Could These Quirky “Lily Pods” Save Red Hook From The Next Superstorm?

As Red Hook prepares for the next Hurricane Sandy, questions remain about its long term future.

By Jeff Vasishta March 30, 2017
Photo courtesy of Kohn Pedersen Fox

They may look like disused, overgrown overpasses but these unlikely architectural specimens could keep Red Hook safe and dry during the next superstorm. Called utility pods, they were commissioned by the New York City Housing Authority to protect its largest public housing development should Sandy II strike the Eastern Seaboard. The conceptual renderings are courtesy of architect Kohn Pedersen Fox and were featured in Architect’s Newspaper.

Hurricane Sandy caused considerable damage to Red Hook Houses with almost all basement mechanical rooms destroyed. The 14 new pods will deliver heat and electricity to the buildings in the event of another storm. The raised earth mounds will also act as a flood barrier.

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The design is the result of surveys, workshops and community forums. Philadelphia based landscape architects, OLIN were also brought in on the project and the final design design was described by KPF as having the ability to “transform the experience of residents and guests by providing vibrant, social spaces in conjunction with the area’s infrastructural needs.”

Assisting the effort has been “Red Hook Houses District Energy System,” which is a micro-grid that lets NYCHA produce its own energy created by NYCHA. It consists of  two energy plants located at each end of the complex. These in conjunction with the utility pods decreases Red Hook’s vulnerability to Sandy-like disasters while providing some green space and areas for socializing for the 6,000 inhabitants of the 28 buildings. Overall, KPF’s plan will span 60 acres and serve 2,873 residences.

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The “Lily Pod” proposal, as it has been termed, comes on the heels of news about a Red Hook mega development project which was touted last year, bringing 45,000 new apartments to the area while fortifying it from further storm damage. Renderings show a newly developed area which could be twice the size of Hudson Yards. There would also be a new 1 train stop at South Ferry, improvements to the Red Hook Houses, and a remodeling and beautification of the streetscape.

With gentrification sweeping through the once off grid industrial area almost as fast as Sandy’s salty sea water did, displacement and gentrification are hot topics in the local community and some see more development as a way to accelerate the process without locals having a say.

“Who initiates these conversations is really important,” Michelle de la Uz, a City Planning Commissioner and executive director of the non-profit Fifth Avenue Committee said at a panel discussion last year when the renderings were first released. “Residents and community stakeholders should be at the forefront of this process or you’ll have problems like the ones surrounding the Mayor’s current rezoning efforts. We can’t allow growth without infrastructural growth first.”

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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