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Nassau resiliency plan wins $125M in post-Sandy funds contest

From left, Rockville Centre Mayor Francis Murray, Nassau

From left, Rockville Centre Mayor Francis Murray, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Sen. Charles Schumer, chat after a news conference at the New York City Housing Authority's Jacob Riis Houses on June 2, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

A proposal to protect Nassau County's South Shore from storm surges and rising sea levels as well as stormwater flowing from higher elevations Monday won $125 million in a federal post-superstorm Sandy rebuilding design competition.

"Living with the Bay," by a coalition of U.S.- and Dutch-based design and engineering firms called The Interboro Team, was one of four projects in New York to earn federal funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Rebuild by Design competition. The award would go toward further development of the project.

"There are lots of inland waterways that won't be protected even if you build a big barrier on Long Beach and at Jones Beach," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said of the South Shore's unique vulnerability to flooding. The project, which Schumer advocated for the funding prize, will protect "countless communities like East Rockaway and Lynbrook and Rockville Centre and Island Park from the next storm," he said.

It would cost $3 billion to expand beyond the pilot programs and address each tributary on Nassau's South Shore, according to The Interboro Team.

The New York winners -- awarded a total of $540 million in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery -- were announced at a news conference on Manhattan's Lower East Side, which also was hard hit by Sandy in 2012.

The proposal for protecting the Mill River watershed -- between East Rockaway and Oceanside -- includes installing a sluice to reduce storm surges and control stormwater, widening the river by building undeveloped land into a waterfront park that can also filter stormwater, and adding stormwater swales to streets adjacent to the river. The Interboro Team must next submit an action plan.

"What our research showed was that there was not one single threat, there are multiple threats to Nassau County . . . that all contribute to its vulnerability," said Georgeen Theodore, a principal with the Brooklyn-based Interboro Partners architecture, urban design and urban planning firm.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said the county will work with the federal, state and local governments to make sure the project becomes reality as quickly as possible, but stakeholders must meet before a timeline is established.

"It's certainly not only going to protect our shoreline and our marsh area, but it's going to add a dimension of recreation and aesthetic improvement for our residents," he said.

The other New York winners were The BIG Team, with $335 million to build a bridging berm to provide the Lower East Side with vertical storm surge protection; PennDesign/Olin, with $20 million for the study of ways to protect the Bronx's Hunts Point food hub; and SCAPE/Landscape Architecture, with $60 million for an in-water "reef street" to protect Staten Island from waves and erosion using a habitat of finfish, shellfish and lobsters.

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