Hoboken, New Jersey Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan

The City of Hoboken, New Jersey published its Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan in October 2013 to create a framework for city-wide green infrastructure investments as a mechanism for improving storm water management, controlling flooding, and preparing for future climate change. It also encourages policy changes, such as zoning requirements and incentives, pilot projects, and plans for public lands and rights-of-way.

Green infrastructure strategies discussed in the plan include permeable pavements, rain gardens, stormwater infiltration planters, etc. The plan identifies the most cost-effective stormwater management best practices that can be implemented within different districts of the city, and includes an assessment of how implementation will reduce the city's risks to increasingly frequent flood events with a specific focus on increasing the resilience of transit infrastructure and other priority assets.  Additionally, the Strategic Plan proposes performance-based zoning and in-lieu-of payments to a Stormwater Trust Fund as regulatory means of generating revenue and spurring private sector action.

The City of Hoboken is situated along the Hoboken River across from New York City.  Much of the city was built on filled wetlands and as a result the city experiences flooding from multiple sources:  high tides, surface water runoff, inadequate and old sewer infrastructure.

Part 1 of the plan describes the conceptual framework that the city used to identify priority areas for green infrastructure investments based upon an assessment of flood risks, priority assets, and site specific conditions.  The plan divides the city into three zones and the sewersheds within those zones to assess how differences in topography, soil type, and bedrock will determine which strategies are most effective at reducing flood risks. Using this framework, the plan organizes Hoboken into three zones:

  • The Gray Zone: Shallow bedrock means stormwater is best managed using above-ground detention techniques including green roofs and rainwater harvesting to reduce water runoff during storm events.
  • The Green Zone: Deeper bedrock and soil creates opportunities for infiltration techniques including rain gardens, swales, permeable pavement, and stormwater trees. 
  • The Blue Zone: Areas of low elevation can be used to detain stormwater using basins, ponds, constructed wetlands, and subsurface storage.  In Hoboken these management strategies provide an opportunity to improve transit in low-lying areas.

Then the plan analyzes sewersheds and assesses the total amount of stormwater that can be captured using green infrastructure in various parts of the city. 

The plan also identifies neighborhoods, and even specific buildings and parcels, as candidates for a first round of green infrastructure pilot projects and similarly specified green infrastructure practices for each neighborhood based on the depth of the soil above bedrock, location of vulnerable populations, and other criteria. Critically, the plan calls for pilot and demonstration projects in public housing projects in multiple areas of the city in order for low-income and potentially more vulnerable populations to reap the benefits of green infrastructure practices.

The report details the range of green infrastructure best management practices (BMPs) that can be used to reduce stormwater runoff based upon lot-specific requirements.  BMPs discussed include constructed wetlands, permeable pavements, stormwater street trees, vegetated bioswales, rainwater harvest and reuse, stormwater basins or ponds, rain gardens, stormwater infiltration planters, subsurface storage, and green roofs. The plan identified the most cost-effective BMPs based upon cost to construct, operate and maintain, and effectiveness at absorbing and retaining stormwater over the projects useful life. The most cost-effective BMPs include constructed wetlands, permeable pavements, stormwater trees, bioswales, and rainwater harvesting. For each sewershed and zone, the plan identifies suitable BMPs. The plan also identifies opportunity sites for green infrastructure projects including specific existing open space and recreation areas, schools, roadways and public rights of way, and anticipated new and redevelopment projects.  By implementing interconnect projects suitable for each zone and sewershed, the strategic plan will help the city achieve a comprehensive city-wide approach to managing stormwater and reducing flood risks.

The report concludes with policy recommendations, including regulatory mechanisms that the city can use to require incorporation of BMPs in private development and redevelopment projects:

  • Incorporate performance-based standards in city zoning requirements to encourage creative and integrated designs to manage the stormwater entering combined sewer systems.  Test performance-based standards in Western Edge area, which is slated for redevelopment,flood-prone, and located in close proximity to priority assets such as transit stations.
  • Create a stormwater trust fund, which can be used to allow developers to pay in lieu of meeting a required standard. This allows the city to invest in green infrastructure elsewhere.

Finally, the plan includes concrete next steps, and priorities for implementation.

The plan was funded as one of a series of Local Demonstration Projects undertaken as part of Together North Jersey’s Regional Plan for Sustainable Development. The strategies in the plan are meant be applied outside of Hoboken, in other flood-prone areas throughout the region and state.

 

 

 

Publication Date: October 2013

Related Organizations:

  • Together North Jersey - North Jersey Sustainable Communities Consortium

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