A plan that includes permanent flood walls on the north and south ends of Hoboken would reinforce the city's infrastructure in the event of another catastrophic storm, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said Wednesday night.
Zimmer focused on Hoboken's resilience after Sandy during her third State of the City address on the Stevens Campus, outlining a plan that uses Hoboken’s topography and elevation as a barrier to flooding. The concept could reinforce the most vulnerable parts of the city, which are the north and south side of Hoboken where majority of flooding occurs.
"This system is proposed as a best practice by FEMA and has been successfully implemented in numerous locations," Zimmer said, "including hospitals where building up on pilings simply was not an option."
Permanent flood walls along the north and south ends of the city would connect to the cliffs to the west.
“As an urban community, we cannot raise our buildings up on piles, we cannot build sand dunes to protect our city,” said Zimmer. “We need a better solution.”
In addition, roadways at either end of Hoboken would be equipped with a flood break system, which will rise up as a gate if flooding occurs.
The North Hudson Sewerage Authority is also proposing the installation of additional flood pumps, so water can be pumped out quickly should.
“The question everyone has been asking since the storm is ‘how do we prevent this from happening again?’” Zimmer said. “I have been asking myself those same questions, and I have asked different experts and stakeholders to think about how we can address our flooding problems.”
Dr. George Korfiatis, Stevens Institute's provost and university vice president, introduced Zimmer, who kicked off her speech by thanking the first responders and thousands of volunteers that came out in the aftermath of the storm.
“Hurricane Sandy was by far the biggest event this year,” said Zimmer. “I want to start by thanking our first responders including the police, fire, OEM, employees from the Parking Utility, as well as our Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps for working tirelessly to protect our community.”
With a special shout out to Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, Gov. Chris Christie and Community Emergency Response Team leader Lou Casciano and Volunteer Ambulance Corps President Thomas Molta.
Hoboken is in the process of not only rebuilding, but becoming stronger. Zimmer called for the development of a more comprehensive, integrated approach to protect the city.
With that in mind, the mayor said she is actively pursuing federal funding to make those changes a reality. Future developments in Hoboken, she said, will have to be built in such a way that they do not add to the flooding problem, she said.
Zimmer said that "going green" should be the main focus in keeping Hoboken safe and resilient. This plan includes purchasing park space, building large underground detention systems, and incentivizing green roofs that retain rainwater from going into the sewer system to help reduce flooding.
Hurricane Sandy also highlighted the vulnerabilities in Hoboken’s power system. Zimmer said that the city is working on developing a micro-grid with hybrid power sources that can be supplemented by green energy to provide power to critical infrastructures like the hospital and supermarkets during power outages.
“A power grid like this would be the first in New Jersey,” said Zimmer, who is currently in discussions with PSE&G regarding the idea.
Looking to the future, Zimmer said that 2013 will — much like 2012 — be another year of parks, mentioning the scheduled completion of projects Church Square Park, Sinatra Park and Elysian Park.
"I remain focused on parks acquisition in the western side of the City," Zimmer said. The city is still in court to acquire that piece of land. While mentioning phase one of the completion of 1600 Park, Zimmer didn't give a timeline.
“For me, our parks aren’t just an important part of solving our flooding problems," Zimmer said, "they are critical to improving our quality of life."
Lastly, Zimmer focused on taxes.
While the city suffered significant losses during Sandy — more than $100 million — Zimmer promised that taxes will not go up.
"We will have to use much of our surplus," she said, "but we will not raise taxes in a year where so many business and residents have paid such a huge price."