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New Jersey Enters National Disaster Resilience Contest

February 27th, 2015 by Megan Callus

Successful applicants will receive up to $1 billion in funding for project design and implementation

NDRC photo

Photo courtesy of WKXW

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection posted its draft application for the National Disaster Resilience Competition (pdf) on Friday, Feb. 20, making it potentially eligible to receive up to $1 billion in federal funds.

The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the competition on Sept. 17, 2014, allowing communities recently struck by natural disasters to compete for $1 billion in funding. Modeled on the Rebuild By Design effort, the goal of the competition is to help communities recover from natural disasters and improve their ability to prepare for and withstand future disasters. The competition is structured in two phases: (1) risk assessment and planning; and (2) design and implementation. Read the rest of this entry »

DEP Approves Permits To Restore Assunpink Creek

February 19th, 2015 by Jane Rosenblatt

A rendering of the completed Assunpink "daylighting" project. Courtesy of BRS, Inc. for the City of Trenton.

A rendering of the completed Assunpink daylighting project. Courtesy of BRS, Inc. for the City of Trenton.

On Feb. 12 the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced it has approved permits to restore a 500-foot-long stretch of the Assunpink Creek that runs underground along Broad Street in downtown Trenton. The restoration will include removal of the culvert that covers the creek, allowing it to be “daylighted” and the banks on either side of it to be planted with native riparian vegetation. The restoration will also restore fish habitat, and a planned pedestrian walkway will connect sections of the Assunpink Greenway. The $4 million project is set to be completed by spring 2016.

New Jersey Future has been involved with the project, in particular with facilitating public outreach and engagement, and with expediting the process from design to implementation. Read the rest of this entry »

New Jersey Future Trustee Ingrid Reed Wins AIA-NJ Award

February 18th, 2015 by Elaine Clisham

Ingrid Reed AIA-NJ award croppedAt a ceremony on Jan. 9, the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects presented the 2014 Resident of the Year Award to New Jersey Future trustee and senior fellow Ingrid W. Reed.

The award recognizes “a person who has made major contributions to the built environment and the quality of life through community activity, legislative involvement, professional (non-architect) practice or by means of other appropriate activities,” says the association. Read the rest of this entry »

Experts Detail Challenges of Adapting to Climate Change

February 17th, 2015 by New Jersey Future staff

With global warming already occurring, the state needs to adapt to its impact even as it takes steps to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a panel of experts at a NJ Spotlight roundtable on preparing New Jersey for climate change. Participants in the forum in Trenton on Friday predicted that… Read the rest of this entry »

New Jersey Future Vulnerability Assessment Process To Be Presented at National Conference

February 6th, 2015 by Elaine Clisham

Methodology quantifies damage and tax-base loss at the parcel level from
sea-level rise and severe weather.

U.S. Air Force photo of Sandy damage to the Jersey Shore.

U.S. Air Force photo of Sandy damage to the Jersey Shore.

A new process, developed by New Jersey Future and the environmental engineering firm Princeton Hydro, that calculates a coastal community’s financial exposure to future severe weather and sea-level rise will make its national debut at the American Planning Association annual conference in April 2015.

The vulnerability assessment uses parcel-based maps and data to establish a current baseline high-tide level for a community, and then projects various future extents and depths of inundation from storm surge and sea-level rise. The value of damage to property on each parcel under each scenario is then calculated, and the potential loss to the municipal tax base as a result of that damage is calculated. Read the rest of this entry »

New Jersey Future, Other Groups Urge Veto of ‘Meadowlands Bill’

February 4th, 2015 by Elaine Clisham

The New Jersey Turnpike as it passes over the Meadowlands. Photo source: flickr user illinigardner

The New Jersey Turnpike as it passes over the Meadowlands. Photo source: flickr user illinigardner

On Jan. 22, 2015, New Jersey Future, along with 10 other partner organizations, filed detailed comments on identical bills A3969/S2647, the so-called “Meadowlands bill,” urging Gov. Christie to veto the legislation and offering to work with the Legislature to craft a bill that would address concerns about current Meadowlands governance without putting past protections and successes at risk.

