2013-02-07 / Front Page

Sea Bright: A case study in Sandy recovery

Boro taps into resources at Bloustein, Harvard, NJIT to help chart the future
Staff Writer

Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long speaks to students at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy about priorities for post-storm rebuilding at Borough Hall on Jan. 31. 
NICOLE ANTONUCCI Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long speaks to students at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy about priorities for post-storm rebuilding at Borough Hall on Jan. 31. NICOLE ANTONUCCI Twenty graduate students, notepads and cameras in hand, wandered through storm-ravaged Sea Bright last week gathering input to guide plans for the borough’s future.

For the next four and a half months, the students at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University will work with the community, collecting ideas from residents, businesses and stakeholders to develop conceptual design plans for the renaissance of the borough.

“The class is a planning studio, so every semester we go to a different place and we take on assignments that the town requests,” professor Carlos Rodrigues said in an interview on Jan. 31.

“This semester we are going to be working on Sea Bright as a case study. Basically we are here to help the town and figure out ways we can contribute to help them solve their problems.”

Students met with borough officials at Borough Hall on Jan. 31 to get a brief history of Sea Bright, a background of the damage from superstorm Sandy, and a vision of what Sea Bright could become moving forward.

“Our community has some strong ideas about what we don’t want here in Sea Bright, so it will be important for you to hear from the members of the community so you get appropriate direction,” Mayor Dina Long told the group, cautioning them against any concept of redevelopment.

“Redevelopment is a bad word in Sea Bright. The issue with redevelopment is eminent domain.

“People fear eminent domain, they fear a heartless government coming in and taking away their land. They fear a plastic look, and a big fear of Sea Bright is that the downtown will wind up looking like Pier Village in Long Branch.”

Long asked the students to consider Sea Bright’s history as a fishing village and to focus building design around a New England style. She also emphasized preserving natural resources, acquiring open space, developing pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly pathways, and increasing public access.

“Our local economy depends on the beachgoers so we don’t want to keep people off the beach; we want to get more people to come to the beach,” she said.

“That is possibly an area for you to take on, increasing our public access not only to the ocean but also on the river side. There are a few access points but they aren’t meaningful.” Long also said that “green” building techniques should also be an important part of the design phase.

“For me personally as a mayor, I would like to limit the amount of impervious cover that we put back down here in Sea Bright, because filtration is going to be important,” she said. “It is also windy here. ... We can look to see if there is any way we can use wind to drive energy. We also want to put as many south-facing roofs to maximize solar [power]. Green techniques are going to be important.” At the same time, students have to remember that buildings must be higher and built to new post-Sandy standards.

Borough Engineer Jaclyn Flor, of T&M Associates, explained that the students would have to understand the difference between various flood zones because these dictate the type of construction that will take place.

Most of Sea Bright has been designated primarily as being in two high-risk flood zones: the A and V zones, she said.

“People are scared about the V zone, and the fact that everyone is going to be on these concrete pilings and that it’s going to be stale and not aesthetic,” she said.

“Some fears are that the businesses have to be raised, which is going to drive away foot traffic. From a flood-mitigation perspective it makes sense, but from a planning perspective it doesn’t work.”

Armed with a basic idea of what the borough is looking for, students dispersed in groups to tour the 3-mile Shore town, taking photographs and jotting down notes.

“This is only a site visit so they can see the town. They will come back on their own to verify stuff and in our next class we are going to sit down and map out what we are likely going to be doing for the first month or so,” Rodrigues said.

“It is a little open-ended because we are perfectly open to opportunities that may occur that we don’t know about yet. Stuff is happening in real time and there are real deadlines, and information is coming out every day from Gov. Chris Christie’s office and FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency], and so you have to be a little flexible and nimble.”

The students will study the borough’s ordinances and master plan, FEMA’s advisory base flood elevations (ABFE), and more notably, a case study done by the Bloustein School’s Spring 2012 studio, “Adapting to Climate Change in Coastal Monmouth County.”

Sea Bright was one of three towns examined in the study, which documented the history of catastrophic storm events affecting the area over a period of 150 years, and described some of the more significant decisions affecting land use and infrastructure made over the years in response to those events.

Using GIS Hazus, a model for estimating potential losses, the studio modeled property damage scenarios within the study area for the 10-, 50-, 100- and 500- year storms.

“I found the study online and so I called the Bloustein School and told them that everything they predicted came true and said, ‘Now what?’ ” Long said, adding that the plans are only the first step.

The borough is also enlisting the help of the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Center for Coastal Resiliency.

“We are going to tap into the resources of Harvard to identify funding to pay for some of the things that come out of this and then we are going to team up with the NJIT Center for Coastal Resiliency to make sure that we are using sustainable [methods],” Long said.

“I am hoping that we are going to get some concepts that are going to be feasible for our community moving forward

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