Today officially marked the start of the construction of the $251 million flood walls and the $46.6 million pump station.
The project is the result of a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) on their Rebuild by Design competition launched after Superstorm Sandy, which struck New Jersey on October 29th, 2012.
“We’re here to mark the beginning of intense work on our Rebuild by Design initiatives,” New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said.
“Here we are 11 years later breaking ground on one of the elements that will better protect Hoboken parts of Weehawken and Jersey from increasing risks of storm surge.”
LaTourette reflected on the impact Sandy has had on New Jersey as well as comprehensive efforts, including the RBD projects, to make the state more resilient.
“That experience was a wake up call for NJ. We need to invest more deeply in building our resilience to these increasing climate risks,” he added.
LaTourette explained they build infrastructure to prevent the Hudson River from flooding Hudson County towns on the waterfront.
State Department of Community Affairs Acting Commissioner Jacquelyn Suarez noted the need to work with local officials, noting that her department secured the money from HUD for the project.
“We’re making sure we’re putting the funding in place to ensure more stormwater resiliency for our state going forward,” Suarez explained.
“It’s just going to keep getting worse. We see the flooding events going on. Pretending like it’s not going to happen is not going to work.”
Mayor Ravi Bhalla called it a “momentous occasion” to be able to break ground on “a transformative project.”
He added it would be their first park to “safeguard our community from the devastating impacts of climate change and the fierce storms that have challenged us in the past.”
The mayor further explained that the park would include a playground, green space, a walkway, a dog park, and an open-air amphitheater, among other features.
“The heart of this project really relies on the groundbreaking infrastructure designed to protect the city from the ever-present threats of coastal storm surge. With climate change becoming an increasingly urgent concern, we cannot ignore the risks that this poses to our community. Harborside Park will serve as a vital shield safeguarding Hoboken residents,” he declared.
Bhalla added it would prevent destruction and the need to rebuild, with LaTourette adding it takes a long time to address environmental issues.
“A change in climate doesn’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent. It doesn’t care whether your term is up. It’s incumbent on all of us to face, in facing down these realities to look beyond the next budget or the next ballot. That’s what former Mayor Dawn Zimmer did,” LaTourette said while introducing Zimmer.
She said when Murphy was a longshot candidate for governor, she spoke to him about the need to complete these projects to address climate change – which ended up being one of her highest priorities as mayor.
“As we approach another Sandy anniversary, we recognize how lucky we are that this region has not had, you had Ida, but you have not had another major storm surge event for 11 years. Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of whether a superstorm will hit. It is a matter of when,” Zimmer declared.
“Both the North and the South sections must be completed to provide comprehensive protection. We are not yet at a place where we can declare mission accomplished. There are significant unresolved issues that the southern section of this project still has. If they’re not resolved, the southern portion could be derailed, leaving our most vulnerable residents unprotected.”
Zimmer said senior housing and the Hoboken Housing Authority projects would be vulnerable.
She recalled that the city was awarded the money in 2014 and her administration worked for three years to complete the design and secure community support.
“We really need local officials to make sure that we get the final property easements for the southern section. This really needs to happen as soon as possible so that there are no barriers to the completion of this project. I really want to make sure that happens for Hoboken.”
Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) joked he was happy to welcome LaTourette to Hudson County when he brings nearly $300 million.
“But for Rebuild by Design and our shared efforts in implementing flood mitigation and controls, Hoboken could have been underwater in 80 years,” he exclaimed.
“The violence of coastal storms and hurricanes is certainly going to result in more and more destruction as time goes on. We’re even seeing heavy flooding from rainstorms. Is it like 80 degrees today? Maybe mid-70s. We’re six days from November.”
He noted former President Donald Trump (R) pulled the United States out of the Paris Accord, the only nation state in the world besides Syria to do so,
He added that he sponsored a bill compelling New Jersey to join the United States Climate Alliance, which promoted state environmental policies.
The overall project entails the construction of more than 9,000 linear feet of flood walls, along with installing floodgates, berms, and levees to provide barriers during extreme high tide and storm surge events.
The RBD-Meadowlands project includes the installation of a new pump station and force main in Little Ferry to improve drainage in the Losen Slote Creek watershed and the removal of a decommissioned tide gate foundation that obstructs flow within Losen Slote Creek.
“Thanks to the collaborative efforts that grew out of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design competition, these areas are becoming national models for resilience projects that will better protect lives, property, and infrastructure from the worsening impacts of climate change,” Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said in a statement.