Environmental Issues, Policies and solutions in New Jersey

Experienced three waves of environmental policies like Homestead Act and Antiquities Act, people start to gain the awareness and have some revolutionary changes in daily life. Even though known as Garden State, New Jersey has been faced environmental issues for a long time. Issues like terrible sewer system overflows, soil pollution and storm resilience threat the quality of life for NJ citizens. Follow the guidance of federal policies like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Clean Air Acts, New Jersey start to mitigate environmental problems. There are two examples of how New Jersey deals with local environmental issues—Open Space Protection and Poor Air Quality.

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Excluded by 42% forest lands, New Jersey has a lot of open spaces which provide the state with numerous benefits in areas of wildlife, agriculture and sustainability. Since New Jersey’s open space is so advantageous, in November 2014, majority of New Jersey voters approved a ballot to put state funds in protecting NJ open spaces. Thus, a legislative referred constitutional amendment approved to take up to 6 percent of business tax revenues to subsidize protecting open spaces in New Jersey. The business tax is mainly used in five programs: 1) 15% water quality. 2) 25% hazardous substance discharge 3)28% polluted site cleanup 4) 17% diesel air pollution control. 5) 15% improvements in parks and other preserved open space. This tax allocation would start in 2016 and end in 2045.

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New Jersey is in severe poor air situation because of smog which endangers human health. New Jersey Global Advisors Smokefree Policy (GASF), a non-profit organization, has been helped New Jersey to solve air problems for over 40 years. GASF works for achieve maximum smoke-free in public places like parks, workplaces and schools There are few solutions that

GASF: 1) Smoke-free Housing. Building smoke-free housing mainly aims to avoid second-hand smoke. 2) Protecting children from tobacco marketing, sales, use and exposure. 3) Tracking tobacco control legislation.

 

Source: http://all-environmental.com/2017/06/25/top-10-environmental-issues-in-new-jersey/

https://ballotpedia.org/New_Jersey_Open_Space_Preservation_Funding_Amendment,_Public_Question_No._2_(2014)

https://www.nynjtc.org/category/advocacy/localissuesnynjcountymunicipal/state-open-space-funding

http://www.njgasp.org/goals-and-methods/

https://www.google.com/search?biw=1101&bih=674&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=D2QLWsqYLcHimAHUn4BQ&q=forest+in+New+Jersey&oq=forest+in+New+Jersey&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0i19k1.37108.40531.0.40976.16.16.0.0.0.0.146.1380.12j4.16.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..4.12.985…0j0i8i7i30k1j0i7i30k1j0i30k1j0i7i5i30k1j0i8i30k1j0i5i30k1.0.mVRBih8qqoI#imgrc=wyF3S7BxpWmgcM:

https://www.google.com/search?q=smog+in+New+Jersey&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi08NDmhL_XAhUF8CYKHTpZB8cQ_AUICigB&biw=1101&bih=674#imgrc=smG0LMEIIMbmgM:

 

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Combating Climate Change with a Carbon Tax

Implementing a carbon tax is one economic solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon tax is exactly what it sounds like- a tax levied onto carbon emitting fuels, including coal, oil, and natural gas. By putting a price on carbon emissions, carbon tax accounts for the social cost of carbon– a dollar value on CO2 that considers changes in agricultural productivity, human health, energy system costs, and other high costs from climate change. It uses market forces in order to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions.

A carbon tax is slightly different from a cap and trade system, which limits the permitted amount of carbon emissions from major industrial and commercial emitters, then allows those that emitted under their limit to sell their unused emissions. President Obama pushed for a cap and trade program in the American Clean Energy and Security Act, but unfortunately the bill was defeated in 2010.

Climate change is a highly politicized issue, and no doubt, carbon pricing is as well. Economists favor a carbon tax for its simplicity and effectiveness. While carbon taxes and cap and trade are similar in essence, the term “tax” has a negative connotation, leading policymakers to favor cap and trade more.

How can Republicans and Democrats work together on climate change policies? According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, there is strong support among voters across the political spectrum for climate action. 78% of registered American voters support taxing and/or regulating carbon pollution, including 67% of Republicans and 60% of conservative Republicans.

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With a carbon tax, there obviously comes revenue. Some Republican policymakers are in favor of a revenue neutral carbon tax, where revenue does not go to the government. Under this program, the tax revenue from households, wealthy and poor, would be returned equally to households through rebate checks. Since low-income households spent a larger proportion of their income on energy bills, a revenue neutral carbon tax would actually be progressive, with rebate checks acting as a form of redistribution. Net energy costs would be offset, and the economy would grow since households have more disposable income.

