Site Selection and Analysis

Aerial imagery at Jamaica Bay, 1924.  Source: NYC DoITT Map
Aerial imagery at Jamaica Bay, 1924. Source: NYC DoITT Map

Jamaica Bay, located in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, is a 20,000 acre water body and the westernmost embayment along the south shore of Long Island. A rich ecological resource, its 85,000 acres of watershed provides a diverse habitat complex with salt marsh islands, grasslands, maritime forests, and woodlands. Today, urbanization has transformed the bay into a constructed sewershed. Combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfalls discharge directly into the bay, degrading water quality and jeopardizing the benthic environment.

Sea level rise and increased nitrogen levels have precipitated the loss of intertidal salt marsh island acreage in the bay and compromised its capacity to reduce wave impact, surge velocity, wind fetch forces, and flood extents. Damage from Hurricane Sandy on Jamaica Bay, the Rockaway Peninsula, and the surrounding communities was extensive. Yet even with sea level rise and the risk of increased storm surge and flooding, this region of the city has the potential to be recast as a resilient ecological, infrastructural, and community asset.

Several successful projects to support the resiliency of the Jamaica Bay region have been initiated. Prior to Hurricane Sandy, the New York District Office of the US Army Corps of Engineers worked closely with local environmental groups to restore several salt marsh islands within the bay. Other initiatives are directed at improving the collaboration between the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the National Parks Service. Yet a comprehensive plan that addresses poor water quality and sediment starvation at Jamaica Bay could further promote sustained ecological health.

The City College of New York team approaches Jamaica Bay as an interconnected hydrologic and ecologic urban system. The vast scale and fetch dimension of the bay are assets for exploring the performance of natural and nature-based features (NNBFs)—particularly salt marshes—for both ecosystem enhancement and coastal storm risk management. This proposal identifies a holistic set of strategies for supporting coastal resiliency at Jamaica Bay, and includes recommendations for the Rockaway Peninsula, the central marsh islands, and the tributary inlets at the Bay’s interior perimeter. Additionally, the proposal seeks to address social, environmental, and infrastructural vulnerability to enhance the overall resiliency of Jamaica Bay.

Download Phase 1 Report  here

Methodology

A comprehensive, resilient vision for the transformation of Jamaica Bay extends from the paradigm shift of coastal storm risk management addressed in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS). Given its vast scale, Jamaica Bay may be recast as an impactful ecological, infrastructural, and community asset, capable of enhancing the region’s resiliency. This design methodology engages robust digital and physical modeling of the Bay’s geomorphology, hydrology, and sedimentary dynamics. An effective risk management strategy must also capture a broad understanding of social, ecological, and infrastructural vulnerability.

Digital Modeling

A robust and accurate topobathy, a digital elevation model (DEM) that seamlessly merges topographic and bathymetric data, is a critical tool for the project. This merged model is integral to the conceptual understanding of terrain as a continuous gradient surface, a transformable basin containing the dynamic medium of water. The Jamaica Bay DEM merges elevation raster data from the land’s topography with bathymetric point soundings of the water’s depth. These two datasets are positioned in reference to the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88), with the interpolation of a smooth gradient at the intertidal zone. This DEM, in its existing and modified conditions, allows for comparative analyses of the efficacy of design proposals using digital hydrodynamic modeling tools such as SLOSH, ADCIRC, SLAMM, CH3D-SWAN, SMS-PTM, and the wind fetch model WAVES2012.

Physical Modeling

A detailed morphology of Jamaica Bay, from the scale of the watershed to local features within the embayment, is examined through the use of physical models. Hydraulic water models, in the spirit of the USACE Waterways Experiment Station, have been constructed to test the dynamic conditions of water flow, residence time, overwash, sediment transfer, and surge. Construction methods include topographic contour models, casts of inverse contour models, and continuous-surface CNC-milled models. The empirical results of the water tank studies have provided integral feedback to the design process.

Vulnerability Index

In order to provide a fine-grained study of vulnerability at Jamaica Bay, layered indices of social, environmental, and infrastructural risk are geospatially mapped. Sea level rise affects each of these categories, through possible loss of life and property from flooding, loss of valuable wetland ecologies, and loss of critical infrastructures such as transportation, power, and communication. These vulnerability maps provide a focused lens for assessing at-risk communities and ecologies, and often reveal unexpected patterns of exposure to hazard.

Resiliency Strategies

The Jamaica Bay Resiliency Strategies address vulnerability and coastal storm risk management by merging novel techniques of ecosystem restoration with layered nature-based features. The comprehensive Resiliency Plan consists of a framework of three design strategies: the improvement of water quality and hydrologic flow and circulation throughout the bay, the enhancement of coastal verges at back-bay communities, and the development of atoll terraces through bay nourishment and sediment capture via the natural processes of an “island motor” at the salt marsh islands.

