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Environmental Sustainability Class Gets Lesson on NYC's Coastline Design

Environmental Sustainability Class Gets Lesson on NYC's Coastline Design

On Tuesday, April 23rd, 16 students from Mr. Effron’s Environmental Sustainability Class, an honors Engineering elective through Project Lead the Way, embarked on a field trip across 2 boroughs to investigate how New York City is bracing for the next Superstorm Sandy.

Their first stop was Stuyvesant Cove Park in Manhattan, where students conversed with leaders from 2 non-profit organizations, Solar One and the Lower East Side Ecology Center, deeply involved in New York City’s efforts to adapt to a future of rising seas and damaging floods. Students learned how Stuyvesant Cove Park was rebuilt to help soak up storm surge and replanted with plant species that won’t be killed by saltwater and high wind conditions. They also discussed the controversy surrounding the “Big U”, a project that is surrounding over 2 miles of Manhattan’s coastline with massive 10-foot high storm walls and gates as well as elevating East River Park 10 feet. Students explored the design of this system and considered some of the drawbacks in physically separating people from the water with a permanent wall.

Students then boarded a ferry boat that shuttled them past the rest of the “Big U”, marveling at not only NYC’s skyline on a gorgeous day, but the sheer amount of construction on the water needed to protect NYC from the next Sandy. We soon arrived at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where we explored how the park was designed to provide critical habitat for wildlife, as we saw frogs, turtles, fish and several species of birds. Students also were amazed to think about how certain design features they normally ignore in parks–ponds, hills, sloping coastlines, the placement of large rocks, and the choice of tree and plant species–were all intentionally chosen to protect the park from flooding, reduce sound from the nearby highway, and filter wastewater that can be recycled for irrigation.

Students also conducted lively interviews with members of the public visiting Brooklyn Bridge Park to better understand whether other people are aware of the park’s design, how concerned they are about climate change and flooding, and which activities they do in the park. Towards the end of the day, the students were rewarded for their hard work with time to play volleyball, basketball, and just relax in the grass with direct views of the State of Liberty, Lower Manhattan and New Jersey.

It was a great trip that everyone agreed should be repeated annually!