Rebuild by Design: Commercial Corridor Resiliency Project Proposal -- Transportation Elements

The proposed Commercial Corridor Resiliency Project included an element designed to improve the resiliency of a Queens, New York subway station by elevating the platform at Far Rockaway. The project proposal was developed and was selected as a finalist as part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rebuild by Design Competition by the design team HR&A/Cooper Robertson. This proposal shows how the impacts of climate change like flooding can be addressed through elevating critical infrastructure while expanding access to commercial hubs. The proposal calls for a variety of measures designed to increase the resilience of three areas in the Sandy-affected regions of downtown Rockaway, Red Hook, Brooklyn and Asbury Park, New Jersey.

During Hurricane Sandy, floodwaters and winds destroyed storefronts, homes, and millions of dollars of inventory from local businesses in the three areas targeted by the proposed project.  Downtown Rockaway, an active commercial center close to Rockaway Beach at 116th street in Queens, experienced significant economic consequences from the flooding and closure of access to the New York Subway system.  The Commercial Corridor Resiliency Project proposes to increase the resiliency of the business community in downtown Rockaway by ensuring continuous access to the public transportation system via an elevated subway platform.  As many New Yorkers rely on subways for daily transportation, maintaining access to Rockaway is crucial for the health of the community and the businesses.  During Hurricane Sandy, the Rockaway Park-Beach 116 St platform was completely flooded, and damage to that stretch of subway infrastructure stretched 3.6 miles. By elevating the subway platform, the proposed project would protect the public transportation hub and rail yard from flooding from storm surge during the next major storm event.

Other features of the proposed project would also increase the resilience of transportation assets. In Red Hook, the proposal called for the use flood protection and storm water management to revitalize and protect a manufacturing business hub called “Maker’s District.” Elements of the plan call for buildings in the area to be flood-proofed, and a promenade to be raised to ensure easy access for visitors.  In Asbury Park, the proposal called for installation of a deployable flood barrier to protect the boardwalk and storefronts near the beach.

The Commercial Corridors proposal was crafted in response to the damage experienced by local businesses during Hurricane Sandy.  The team’s analysis found that 74% of businesses closed for an average of 7 days, and many stores were unable to reopen despite small business recovery efforts.  When analyzing the recovery and resiliency needs of the three project areas, the team used the 100-year floodplain from FEMA maps.  With a team of architects and engineers, HR&A Advisors used the impacts of Hurricane Sandy to develop an understanding of how climate change is affecting communities. In addition to supporting business resiliency and pedestrian access to the commercial corridors, the Rockaway project proposes significant measures to improve the resiliency of a subway platform.

The proposal by the HR&A team was chosen out of 148 applicants to compete as one of 10 finalists in the HUD Rebuild by Design Competition.  In 2013, as one of the 10 finalists, the project team began research to assess the needs of the community, and develop the most effective design to improve resiliency against flooding based upon community needs. Throughout the year, the 10 final teams engaged with community stakeholders and residents to get feedback on their proposals throughout the design process.  

Although the project proposal was not chosen to be funded by HUD’s Rebuild by Design, it is anticipated that parts of the Rockaway project will be funded by other sources including Citibank, The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, and Wells Fargo.  However, the elevated subway platform to increase resilience of the public transportation in the area is not one of the funded components at this time. The proposal estimates that $13 million is necessary to improve resiliency of the MTA subway station and rail yard.


This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on March 31, 2016.

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Publication Date: June 2014

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