Resiliency Proposals

Each of the three Jamaica Bay resiliency strategies, Flow and Circulation, Verge Enhancement, and the Atoll Terrace / Island Motor, are applied and adapted to individual design proposals at project sites in and around the Bay. The Flow and Circulation strategy takes the form of a tidal marsh inlet, an overwash plain, or a flushing tunnel, depending on the existing local context. Verge Enhancement may simply increase the height of existing high ground through an earthen berm, tie into existing infrastructure, or become an integrated hard structure at certain locations. The Atoll Terraces are established within existing shallow intertidal areas, allowing for sediment deposition and bay nourishment to increase the marsh island footprint as well as encourage fringe marsh development at appropriate zones along the perimeter of the Bay.

Pamphlet Library

The Jamaica Bay Pamphlet Library categorizes the team’s focused research on unique topics of inquiry, from archival treasures to environmental engagement to design methodologies. Specific niches of data influential to both the process and project are gathered within each pamphlet.

Team, Sources, and Further Reading

The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture
City College of New York

Catherine Seavitt

Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture

Catherine Seavitt is an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at CUNY’s City College of New York and principal of Catherine Seavitt Studio. Her research focuses on design adaptation to sea level rise in urban coastal environments and explores novel landscape restoration practices given the dynamics of climate change. Seavitt co-authored the book On the Water: Palisade Bay, a climate adaptation proposal for the New York / New Jersey Upper Harbor; this study, examining the use of “soft” infrastructural systems to mitigate the impacts of storm surge and flooding, was the foundation of the 2010 exhibition Rising Currents at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Kjirsten Alexander

Research Associate

Danae Alessi

Research Associate

Eli Sands

Research Assistant

Pamphlet Downloads

00 FINAL REPORT: Shifting Sands: Sedimentary Cycles for Jamaica Bay

REF 01 Jamaica Bay Edge Atlas
REF 02 Jamaica Bay Plant Catalog

01  The Bottom of Jamaica Bay

02  Jamaica Bay Species
03  The Belt Parkway
04  Finding Zero
05  Fruit on the Beach
06  Vulnerability
07  Barrier Island Breaches
08  Photo Archive
09  The Air Above Jamaica Bay
10  Field Trips
11  Evolving Edges
12  Artifacts
13  Aerial Imagery
14  Evolution of Coastal Structures
15  Marsh Island Restoration
16  Physical Models

References

Bellot, Alfred, A. History of the Rockaways. Far Rockaway, N.Y.: Bellot’s Histories, Inc. (1918).

Black, Frederick, R. Jamaica Bay: A History. Cultural Resource Management Study No. 3. National Park Service (1981).

Brash, Alexander, Jamie Hand and Kate Orff (editors). Gateway: Visions for an Urban National Park. New York: Princeton Architectural Press (2011).

Bridges, Todd and Paul Wagner for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Use of Natural and Nature-Based Features to Enhance the Resilience of Coastal Systems (November 2013).

Burks-Copes, Kelly and others for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Developing Ecosystem Goods and Service Performance Metrics for Natural and Nature-Based Infrastructure to Support the NACCS (2013).

Department of Parks, City of New York. The Future of Jamaica Bay. (July 1938). Division A – Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. Public Law Number 113-2. 127.

Dunning, Mark and Susan Durden, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources. Social Vulnerability Analysis Methods for Corps Planning. USACE Campaign Plan Goal 2: Systems Approach (May 2011).

Dunning, Mark and Susan Durden, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Social Vulnerability Analysis: A Comparison of Tools.  IWR White Paper (February 2013). Federal Aviation Administration. New York TAC (July 2013 – November 2013).

Georgetown Climate Center. Soft Armoring and the Corps: The Impact of USACE Permitting on Coastal Protection Decisions. Executive Summary Expert Review Draft v. 2 (December 2011).

Gornitz, Vivien. Impacts of sea level rise in the New York City metropolitan area. Global and Planetary Changes 32 (2002) 61-88.

Hartig, Ellen. Anthropogenic and Climate-Change Impacts on Salt Marshes of Jamaica Bay, New York City. Wetlands, Vol. 22, No. 1 (March 2002): 71-89.

Hendrick, Daniel M. Images of America: Jamaica Bay. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing (2006).

Jamaica Bay Environmental Study Group. Jamaica Bay and Kennedy Airport: A Multidisciplinary Environmental Study. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering (1971).

Kornblum, William and Kristen Van Hooreweghe. Changing Traditional Uses of Jamaica Bay, New York (2012).

Landrum & Brown. Environmental Assessment: Runway 4L/22R Improvements John F. Kennedy International Airport (October 2013). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Environmental Sensitivity Index (October 2001).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service. Jamaica Bay and Rockaway Inlet [Nautical Chart]. 1985. 1:20,000. (Accessed November 18, 2013).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Jamaica Bay and Rockaway Inlet [Nautical Chart]. 2011. 1:20,000. (Accessed November 18, 2013).

The Nature Conservancy. Integrating Natural Infrastructure into Coastal Resilience (December 2013).

New York City Center for Economic Opportunity. The CEO Poverty Measure, 2005-2011: Annual Report (April 2013). New York City

Department of Environmental Protection. Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan, Volumes I and II (October 2007). New York City

Department of Environmental Protection. Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan, Updates 2012 (October 2012). New York City

Department of Environmental Protection. Waterbody / Watershed Facility Plan, Jamaica Bay and CSO Tributaries, Sections 1-4 (October 2011).

