If another storm like Hurricane Sandy comes along and displaces thousands of people, the City of New York wants to be ready. That is why they put out a request for proposals for designs for post-disaster housing that could be used for up to two years. This housing would not replace immediate emergency shelters in places like hotels or school auditoriums, but it would come after, as a more permanent solution for displaced families. Last year, the NYC Office of Emergency Management awarded the project to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as manager, and a prototype of the housing currently sits at the corner of Cadman Plaza East and Red Cross Place in Downtown Brooklyn. The public got a peek inside during Open House New York weekend.
The modular structure is three stories tall with two unit types. The first two floors are each three-bedroom units, though on the first floor, the wall between bedrooms two and three has been knocked down to create a gallery space. The top floor is a one-bedroom unit. James McConnell, assistant commissioner for strategic data at OEM, said there could be options for two-bedroom or studio units. This isn't just a model, but a working prototype. OEM staffers are living there for a week at a time to test it out. That means there is electricity, running water, and a working stove.
The prototype is the product of a collaboration between contractor American Manufactured Structures & Systems and designer Garrison Architects, as well as Mark Line Industries (which fabricated the prototype in Indiana) and Anastos Engineering Associates.
The idea is that, in the event of a disaster, the city could hand the specifications to a builder who could quickly fabricate the required number of units, and they could be driven to where they are needed. McConnell was asked about the idea of building them ahead of time and stockpiling them so they'd be ready for nearly immediate use. He said he'd love to be able to do that, but FEMA would have to bear the brunt of that strategy.
The hope is that these units will never be needed, but the city doesn't want to be caught off guard and these are really fantastic temporary living arrangements. Even the one-bedroom unit is not cramped, and even has a small terrace. In fact, for many New Yorkers, this is nicer than their current homes. While people are living there, you can still visit it Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and group tours can be arranged through OEM.
—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
·Urban Post-Disaster Housing Prototype [Official]
· All Office of Emergency Management coverage [Curbed]
· All Open House New York coverage [Curbed]