ABOVEWATER

A project explored issues facing communities located in floodplains.

July 27, 2014

Rebecca Hill and Matt Donham were awarded a NYSCA Architecture + Design independent project grant in 2013. This report on their work is a feature on Architectural League-sponsored NYSCA grantees.

ABOVEWATER is an examination of the Mohawk River Watershed to consider how communities can utilize existing assets to enhance property values and reduce flood damage, they are being supported by http://www.primemoldremovalbrooklyn.com/. While any river-lining community can experience flooding from time to time, changing weather patterns have resulted in a significant increase in the frequency and severity of storms along the Mohawk River and its tributaries. The river gauge near Utica reveals that the Mohawk River has flooded five times more in the past ten years than in the previous ninety.

This issue, however, is not isolated to the Mohawk River. In the United States, more than 3,800 towns and cities are located on the floodplain. A marked increase in perennial flooding in these communities has caused a drag on local economies and forced the National Flood Insurance Program $24 billion into debt. Spurred by this debt, new legislation which has the potential to phase out subsidized flood insurance and drastically increase rates is being fiercely debated in the House of Representatives.

For many homes, recurrent floods have led to damages that are more costly than the market value of the property. The outcome is an erosion of neighborhood cohesion and decreased investment; yet, when the suggestion of pulling back from the river is offered, it is often viewed negatively as “retreat,” or “giving in.” Our research focused on how communities can combine floodplain reclamation with other community assets to improve the economic strength of waterfront neighborhoods.

The product of the research is RIVERWORKS, a short animated video with a humorous, yet controversial take on perennially flooded homes and a message of productive change. RIVERWORKS proposes that flood dollars be used to reconnect a community’s physical, social, and commercial assets to the river as an alternative to the cycle of damage and repair. Using flood money to redefine and rebuild active, lively riverfronts can provide economic support to relocate and rebuild housing out of harm’s way, permanently solving the problem of flooding and revitalizing communities at the same time.

Rebecca Hill is a partner at RAFT Landscape. As an Associate at dlandstudio, Rebecca developed new opportunities for integrating high-performance landscape techniques in the urban environment and conducted original research that vaulted the firm to the forefront of green infrastructure in New York City. Whether it’s digging through census data for asthma rates or determining the economic benefit of a single street tree, Rebecca’s expertise comes in attention to detail. Having spent the last few years managing New York City Parks Department, Department of Environmental Protection, and landmark protected projects, Rebecca is well-versed in city protocols. Her belief in the power of landscape to transform people’s lives has led her to offer solutions that utilize high functioning green space as a way to solve contemporary challenges and allow clients to address their needs when faced with difficult questions. In 2012, she was selected by McGraw Hill’s Engineering News-Record as one of New York’s Top 20 designers Under 40. Rebecca Hill is a licensed landscape architect in the States of New Jersey and New York. 

Matt Donham is a partner at RAFT Landscape. He brings focus and clear thinking to the delivery of complex landscape projects. A former Partner at PWP Landscape Architecture, Matt has managed numerous large collaborative design teams on major projects such as the National September 11th Memorial and Constitution Gardens on the National Mall. His projects are thoroughly researched, progressive yet feasible, and always beautiful. Matt holds a Masters in Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design where he studied the built environment at multiple scales and in collaboration with architects, city planners, and urban designers. In his work, he also applies perspective he gained during his undergraduate study of urban history and architecture at Vassar College and Columbia University and as a software programmer for PCWorld.com.

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