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What It's Like to Spend a Night in NYC's Post-Disaster Housing

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NYC's Post-Disaster Housing. Photographs by Evan Bindelglass.

For more than a year now, a three-high stack of trailers has been sitting in Cadman Plaza East in Downtown Brooklyn. The construction belongs to the Office of Emergency Management, which created the units to be a prototype for post-disaster housing—the sort that could be used if another catastrophe on the level of Hurricane Sandy hits NYC. The idea is that the Indiana-manufactured units would be easily deployable and stackable, and could be put almost anywhere. (We visited it last October during Open House New York weekend and can attest to their usefulness.) OEM employees have actually been sleeping there for week long periods, and recently New York Times reporter Matt Chaban and his wife also took a test run in the prototype to see what it's like.

Chaban described the space as "light and airy." There is a full kitchen, which made making breakfast "a breeze" (aside from the lack of a toaster), and there was a French press for their coffee. He said the "spacious" shower (which has a New York City subway map for a curtain) has better water pressure than he has at home. The units are also wheelchair-friendly. "They're kind of wonderful, really, especially for something that is meant to be temporary," Michaela Metcalfe, the director of the Design and Construction Excellence program at the Department of Design and Construction, told Chaban.

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. The units come in multiple configurations up to four stories tall, and the models in Brooklyn right now are two three-bedroom units and a one-bedroom unit (but they could be configured as two-bedroom or studio units).

The pilot program runs through November 2016, after which time city officials hope the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will redeploy the units at its own testing ground in Maryland. That could mean national adoption of a program like this. Until then, the public can visit the trailers in Brooklyn on Fridays by registering with OEM.


· New York City Tests Post-Disaster Housing That Stacks Up [NYT]
· New Yorkers Could Live In This Prefab Housing After Sandy 2.0 [Curbed]
· Post-Disaster Housing Tours [Official]
· All Hurricane Sandy coverage [Curbed]