In keeping with the snappy speed of New Yorkers' work ethic, the effort to revitalize the peninsula of Long Island known as the Rockaways following the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy was swift. A two-phase competition to reconsider the approximately 80-acre Arverne East section was launched in April by a host of public and private partners, including the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, L+M Development Partners, The Bluestone Organization, Triangle Equities, AIA New York, and Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. This week, the four finalists for the first phase of "For a Resilient Rockaway" were revealed. .
Although New York can at times seem rather insular and self-referential, the call for entries sparked an international flurry of 117 submissions from 24 countries. Of the four finalists, only one firm is from New York, Ennead Architects; the others are Lateral Office of Toronto, London's Seeding Office, and White Arkitekter from Göteberg, Sweden. Despite the studios' disparate geographies, the proposals all included similar iterations of "adaptability," "resiliency," and "sustainability." If all goes according to plan, beach tourists and future hurricane survivors alike will benefit from combinations of "resilient sustainability," "adaptable resilience," "sustainable resiliency," hopefully without succumbing to "adaptative subsilient" sand dunes.
A section of the proposal by Ennead Architects
Ennead Architects center their plan around a "dunefield system" that intersperses flood-friendly nature valleys like a "scrub shrub forest" and "wet meadow" among a raised linear retail corridor and new homes that benefit from underground parking (which will double as water retention spaces). The architecture presented in the renderings offers a sort of beachy shipping container aesthetic that guarantees minimal environmental impact with the use of solar panels and aligning the footprints with prevailing winds in mind.
A diagram of potential flooding in Ennead Architects' proposal
Fro-yo plays a central role in the renderings offered by Lateral Office (below), where a boardwalk can accommodate the habitat of local wildlife and hungry residents:
Lateral Office's proposal
Representatives of Lateral Office emphasized "identifying local character" as their chief priority. According to the rendering below, this character consists of (besides beach paraphernalia like sand buckets and birdwatchers) seaside beekeepers, innovative baby carrying devices, and white tube tops. Lateral Office plans to insert rows of bungalows, the vernacular residential architecture of the Rockaways, updated for families of varying sizes, while adjacent deep water basins will protect the homes during storms.
Seaside beekeepers, innovative baby carrying devices, and white tube tops abound in Lateral's utopic vision of the Rockaways
White Arkitekter's proposal is speckled with Eurocentric references to everyone's favorite cities. Renderings suggest that the development will feature lowered roads with flood capacity that mimic Amsterdam's beloved canals, while broad linear parks will link Arverne East's sections like grand Parisian boulevards. A beachfront hotel will harken to the Rockaways' "heyday" as a glamorous destination, while galleries and artists' studios will occupy interstitial spaces between a 31-acre nature reserve and "kinked" V-shaped boardwalk.
The Stockholm-based architects believe that this inclusion of creatives will foster a sort of Williamsburg-by-the-Sea culture. White Arkitekter also proposes inserting monumental concrete structures off the coast from the beach, against which protective sandbars could naturally take shape. Hopefully the sandbars will also act as a safe landing ground for this floating child being drawn skyward:
A section of the Williamsburg-by-the-Sea proposal by White Arkitekter
A modular promenade (which sounds a lot cooler than "boardwalk") defines the proposal by Seeding Office. The structure directly connects the local subway station to the beach, providing easy access to residents and beach-goers, as well as the depicted stilt walkers and Times Square cowboy (look closely):
You'll also notice wind turbines that will join forces with solar panels to provide energy to the invigorating mix of retail and residential development. Raised footpaths snake through detention ponds, providing means of escape to residents in the event of a storm surge.
The story behind rehab-ing this section of the Rockaways goes back seven years further than Hurricane Sandy. Before the hurricane hit, there was Superstorm Credit Crunch that left plans for Arverne East by L+M Development Partners, Triangle Equities, and the Bluestone Organization marooned on the drafting table. What we have now is a compromise effort in which the developers have teamed with non-profits and affordable housing advocacy groups to create a compromise between profitable development and inserting new community assets. What assets the pre-existing Rockaway residents desire currently remains unclear, as community consultation didn't take place before proposals were submitted. The chosen winner of the design competition must smoothly navigate the tangle of investors, advocacy groups, city agencies, current residents, and the prospect of future storms.