New York City Soil Survey Staff, United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. New York City Reconnaissance Soil Survey (2005).

New York City Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency. PlaNYC: A Stronger, More Resilient New York (June 2013).

New York Rising Communities. Rockaway East Planning Committee Meeting #2 (September 2013). Patrick, Lesley.

The City College of New York, CUNY, NOAA-Crest Symposium. Health Exposure, Socio-Economic Vulnerability, and Infrastructure at Risk to Current and Projected Coastal Flooding in New York City (5 June 2013).

PlaNYC Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency. A Stronger, More Resilient New York (June 2013).

Schultz, Martin, S. Kyle McKay and Lyndell Hales. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center. The Quantification and Evolution of Resilience in Integrated Coastal Systems (August 2012).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. Atlantic Coast of New York City from East Rockaway Inlet to Rockaway Inlet and Jamaica Bay, New York: Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Protection. Project 24. Flood Control Project Maps (30 September 1986).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. Atlantic Coast of New York City from East Rockaway Inlet to Rockaway Inlet and Jamaica Bay, New York: Cooperative Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Study Interim Survey Report (April 1964).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Design Department. Beneficial Uses of Dredged Material Manual, EM 1110-2-5026 (30 June 1987).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report (2012). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory. Coastal Engineering Manual EM 1110-2-1100 (2002).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Directorate of Civil Works. Coastal Risk Reduction and Resilience: Using the Full Array of Measures. CWTS 2013-3 (September 2013). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. East Rockaway Inlet to Rockaway Inlet (Rockaway Beach). Fact Sheet (February 2013).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.  East Rockaway Inlet to Rockaway Inlet and Jamaica Bay (Rockaway Beach), NY Rehabilitation of Hurricane Shore Protection Project FCCE/Hurricane Sandy (HSPP) 2013 Atlantic Coast of New York City Emergency Contract 1A – W912DS-13-B-0005 (2013).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. Hudson-Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan, Volumes I and II DRAFT (March 2009).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Hudson – Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Plan (March 2009). US Army Corps of Engineers. Jamaica Bay, NY. Fact Sheet (August 2013).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Jamaica Bay Marsh Islands, Brooklyn, NY. Fact Sheet (August 2013).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Jamaica Bay, New York, Federal Navigation Channel. Fact Sheet (February 2013).

U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Jamaica Bay and Rockaway Inlet [Nautical Chart]. 1879. 1:20,000. (Accessed November 18, 2013).

U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Jamaica Bay and Rockaway Inlet [Nautical Chart]. 1929. 1:20,000. (Accessed November 18, 2013).

U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Jamaica Bay and Rockaway Inlet [Nautical Chart]. 1940. 1:20,000. (Accessed November 18, 2013).

U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Jamaica Bay and Rockaway Inlet [Nautical Chart]. 1948. 1:20,000. (Accessed November 18, 2013).

U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Jamaica Bay and Rockaway Inlet [Nautical Chart]. 1965. 1:20,000. (Accessed November 18, 2013).

U.S. Department of Agriculture, APHIS, Wildlife Services.  Bird Hazard Reduction Program: John F. Kennedy International Airport (April 2012).

U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Gateway National Recreation Area and the City of New York. Cooperative Management Agreement (2012).

U.S. Geologic Survey, Hydrologic Conditions Maps for Long Island, NY (2006).

Wainger, Lisa; Sam Sifleet, Deborah Shafer and Scott Bourne. Ecosystem Service Benefits of USACE Ecological Restoration Projects in the Coastal Northeast: Hurricane Sandy Case Study.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Report, Chapter 7 (2013).

Wamsley, Ty, Mary Cialone, Jane Smith, John Atkinson and Julie Rosati. The Potential of Wetlands in Reducing Storm Surge. Ocean Engineering 37, 59-68 (2010).

Wamsley, Ty. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Flood and Storm Protection Division, Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory  Engineer Research and Development Center. Vulnerability Metrics (25 September 2013).

Resources

American Littoral Society, Northeast Chapter

Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection Image Archives.

Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online.

Brooklyn Public Library, Historic Brooklyn Photo Gallery.  

CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities Environmental Protection Agency, EnviroAtlas Macroform Rarity Index.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Preliminary Work Maps, New York City, June 2013.

Jamaica Bay EcoWatchers

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, SLOSH model

New York Public Library, Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division

New York Public Library, Digital Gallery

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Photo Archive

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Arsenal Library

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Olmsted Center Map Division

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Natural Resources Group

New York City Office of Emergency Management, Hurricane Evacuation Map

New York Rising Community Reconstruction Project

NYCity Map

National Data Buoy Center

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Tides and Currents – Datums.

National Park Service, Integrated Resource Management Applications Portal.

Rebuild by Design

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Significant Habitats and Habitat Complexes of the New York Bight Watershed: Jamaica Bay and Breezy Point, Complex #16.

U.S. Census Bureau and American Community.