Carbon taxing has been successful in Europe, especially Germany, Denmark, Finland, and several states in the USA are starting to implement policies. Could a carbon tax work in New Jersey? According to an April 2017 report released by the Carbon Tax Center, the opportunity for a carbon tax in New Jersey is challenging for legal reasons: The State Constitution requires gas tax revenue (based on gas volume) to go to the Transportation Trust Fund. However, this could be changed to have the tax be based on carbon content instead.

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Opportunities for Carbon Taxes at the State Level (Yoram Bauman and Charles Komanoff)

Whether it’s a carbon tax, investments in wind and solar energy, or something else, I’m optimistic that New Jersey will take strong action towards climate change in the near future. With a Democratic governor who has committed to rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and a Democratic majority in both Houses of the State Legislature, we have the political capability. And in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, people seem to be aware of the fragility of our coastline, and may be more compelled to support climate action. Hopefully, these two factors combined can push the state to lead on climate change.

 

Edison vs. Urban Sprawl: A Battle Already Lost?

In Contemporary Urban Planning, John Levy opens up the section discussing the growth management in New Jersey by talking about the development pressures put on us by New York and Philadelphia. This is especially true for the Central Jersey region and Middlesex County. I have seen the effect of these pressures realized in a lot of residential development in my own city of Edison.
With this in mind, it didn’t really surprise me when reading the Master Plan of Edison that a significant portion of it is dedicated to discussing the smart growth of the city. But what did surprise me is the number of times that the plan talking about encouraging “anti-sprawl initiatives”.

 

Now this isn’t bad thing. As a fellow Neotraditionalist, seeing the line “Edison must embrace the principles of New Urbanism”, makes me hopeful about the direction that my city wants to take. But as a longtime resident, when I see the Master Plan talking about encouraging development that reduces the need for cars and allows for alternative modes of transportation, I can’t help but feel like the authors are being delusional. Sprawl has permanently affected Edison and now driving everywhere is just a way of life.

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For reference, above are two satellite images of Edison, one of the whole city and the other zoomed in on the South Edison section. As you can see, almost all of Edison has been developed so far and unfortunately it follows conventional suburban design complete with spaghetti roads and coarse separation of land uses. Right now, as a resident, I don’t see how any new development will have a significant impact on how much I depend on my car. Even going to a park requires a car.

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Edison’s main problem is that there is no urban core or city center. There are points of interest scattered throughout the city. I think thatEdison’s best bet to make the most of the current state of the city is to try to build out a city center. The current Master Plan was adopted in 2003. My suggestion for the future Master Plan and future development supported by the city, is to pick a location that already has people coming in from all over the city and build it out into a city center. For example, Menlo Park Mall is a great potential city center. It has a bunch of stores around it and a park nearby. If the city could add more stores, make the area more pedestrian friendly, and create a public transit way of getting to the area cheaply then hundreds of cars would be off the streets. Obviously, what I said isn’t easily done. But despite Edison losing the battle against sprawl for the last few decades. I have hope that, with serious focus and tackling the right problems, significant change can be made.

The LEED Program

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design which is a non-profit organization which points are awarded for certain “green” structures.  Some of these structures include energy and atmosphere materials and sources, sustainable sites, water efficiency, and energy and atmosphere design. Although energy efficiency seems to be much more expensive there are paybacks which will save you money over time and will help the environment stay cleaner. The listed structures above are all in efforts to keep the environment clean and keep to a minimum pollution and over use of natural resources. Also, not only is the structure energy efficient but also the materials and means of putting up the structure also. There are certain ratings for energy efficiency and as a bonus a seller can capture a buyer by having a “Platinum rating” because to those who are conscientious of having a energy efficient home or building will be more likely to buy.

LEED certification also has benefits that will save you money over time due to saving resources and using natural resources.  Furthermore, there are incentives like tax breaks and other money saving opportunities. The Obama administration also passed a bill and expressed strong feelings towards this movement. The bill included incentives for those who learn the green building types and for those who prepare to build green.

This LEED program was of great interest to me due to the increase in pollution. Not only pollution but the lack of mindfulness of this major issue that will effect later generations.  I also think if Obama had not made this a crucial point there is a possibility someone well known enough might not have relayed a message towards this movement.  Obama’s push towards this opened many eyes and helped this program as it is essential towards a cleaner america.

Local Economic Development Programs

There are more than 15,000 local economic development programs in the United States. Although some may think it reduces the unemployment drastically it only decreases it minimally and usually runs under the radar of politics. A major issue is tax relief, local government relies on taxes for public school funding while many are against increases they still expect many services. The reading mentions the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, this center is located a mile away from the center of the university’s campus and it is key to have a strong engineering and science program. The benefit of having multiple firms neighboring each other and using the same facilities is that it creates an area where people can exchange ideas and information to help benefit each other. Also, this book doesn’t really talk about inter municipal competition but if a park in one town was improved to be nicer than a park in a neighboring town the parks wouldn’t be in competition but it would just encourage the update or growth of the older park.

