetments." The revetments appear to be below ground height so should not impact views from the waters' edge. Protects "99%" of the population, and protects Hoboken Terminal.  It's designed for a "500 year flood event and rising sea levels."  NO direct access to the waterfront, but that can be addressed with pedestrian overpasses.  Perhaps "walls" can be landscaped (maybe the ground can slope with grass infill, or otherwise built with walkway, benches.) This option has a "Lincoln tunnel tie-in."

Concept D-  Similar to C. Differences include no "in-water revetments".

Concept E- "no." We either protect our city with respect to climate change or we do not. This proposal does not protect Hoboken from rising sea levels. It does not protect Hoboken Terminal. It is a "90%" solution,

GA imagines residents of 'cities on the edge' around the world resisted engineering solutions to flash flooding and rising sea level.  Hoboken is no different, and it is understandable.

Amsterdam, another city on the edge

GA believes the more creatively we can integrate engineering solutions with public use, the "rebuild by design" can bring activity to water's edge, and make our city even better.

Bikes on dykes, Netherlands

GA wants to learn more about these proposed concepts.

I think we all need to understand the proposed elevations better. If the 'ground elevation" is above-ground height,  GA believes that sight-line studies will show the heights of the walls will barely impact light and views from waterfront residences.

Developments like Maxwell Place, the Hoboken Waterfront Corporate Center, W Hotel, and Shipyard has literally walled off the rest of the city from waterfront views (ones we had when GA moved here) so it seems the 'sacrifice' of a low wall at the waters edge to protect ALL of us is not asking 'too much.'

What everyone needs to do is calm down.  Make yourself heard. Voice your concerns.

But at the same time, this $230M grant is a historic opportunity to help Hoboken engineer its way out of the next disaster which will be a loser for ALL of us.

Here are the CONCEPT PLANS:


  1. The height in the black row within the boxes on the drawings is the height above ground.
    It's the difference between the DFE and the ground elevation. The higher number is based on the max DFE and the lower number is based on the min DFE.

    Using the first example you highlighted in your graphic:
    max DFE - ground elevation = max wall height
    24' - 5.6' = 18.4'

    As any wall progresses "uphill" as the ground elevation rises, the wall will get shorter.

    1. Thank you. A bit confusing, but I got it. Does DFE stand for Design Flood Elevation?

    2. Anonymous 2:04 gave a good basic explanation. DFE is "Design Flood Elevation" which should logically be above the BFE ("Base Flood Elevation") published by FEMA for various events (100-yr, 500-yr, etc). The elevations should be with respect to an established datum, (NAVD88 is the current one for North America) which generally allows apples-to-apples comparisons of elevations anywhere that uses the same datum. I.e. El 5.02 would be 5.02 feet above the NAVD88 zero reference.

    3. Thank you, hobojoe. I was hoping you'd pop in. Would you mind being the unpaid head of GA's all-volunteer Engineering Department? Did I mention the position was unpaid?

  2. Does anybody know whether all these concepts can be built within the $230 million budget? Plans C & D sound great but they're described as "high cost" which sounds to me like they're probably way over the $230 million budget. If its over by $5-$10 million then its no big deal the town can find the money but if its over by $100 million where's the extra money going to come from?

    Has the State put price tags on these options or just labeled them "high" or "moderate" cost? It seems to me that 90% protection that will actually be built because its in budget is 90% better than the zero % protection we'll have if we pick a plan that will only get built if another $100 million comes floating down from the sky.

    1. All good points. You'd think the engineering solutions Hoboken received for public input would be designed within budget. It doesn't mean they are. These plans are labeled "for discussion" and are not being offered. Doesn't make sense to give us designs wildly out of budget, seems like a waste of time.

    2. I would think some of the build outs should and will be paid for by NJT in the SW and who ever is the developers in the NW Redevelopment Zones.

      Anyone who thought this kind of massive project would be easy and universally applauded is delusional. Hopefully we will see much more rational, fact based discussions as these proposals move forward instead of political infighting and NIMBY hysterics.

      The greater good must prevail.

    3. I wasn't at the meetings but a friend who was there told me that options C and D were presented as unlikely choices because they were way too expensive. Not to mention that proposing putting rivetments into the Hudson would be a regulatory nightmare probably dooming the project even if we found the extra money under our tree.

      I don't know why they're showing us choices we can't possibly afford. Maybe they think we can come up with more money if we really want to by developing to the sky like JC. If Zimmer was telling the truth that's what Christie wanted back in 2013 isn't it?

    4. If New Jersey Transit wants to put more stuff into the river to protect the trains and the PATH there will not be any real opposition. The Federal, State and City (Hoboken, Jersey City and every city down the line) Government would
      If that vital infrastructure floods like it did with Sandy the cost would be far greater then whatever the preventative measures would cost.

    5. I haven't really read through these too in-depth (Problems with the download link provided by other sites). It's not really unexpected at this level of very-high level conceptual design to show alternatives which may not make practical or economic sense. This early on, you have to show what alternatives were considered, and then rule them out from there. Otherwise, inevitably someone comes along halfway through the process and says "hey, why didn't you think of THIS?" This way you can provide informed reasons why that option was eliminated early on. Getting all up-in-arms this early on isn't productive. Rational, reasoned discussion makes the most sense. Don't like one of the options? Make it known through the proper channels. If there are merits to the objection they should be addressed. A couple steps down the road if your concerns haven't been acknowledged, then start making a little noise (through the proper channels) What GA has done here is provided her reasoned opinions on the options. I may or may not agree with her ideas (don't know yet), but this is what needs to be done at a larger scale by the general public.

