Hoboken is sinking — Can we save it?

The Stute: Walking around Hoboken after returning from summer break, I took in some of the city’s classics. The smell of my favorite pizza wafting through the streets. The sound of school kids running through Church Square Park. And, of course, the flooding in the streets after a quick rain. Flooding is such an integral part of the Hoboken experience that the tenants in 8th and Madison aren’t even alarmed at the gallons of water that bubbles out of the grates and fills the sidewalks after a short rainfall. Instead, the Madison building tenants are used to this phenomenon and revel in their unexpected waterfront property.

No matter how common the flooding is, it is still alarming for Hobokenites who have stock in the area long-term. 

This past July, Hoboken had the worst storm it had seen in years, with an inch of rainfall in the first 15 minutes. The storm was strongest during high tide, exacerbating the flood potential. Occurrences like this are particularly concerning for a community that was devastated by 10 feet of flooding in Hurricane Sandy.

Following the hurricane, Stevens’ Davidson Laboratory was integral in helping to cope with the disaster. The lab created street-by-street flood forecasting maps for New York City and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. They also built large warning systems for transit officers in Hoboken and beyond.

Despite the huge aid that Stevens research provided for the City of Hoboken, many residents are skeptical that the city will survive in the future. Though Hurricane Sandy was an anomaly at the time, these threats are increasingly common in a changing climate.

Luckily, Hoboken has a plan to quell some of the floodings. And it’s a good one, based on nearly 500 years of tests in the Netherlands. Even though the Netherlands is located largely below sea level, they rarely see the devastating floods that rage in the United States.

Their technique is tried and true, based on a simple principle: leave “room for the river.” Sometimes to keep high priority areas dry, it is necessary to designate other areas that will get wet. In practice, the Dutch have built huge man-made dams that prevent storm surges in residential areas. And they double as parking garages. Read more>>