Water We Gonna Do? Blue Urbanism Looks At Rising Water Levels In Red Hook

Water We Gonna Do? Blue Urbanism Looks At Rising Water Levels In Red Hook

By James L. Knobloch August 26, 2016

Ever since the turn of the 21st century,  “green” has become more than a color—it’s now widely accepted vernacular for sustainable or environmentally friendly living. “Going green” became synonymous with things like hybrid cars and recycling, as more and more people realized the importance of reducing their carbon footprint.

Related:  NYC says it: Green Is The New Black!

But now, in the spirit of New York’s esteemed Fashion Week, it seems that green has become “so last season.” The next big thing could be blue.

Blue, to be more specific, refers to “Blue Urbanism.” Blue Urbanism, “…focuses on the ways architecture can facilitate how we perceive and value our ties to the sea,” and discover and understand the “relationship between water and urban life.” It’s no great secret (unless you’re one of the ever-shrinking number of climate change naysayers out there) that climate change is very real and very present—New Yorkers remember Sandy all too well, and the recent “1,000-year flood” in Louisiana are only the most recent additions to an increasingly long and frequent list of environmental events facing our world.

Photo courtesy of Rebuild by Design: Red Hook

Global warming is resulting in major losses of the Earth’s ice—from the polar ice cap to the snowy summit of Kilimanjaro—and that loss comes at a cost. In the last 100 or so years, the sea level has risen between four and eight inches. To put that in perspective, Lower Manhattan is only about five feet above sea level, which according to Columbia University’s Klaus Jacob, a disaster risk management research scientist, means that, “what is now the impact of a 100-year storm will be, by the end of this century, roughly a 10-year storm.”

Needless to say, life in coastal cities is facing big change, and those communities will be forced to coexist with the Earth’s waters in new ways.

The issue can’t be ignored any longer, and in Red Hook, Brooklyn, people are already working on a solution. This is largely in thanks to the work of BASF—who create “chemistry for a sustainable future”—and Creator Space, which aims to “address challenges of urban living, energy and food.” At the Creator Space Summit in New York City, a single question was proposed: “How can we revitalize Red Hook’s built environment to invite people to work, play and experience better urban living?”

To answer this question, the summit and subsequent design competition outlined possible strategies for a Red Hook revival. By bringing together both experts and everyday citizens, a more holistic understanding of the issues, and how to remedy them, can be achieved. This is a sentiment shared by Amy Patel, an architect and account manager at BASF’s Center for Building Excellence. Says Patel:

“Policy and local community involvement are often some of the biggest challenges to implementing better urban design strategies. BASF had delegates and members reach out to locals from Red Hook and advocate their involvement throughout the Creator Space project.”

Green corridors and a coastal park were proposed as a means to alleviate rainstorm runoff and storm surge-induced flooding, while on the development front, flood-resistant urban designs were discussed as both a practical solution and a way to revitalize the area.

Be it by “design or disaster,” change is coming, and we must adapt. The hope of those involved in the summit is that the ideas and innovations coming out of Red Hook can be applied on a global scale, and help other coastal communities around the world by serving as a model for how to address what’s to come.

James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

A creative professional with a sharp tongue and a big smile, taking on city living one slightly-veiled sarcastic comment at a time. Born and raised just outside of New Orleans, James is a living testament to his own mantra, “Southern hospitality is a privilege, not a right,” giving his work a unique, dry humor meets charm perspective.

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