The groups’ objections to the bill focused on four key concerns:

  • The bill would eliminate of one of the most successful examples of regional planning and cooperation in the country. The Meadowlands Commission has been an excellent regional steward, carefully balancing the need for growth and development with the need for conservation and preservation of the environmentally unique and fragile Meadowlands. Now there is no entity responsible for that protection, and the regional tax-sharing arrangement that underlay the commission’s work risks being replaced by public subsidies. For a state that is so concerned about high property taxes, this is exactly the wrong policy direction.
  • The bill would open the door to confusing layers of red tape in zoning and development decisions, while not ensuring that development proposals be consistent with the Meadowlands master plan. In fact, the legislation’s wording makes it extremely unclear as to who would have review authority, which creates great uncertainty for those interested in investing and developing in the Meadowlands.
  • The bill would put state taxpayers on the hook for subsidizing towns in the Meadowlands. A new hotel tax will generate revenue that in theory will be shared with some of the towns, but if enough money is not generated by the tax, then the state government is required to make up the difference.
  • The bill would jeopardize Liberty State Park. The new entity created by the legislation is given authority for planning, implementation and management of projects in the park, and will perhaps even control project approval – again, the legislation is unclear – thus removing control of a state park from the state Dept. of Environmental Protection, which has had, and should rightly have, jurisdiction.

Read the full comments (pdf).

Update: On Feb. 5, 2015, Gov. Christie signed the bill while acknowledging its shortcomings, which the bill’s authors promised to address.

White House Executive Order May Make Shore Communities Less Vulnerable to Storm Damage

February 2nd, 2015 by New Jersey Future staff

Photo courtesy of NJ Spotlight

Photo courtesy of NJ Spotlight

President Barack Obama has issued an executive order directing all government agencies handing out federal aid to incorporate stricter building requirements that take sea-level rise into account. The move is aimed at making residents in coastal areas safer from storms like Sandy, as well as ensuring that taxpayer money is spent wisely.

Planners and environmentalists have long lamented that the FEMA flood maps — which dictated the construction standards for Sandy victims rebuilding along the coast — only considered historical flood damage in requiring them to build to the 100-year flood height (a flood that has a 1 percent chance of occurring annually), but did not take into account future risks pertaining to climate change or potentially more severe storms. Most other government agencies similarly failed to incorporate climate predictions in their planning efforts. Read the rest of this entry »

CNU President Is 2015 Forum Keynote Speaker

January 27th, 2015 by Elaine Clisham

LRichardsIncoming CNU president Lynn Lynn Richards will be the keynote speaker at the 10th annual Redevelopment Forum. Ms. Richards has been the president and chief executive officer of the Congress for the New Urbanism since July 2014. Previously, Richards had a long and distinguished career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), holding multiple leadership roles over 13 years including acting director and policy director in the Office of Sustainable Communities. She worked with dozens of state and local governments to implement placemaking approaches by developing policies, urban design strategies, and environmental solutions for vibrant, prosperous neighborhoods. Additionally, she produced groundbreaking research on water and land use strategies. Read the rest of this entry »

Extending Approval for State Plan Centers Could Harm Coastal Towns

January 23rd, 2015 by Megan Callus

2050_CAFRA_center_Mystic_Island-3

Mystic Island endorsed center projected flooding vulnerability in 2050 under 1-percent storm scenario

On Dec. 18, 2014, New Jersey Future submitted comments (pdf) to the State Planning Commission (SPC) on its proposed Amendment to the State Planning Rules that would extend the period of approvals for any center designations granted by the commission prior to Sept. 6, 2008, by an additional three years beyond their otherwise applicable expiration dates.

Centers were created in the State Plan as a means of identifying areas most suitable for growth, while environmentally sensitive lands are kept protected. The state government provides incentives such as expedited and coordinated permit review to communities that undertake the planning necessary to create centers. Read the rest of this entry »

Rebuild By Design Projects Must Ensure Equity, Resiliency, Public Involvement

January 21st, 2015 by Megan Callus

Sandy-related flooding in Little Ferry, a municipality within the New Meadowlands project area. Photo credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Sandy-related flooding in Little Ferry, a municipality within the New Meadowlands project area. Photo credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

New Jersey Future has submitted comments (pdf) on the state’s proposed Amendment 12 to the New Jersey Disaster Recovery Action Plan. This amendment details how the state will spend $380 million in Sandy rebuilding funds to advance two projects selected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through its Rebuild By Design (RBD) initiative. Rebuild by Design was a design competition of international architects, engineers and planning professionals to generate comprehensive long-term strategies for improving flood resilience in vulnerable communities.

Read the rest of this entry »

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