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February 14, 2017

Multi-Purpose Infrastructure Research to Foster Coastal Resilience Presented at DDC Talks

Dan Leibel

Queens, NY – The latest installment of a monthly lecture series focused on architecture and engineering known as DDC Talks, presented by The New York City Department of Design Construction (DDC), featured landscape engineers Gena Wirth and Pippa Brashear, who presented research about New York City’s coastal resiliency at LaGuardia Community College.

The lecture focused on potential infrastructure improvements along the city’s coast lines that would help mitigate erosion of the City’s beaches, which act as natural barriers against storms and extreme weather events. The research is supported by the New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR) and is called the Living Breakwaters project.  New York City has lost more than 38 acres of coastal land to erosion in the past 70 years. 

A map of the Living Breakwaters project was presented at February’s installment of the DDC Talks lecture series

“The DDC Talks lecture series serves as an excellent resource to expand the insights of the engineers and architects at our agency,” said DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. “As design and construction professionals, there is always room for us to learn and improve the ways we approach challenges. Ms. Wirth and Ms. Brashear have provided innovative research that we can consider when we discuss the resiliency, and sustainability of our City, especially when it comes to projects in close proximity to the coastline.”

The research identified a system of concrete barriers that could be strategically placed to reduce coastal risk and associated erosion along the shoreline. The research specifically looked at wave patterns in Raritan Bay in Staten Island. The concrete barriers would offer a multitude of sustainable and environmentally healthy benefits including the ability to act as a reef for fish and oysters, lessen the impacts of ocean waves, provide protective habitats for juvenile fish and revive landscape systems such as beaches.

Ms. Brashear and Ms.Wirth worked with the organizations Rebuild By Design and 100 Resilient Cities to secure a $60 million grant for research on how to make New York City’s coastlines better equipped to handle future environmental conditions. Focusing on risk reduction, culture, and ecology, the goal of the research is to reduce the effect of wave action on beaches and to learn how sediment moves on the shoreline. The work also explores the benefits of beach building as a method of resiliency and a way to increase public space in the City.

Gena Wirth is a designer, urban planner, and horticulturalist. She pulls from her interdisciplinary training to create ecologically rich and culturally relevant landscapes from the infrastructural scale to the site level. She holds a Master of Landscape Architecture and Master of Urban Planning from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She has taught landscape at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and Harvard GSD Career Discovery.

Pippa Brashear is a landscape designer and planner. With her combined expertise, she helps planning, engineering and design teams develop strategies and reach solutions which balance ecology, infrastructure, development, and community quality of life needs. Since the Superstorm Sandy, she has been a part of a number of resiliency planning and design efforts in the region including as a consultant to the City of New York in developing the Coastal Protection element of the Mayors Strategic Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, supporting community resiliency planning in seven NYC communities as part of NY State’s NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program.

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s lenses of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, new or upgraded roadways, sewers, water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $15 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative, and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to city projects. For more information, please visit