The relationship between planners and economic developers is very similar which includes public investment in infrastructure, land-use controls, environmental regulations, and anything else that affects the what and where of industrial and commercial development. The difference between the two is that a developer will only exercise these goals where a planner will encourage the expansion of firms and promote more firms even if there are already firms in a community. Usually their relationship being happy is a bonus sometimes it may not be. Furthermore, many economic developers prior job was urban planner.

To promote expansion in certain communities economic growth is promoted by something call the Enterprise Zone.  The Enterprise Zone is an area where there are tax breaks given and possibly certain land use regulations are waived as an incentive to move business there. Another incentive is subsidizing, these are reasons for firms to relocate or build to save money and expand easily. This was of great interest to me as I have never heard of this and am extremely interested on why certain firms or areas are more densely populated with firms than others.

Trenton: Will this transit hub realize its full potential?

According to “Contemporary Urban Planning,” growth management is defined as “…the regulation of the amount, timing, location, and character of development.” While this practice of smart growth, or growth management is fairly common nationwide. It is especially popular in parts of New Jersey. The City of Trenton has adopted a “Strategic Development Plan” as part of their Trenton250 Master Plan. This document includes maps and suggested patterns of development and land use within the city. The plan states clear goals that they have for the future development of Trenton; specifically, the downtown area. Alongside each listed goal is a “…set of initiatives that get assigned to lead departments”. This is extremely important, because often times, goals are stated without a plan of how to achieve them. Trenton250 sets a list of goals, including but not limited to, industrial development, job access, commercial development, and a multi-modal transit system linked to an active downtown area. Regarding the goal of accessibility to jobs, for example, the plan includes a background to the current issue and two specific initiatives they plan to take in order to meet the goal. Since Trenton is a main hub for transportation, they also plan to guide development towards their various transit stations. This includes redeveloping an abandoned industrial complex, located next to one of their train stations, into a mixed-use community.

These initiatives, alongside expansive rezoning to allow such growth, will hopefully succeed in pushing Trenton to look like the rendered images of their final end goal in by Trenton’s 250th birthday.

New Jersey Looks to Return to RGGI

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In 2011, under the administration of Chris Christie, New Jersey pulled out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.  Christie was responsible for slowing efforts of cultivating wind farms and blocking legislative efforts to rejoin RGGI, as he referred to it as “ineffective and a tax on utility customers.”  The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a cooperative effort made by 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and requires a 10% reduction in emissions by 2018.  The program has been recognized as an effective way for states to fight global warming and pay to pursue the most efficient methods of energy conservation as it seeks to limit emissions of carbon dioxide, support solar and wind power, and help companies meet their energy compliance obligations.

 

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Offshore Wind Farm

New Jersey is now looking to get back onto the right environmental track as Phil Murphy has just been elected as new governor of the state.  Murphy promised to rejoin the RGGI and shows his ambition on taking an initiative in helping New Jersey prosper from clean energy sources and come to terms on implementing an efficient energy plan.  One of the specific focuses that Murphy is looking to implement is the use of wind energy.  Murphy looks to set up, what his campaign refers to as, “the most ambitious offshore wind target in the country,” by promising to bring 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind power by the year 2030.  In a nation where numerous politicians can be described as having “cold feet” towards the fight against climate change, it will be beneficial for New Jersey to once again take a leading role in initiating as many energy conservation practices as possible.

 

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One of Murphy’s statements, which I believe has a huge significance in changing the political attitude towards climate change, is that “economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive … we can base a new and stronger middle class on innovation and clean energy … ”  It is no secret that New Jersey is the most densely populated state across the country and it produces enough pollution to prove it.  Failing to take action now will only lead to more severe heat waves, droughts, coastal flooding and other threatening weather events for the Garden State.  With Phil Murphy now in control, New Jersey hopes to take progressive steps in maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment for a positive outlook in the future.

 

Sources:

Grandoni, Dino. “Analysis | The Energy 202: With Chris Christie gone, wind energy may pick up speed in New Jersey.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 Nov. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-energy-202/2017/11/13/the-energy-202-with-chris-christie-gone-wind-energy-may-pick-up-speed-in-new-jersey/5a091e0630fb045a2e002fb5/?utm_term=.cd0258579c0e.

“Energy & Environment.” Lawmakers Hope to Steer State Back into Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – NJ Spotlight, www.njspotlight.com/stories/17/05/22/lawmakers-hope-to-steer-state-back-into-regional-greenhouse-gas-initiative/.

