Alum Helps Pen a $20-Billion Plan for New York’s Waterfront

by Joe McGonegal on June 25, 2013 · 1 comment

in Alumni Life, Design, Engineering, In the News

Nearly 400,000 New York City residents live in the flood plain that Hurricane Sandy affected in 2012. By 2050, that number will be more than double.

To respond to the urban crisis Sandy produced and prepare New York to weather such storms in the decades to come, Mayor Michael Bloomberg commissioned “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” a 438-pg. report that he released to the public on June 11.

Guy Nordenson

Guy Nordenson. Photo: Princeton University.

One co-author of that report was Guy Nordenson  ’77, a professor of architecture at Princeton University.  In the report, Nordenson and his colleagues make more than 250 recommendations for the city, proposing over $20 billion in improvements.

Floodwalls in Brooklyn, levees on Staten Island, and beach and marsh restoration are just some of the measures called for in the report.

Even before Sandy, Nordenson was long an advocate of preparing the New York/New Jersey area for the eventuality of storm surges. Partnering with architectural firms, Nordenson helped dream up “Rising Currents,” a 2010 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, which posited a New York waterfront of the future, one that depicted natural grasslands on the waterfront instead of commercial real estate. His 2010 book, On the Water: Palisade Bay, at once detailed such radical changes for New York while demonstrating their feasibility.

“Sandy broadened the audience for a lot of that work,” says Nordenson, who has now seen his ideas incorporated into many aspects of the city’s planning. “The best influence is invisible,” he adds.

Nordenson is particularly proud of the report for being a composite of public and private thinking, though Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s best thinkers, he says, led the way.

“It’s a unique piece of work,” he says. “I don’t think any other city in the country has done anything like it. New York has really taken the lead…and set the bar high.”

Nordenson is also well known for his work helping New York determine the structural integrity of over 400 buildings after the September 11 attacks and for serving on the New York City Public Design Commission. Nordenson is principle of Guy Nordenson and Associates, the structural engineering firm that worked on the design of the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero and fortified retaining walls in the precarious site’s cavity to prepare the space for the 9/11 Museum.

His reach extends back to MIT, too. In 2002, his firm oversaw the construction of Simmons Hall, the aluminum and concrete masterpiece designed by Steven Holl Architects.

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Dr. Arne P Olson July 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Spending 20B without planning for sea level rise of 58 m when the ice caps are all gone–which may be in less than 100 years–seems like money badly spent. What if sea level rise is just 10 m in 30 years? This investment would be underwater–literally.


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