Published: March 29, 2017

Post-Hurricane Sandy, Red Hook Houses, Brooklyn’s largest public housing complex, is getting a new, more resilient makeover.

Written by Jasmin Malik Chua

When Hurricane Sandy made landfall in October 2012, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook didn’t stand a chance. Surrounded by the waters of the Gowanus Canal, Upper New York Bay, and Buttermilk Channel, the coastal community was ripped apart by the tidal surge. More than four years on, Red Hook is slowly but surely returning to form. New development is under way, and Red Hook Houses, Brooklyn’s largest public housing complex, is getting a new, more resilient makeover, complete with giant, green-roofed “Lily Pads” to capture stormwater before it overwhelms the city’s sewage system.

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To help it weather the brunt of Mother Nature’s wrath, if and when she decided to call again, the New York City Housing Authority commissioned Kohn Pedersen Fox and landscape architecture firm OLIN to devise a “resiliency and renewal program.”

After extensive research, including community surveys and workshops, KPF is proposing to build 14 “utility pods”—all above ground—to not only deliver heat and electricity to each of the 28 buildings but also to provide a space where residents can convene.

The aforementioned “Lily Pads” will provide permanent flood barriers in the form of raised earth in the middle of internal courtyards. For extra security, Red Hook Houses will get an active flood wall bolstered with passive barriers.

“These elements transform the experience of residents and guests by providing vibrant, social spaces in conjunction with the area’s infrastructural needs,” KPF wrote in a press release.

And KPF and OLIN’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. The New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has named NYCHA Red Hook Houses one of its 2017 Design Awards winners.

You’ll be able to view the project, and the other winning designs, at an exhibition at the Center for Architecture in Manhattan from April 21 through June 20.