As a microcosm of the challenges facing coastal cities around the world, New York’s Jamaica Bay pretty much has it all.
Home to about 3 million people, one of the world’s busiest airports and sensitive coastal ecosystems, Jamaica Bay is a lagoon bordered by Brooklyn and Queens at the southwestern edge of Long Island. This region is vulnerable to an evolving set of threats, including sea-level rise, increasingly intense storms and shifting rainfall patterns.
This complexity makes it a perfect place to apply the cross-disciplinary approach that a team of Princeton researchers is bringing to improving the resilience of New York and other coastal cities. Culminating years of research funded by the National Science Foundation and supported by the Princeton Environmental Institute, the Princeton team recently published a 170-page report that details existing conditions, analyzes climate and sea-level trends, and proposes solutions to protect Jamaica Bay’s neighborhoods, infrastructure and ecology. The work is a continuation of the Structures of Coastal Resilience initiative, which was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and supported by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.
“We are exploring ways to build resilience that is multilayered and multifaceted,” said Guy Nordenson, professor of architecture and affiliated member of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Along with Nordenson, principal collaborators at Princeton include Ning Lin, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Michael Oppenheimer, the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs and the Princeton Environmental Institute.
In the Jamaica Bay report, the authors propose a two-tiered set of storm barriers: an outer 6.7-mile barrier linking high ground to the north and south of the bay could be closed to protect John F. Kennedy International Airport and other critical areas against extreme events; while a lower, more inland barrier would provide passive protection against tidal flooding as sea levels rise, yet preserve the ecology of the marshes.