With state-sponsored home elevations, a clear path for new sand dunes and plans to build a sea wall along two battered seaside towns, the Jersey Shore has a plan for how it will protect itself from the next Hurricane Sandy.
It's a different story on the equally hard-hit Gold Coast.
In Hoboken and Jersey City, two of the state's hot spots for business and development, plans to fortify the cities still are works in progress.
In fact, from a physical standpoint, few changes have been made as the area approaches the first anniversary of the event.
Stakeholders say the challenges of working in urban settings — such as older masonry buildings and high-rises and different topography — require more complex solutions that will require more time and money to sort out.
"You can't take a 30-story building and raise it," Hudson County freeholder Bill O'Dea said. "There are certainly ongoing effects and impacts of what happened with Sandy that, in some cases, are very difficult with existing structures to deal with."
Officials in Hoboken are mulling short- and long-term fixes to make the city more resilient against another Sandy, which caused an estimated $100 million in damage to public and private property last fall. This week, the City Council is slated to consider an ordinance that ties new building requirements to federal elevation guidelines for flood zones, which are aimed at keeping down insurance premiums and limiting property damage.
But Mayor Dawn Zimmer said the city's new rules are still being refined — for future and existing buildings — because federal guidelines "are really more focused on the suburbs and we need urban standards."
The standards, she said, don't account for the "life on the street" in a city when dictating which uses are allowed below flood levels.
Zimmer also wouldn't mind keeping the water out altogether, which would entail a set of physical barriers and improvements that the city has been exploring. The mayor's office has applied for funding for projects such as a new pumping system on its waterfront, along with $33 million to install sea walls and flood barriers in several areas.
"We do have a lot of balls in the air," said Zimmer, whose city was breached from both its northern and southern ends during Sandy. "But I think that everyone wants to make something happen, and there is an understanding that we need to comprehensively protect (the city)."
Neighboring Jersey City has taken its own steps after suffering $20 million in damages to city-owned property alone, expediting work on pumps that were being planned prior to the October storm.
One station, located in the hard-hit downtown waterfront area, will be complete within a month and will pump 80,000 gallons of water per minute, city officials said. A second is planned for 18th Street, further north along the Hudson.
But as physical protections go, Mayor Steven Fulop is drawing the line at the two pumps, at least for now.
He said he'd "prefer not to have Jersey City taxpayers as the guinea pig" for capital-intensive measures such as sea walls without assurances that they work.
"Let's see how it works for other towns, and then if it works, we'll have to replicate it," Fulop said.
Jersey City is grappling with the same issues as Hoboken when it comes to federal elevation guidelines in flood zones.
In the meantime, Fulop has placed a premium on coordinating communication with the businesses and corporations that line its waterfront.
Fulop said "access to information" for issues such as street closings, curfews and timetables suffered during Sandy, so the city has taken steps such as looping in the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce in its emergency planning.
O'Dea, who serves as the deputy executive director of the Elizabeth Development Co., said improving coordination and protecting emergency operations during storm means that "from a government's ability to be prepared, I think we're a lot better off."
But, he said, "the bigger issues are multiyear solutions … because it's a question of money and time."
Other experts in the region are now attempting to tackle those questions. Last month, the American Institute of Architects held a symposium to study storm resiliency prospects for Jersey City, Hoboken and Newark, proposing concepts such as city-to-city sea walls, tiered sidewalks and open spaces that are designed to absorb floodwaters.
The group is preparing to publish its findings and will hold more meetings over the next several months to refine its proposals, which they will share with city governments, said Justin A. Mihalik, an AIA second vice president in New Jersey. The work is being done in coordination with architects from other states, including New York.
Mihalik, who co-chaired the symposium, said the insight is long overdue.
"With all the attention the Shore had received after Sandy, really there was no attention on how this affects the urban," he said. "What about the cities?"
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