    6. I agree with you. Now will you accept that thankless unpaid position as head of GA's all-volunteer Engineering Department?

    7. Hmm, let me think about that one. I hear being one of those highly (unpaid) volunteer outside consultants is a pretty sweet gig, and just as thankless too. [P.S. for a small additional fee I can also offer worthless AutoCAD and Microstation advice. We're a well-rounded, you-get-what-you-pay-for operation here]

    8. Ha! I would love worthless advice on Microstation and AutoCAD! :-)

  3. These projects will not help alleviate the constant flooding in the southwest.

  4. The resist part of the flood plan is about storm surge so you're right that it doesn't protect against the heavy rain/high tide events that cause flooding due to the old combined sewerage/stormwater system. But if you live in the SW then you know that the flood pump that went on line a few years ago has already tremendously alleviated the flooding in that neighborhood. The SW Park will have a catch basin built under it which will alleviate the rain/high tide flood events even more. And since everything is connected, the catch basins under the BASF resiliency park and the Pino Park will help a bit in the SW too.

    The SW still floods from time to time when there's heavy rain at high tide and probably always will but the events are much less frequent and when it floods the water drains away much more quickly than it used to. I don't think its really accurate to refer to the flooding that still exists as "the constant flooding in the southwest" anymore.

  5. The second wet weather pump being installed up on 10th Street will also help get rid of millions of gallons of rain water uptown before it flows down to the SW. but more importably it will help reduce the flood in the NW by ShopRite.

    All these things are helpful for rain events but Hoboken still needs to protect against storm surges like we had with Sandy.

    Having lived here when some politicians were saying flooding was inevitable and nothing could be done about the flooding, to what has been done and will be done I have to say i am optimistic that solutions will be found and most people will be much better protected and happy.

  6. If we're meant to choose three of the five options for further study and consideration, and two of the five are not viable due to cost and government restrictions, then we've been presented with only three options, so why the charade?

    1. hobojoe answered that very well. My opinion is that in hindsight, "high-level conceptual design" presented publicly may not have been a great idea. Maybe getting some focus groups of residents from various sectors of town to collect feedback would have been better But, this is a historic circumstance, to say the least, and we are all learning together, so as my friend Voltaire used to say, "don't let perfect be the enemy of the good" (or something like that.)

  7. Don't let the hysterical lead or shape the discussion.

  8. Some passing views...

    The RBD charter aims for cooperative innovation in development/planning for more "resilient and sustainable" communities. Reasonably achievable goals, I think, which have already been met to an admirable degree.

    The Hoboken CAG and maybe the mainstream have been aiming to stop flooding or "keep our city safe from the massive flooding", which I think especially in 100-year or 500-year contexts is unrealistic to try to attempt within our borders and budgets.

    The fact that Hoboken has bounced back so well from Sandy, and that property values have held up well in most of coastal NJ as well as in our town, speaks to our resiliency. Why would you fear that your property value would go to zero after the next flood?

    I've lived at garden level in central Hoboken for many years, myself. And I agree that many of us long-timers were "walled off" from the river views since the old Port Authority buildings were torn down.

    I think we need to focus on the resilience and sustainability aspects of the RBD charter--don't try to hastily "solve" flooding. The "Resist" aspect is best handled in a super-regional context. Technology is ever-evolving; solving flooding will be a decades/centries-long effort requiring constant improvement and broad cooperation beyond our City Limits and lifetimes.

    1. I think one of the major reasons that Hoboken property values rebounded after Sandy, was the promise that the Federal Government was giving funds at very least try to prevent a recurrence of the storm surge flooding.
      The plan is regional as it it addresses Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken the most flood prone areas on the northern coast of New Jersey.
      I see Hoboken's rain event flooding problems if not being eliminated
      made livable by City projects already being done.

    2. Here's an idea... There should be enough suitable excavated material from a new trans-Hudson tunnel to create a beautiful green undulating flood barrier a la Battery Park (& GA's NL photo above). Resilient transit improvement + resilient coastal surge defense--by design.

    3. Could lay some multi-purpose rail that would be used to deploy jumbo Jersey-style barriers--both being local innovations.

  9. I think we'll wind up with features plucked from each of the present designs

    ...but I noticed that none of them took into account that the plans to fill in the Long Slip Canal

    1. C&D appear to acknowledge it, though it seems the designers are intentionally ignoring whatever may or may not happen there. It actually brings up another interesting point - the bigger picture of the redevelopment of the NJT rail yards. Whatever NJT ends up building there will have to be above the existing tracks since there isn't much grade change you can do to the existing tracks. Therefore, whether we realize it or not a "wall" would essentially be built there (have to get the trains to pass under the buildings)- should a condition of the development there be that the foundations for the buildings be sealed off to also act as a flood barrier to Hoboken? Then we could just wall off the roadway underpasses below the tracks at the west end in advance of a flood (like the proposals presented). I was in Grand Forks before one of their winter floods, and this is exactly what they do to the bridges across to Minnesota when the river starts rising. Taking any of these plans in a broader context considering other major projects coming down the line is essential here. [Note: I completely understand that all or none of the other project may ever take place, but I would expect those in power have a better idea of realistically what will happen than I do]


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