Infrastructure investment in the United States is approaching a classic “line in the sand.” One side of the line, federal legislators believe big-ticket investments can only be triggered by the unspoken policy of “catastrophic resolution.” On the other side, our legislators stand with, “whatever my constituents want and need” as if they had other leaders.  The former is a vague plan for entering the tunnel, the latter is the source of most of the tunnel vision in the world.

Here is an example, in NYC there is a 100-year-old subway tunnel. If it crumbles, it could cripple the northeast economy for a decade and require a heroic response. In less dense areas support for rebuilding failing highways to struggling big-box shopping malls in order to keep voters happy, or less discontent is the way to go. Both are the kind of win/win concepts in current legislative quarters that are disasters.

In this form of federal leadership, infrastructure failures of any kind also have to get to a critical mass of some definition. It might be horrifying deaths or vast losses in general revenue due to a breakdown in transportation, unstoppable forest fires or floods. The central issue is the lack of a classification that will designate a line condition.  This is the pornography of public policy – they will know it when they see it.

In Your Face.

A grant from the National Resource Defense Foundation (NRDC) brought a video to the public in 2014 that sums up decades of advocacy by Joe Minicozzi of Urban3).  Take a moment to watch it.

There you have it, a basic set of facts about why density works. Getting leadership from local to federal to get it to work is the real problem.  Without a policy toward a dense urban framework over three-quarters of the American landscape is in peril.


A large group of urban developers from the general advocates of public well-being have solutions as environmentalists, scientists, architects, urban planners, real estate developers and community organizers have solutions.  The first one is to eliminate the vague notion of what a city is and make the building of them a real issue.

Surging Tides and the Rising Seas

Will limiting development in a flood zone community improve resiliency? Not if it floods. Nevertheless, reducing the number of people displaced by a major flooding, high tide event like Hurricane Sandy (October 2012) limiting growth is a reasonable measure of resilience. Another measure is an improvement in estimates of “damage reduction” provisions for all the folks who refuse to leave the zone or take a buyout. Here are two examples.

Single-family housing districts in large low-lying coastal areas in New York City are addressing the reduced impact measure of resilience with special districts initially proposed August 9, 2107.

East Shore Special Coastal Risk District, Staten Island (N 170374 ZRR; C 170373 ZMR

The Staten Island special district is roughly four square miles and addresses the surge area of the 2012 super hurricane. The district will allow new single-family development and the elevation of existing buildings. In this sense, the rezoning by a special district is also a challenge aimed at better design concepts.

Hudson Yard Development plans are well known and along the waterfront, but the question of growth goes in the opposite direction along the waterfront given the image above. The area affected by various water influx zones will change as atmospheric data sets predict areas of impact.

The area now subject to the East Shore Special District can be examined using the map below. Zone 1 is most likely to flood to Zone 6 as least likely. Remaining aware of the variables associated with storm surge, sea rise, wind and rain remain the responsibility of the property owner and insurers.


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