HOBOKEN – In this congested city alongside the Hudson River, Superstorm Sandy, not surprisingly, is spoken about in apocalyptic terms.
“It made Hoboken feel like a war zone,” says former Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Ravi Bhalla, the current mayor, says the 2012 storm was the most devastating “human disaster” the city ever experienced.
The mayors – past and present – spoke of most city streets underwater, residents stranded in their homes and water bubbling up through toilets like in a low-budget sci-fi film.
Hoping to avoid future disasters of that type brought Zimmer, Bhalla, the governor, the HUD secretary and others to the city’s waterfront today to trumpet a $230 million plan to protect the city and its neighbors.
“This is huge, this is going to have national implications,” said Rep. Albio Sires, who comes from West New York, a fellow Hudson County town, but one that is mostly on high ground.
The plan is to hold back the Hudson through what supporters say is an ingenious mix of bulkheads, floodwalls and environmental improvements. Landscaping in the form of berms, swales and retention basins will be designed to capture stormwater runoff that makes it over the floodwall. Improvements also will be made to the city’s aging sewer system.
Officials stressed that the idea is not to build massive and “ugly seawalls,” but to address flooding through more creative and esthetic means, Hoboken is front and center here, but the project will also help the city’s waterfront neighbors – Weehawken and Jersey City.
Murphy put it this way:
“This is a project with big goals and big vision.”
It is also a winning concept. HUD actually held a competition to assess innovative flood-control proposals and the Hoboken project was one of the winners.
The featured guest at the ceremony was HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge.
Addressing the impact of Sandy, Fudge told local and state officials that they’ve come out of the tragedy in a “strong, strong way.”
The overall topic of climate change remains controversial in some quarters, although simple logic seems to be convincing many skeptics.
With that in mind, Fudge spoke about the need to improve infrastructure and prepare for the future.
“Anyone who questions that is living in the past,” she said.