“​ Murphy Unveils Aggressive Plan to Combat Climate Change & Make New Jersey A National Leader in Clean Energy.” Insider NJ, www.insidernj.com/press-release/%E2%80%8B-murphy-unveils-aggressive-plan-combat-climate-change-make-new-jersey-national-leader-clean-energy/.

Levy, John M. Contemporary Urban Planning.

 

Is New Jersey Really the Garden State?

Since the industrial revolution in the 18th century, our environment across the globe has rapidly been degraded. This has been due to many factors like land development where massive amounts of vegetation have been removed, pollution of air and water due to inappropriate disposal of waste, and the emission of greenhouse gases due to the burning of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the environmental degradation was recognized at a point where the damage to our planet is severe and irreversible. However, it is not too late to start making changes from here on out to ensure that we keep our planet healthy and sustainable for future generations.

Balbach Smelting and Refining Company 1870 in Newark, NJ.  Now  It is Riverbank Park

 

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Map view of Riverbank Park today, Newark NJ

In an effort to combat environmental degradation and the climate change that has tagged along with it, environmental policies have been established. These environmental policies aim to protect natural resources and environmental amenities from degradation or depletion and to promote equitable treatment of people.

Most of the environmental problems are combated at the national level by the federal government with different policies like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). From NEPA stemmed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that developed regulations such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and many more. The reason that it is so important that the federal government enacts these policies is because it gives a standard across all states that must be followed; the states cannot tailor these policies and bent them how they see fit which would happen if states were enacting these policies.

The question then comes in: how does local government get the opportunity to work with the federal government on these policies? Well, the ways that local government gets involved in environmental planning is through Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). If an agency would like to do any type of development, they will be required to prepare an environmental assessment (EA). Basically these documents explain the project in a general sense and must explain the impacts that this project will have on the environment with alternative actions as well as a list of people consulted to make these determinations.

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Basic model of what is considered in an EIS

New Jersey has some examples of where they have attempted to combat environmental degradation by conserving land and resources. One example of this would be the NJ Green Acres Bond of 1961 (GAP). This program was created with the intention for New Jersey to meet its requirements in regards to recreation and conservation needs. The GAP provides funding to local governments and non-profits to improve parkland and open space. Once GAP has declared this land in its program, it is restricted solely for the use of recreation and conservation purposes. This program is a great example of how urban planning and development is affected when the purpose to conserve the environment is so extremely important.

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Geographic Information System Open Space Map (Open Space is under GAP)

Another example would be the NJ Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1973 which established laws to protect and restore wildlife in New Jersey. This act defines an endangered species as one whose survival in New Jersey is in immediate danger because of loss or change in habitat and a threatened species is one who is at risk for becoming endangered. This act is important in terms of urban planning and development because of environmental degradation. The more we develop on land without regards to the impact it will have on the environment, the more these ecosystems are disrupted and have a chain reaction in nature.

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Bog Turtle – Endangered Species in NJ

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Long-Eared Owl – Threatened Species in NJ

It is extremely important that we have policies like this all over the world to keep our development safe in regard to our environment and our public. By having such restrictions, we will be sure not to be mindlessly developing; we need to develop with a purpose and careful consideration that includes plenty of research of long term impacts in order to truly understand the consequences on our ecosystems and our livelihood for generations to come.

 

Sources

Contemporary Urban Planning by John M. Levy

http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/eng/pdf/EnvOverviewRegsPermits2016.pdf

 

 

Spraying clouds with chemicals ?

The Benefits

Scientists are looking to extreme measures to combat climate change as the issue becomes more prevalent. Geoengineering has always been a hot button topic for liberals and conservatives alike. Some are against the idea because they feel that tampering with nature could have extreme consequences down the line. On the other hand, proponents believe it could save our planet and reverse the effects of dangerous greenhouse gasses. “A new University of Washington study looks at the idea of marine cloud brightening, which a UW group is investigating as a promising strategy to offset global warming. The strategy would spray saltwater into the air to make marine clouds reflect more incoming solar rays.” According to their study spraying saltwater would increase the capacity of that cloud to reflect sunlight. This would offset the amount of energy being absorbed by the earths face thus combating the rising temperature from greenhouse gases.

The Dangers

This Geoengineering remains experimental as most of these studies are only short term and long term effects are unpredictable. It is popular opinion that changing the natural weather patterns of something as simple as clouds can be the source of larger problems overtime. Geoengineering has been targeted as one of the potential causes of the rising number of hurricanes this past hurricane season. The aforementioned cloud seeding is weather modifying technology that has been used by governmental bodies all over the world.

According to scientists in the Desert research institute in Nevada ” The ice crystals of cirrus clouds generally form spontaneously in moist, cold air. But seed particles, if present in the right concentration, could grab all the water vapour to produce a small number of large ice crystals, preventing the formation of lots of unseeded little ones. This would have two consequences. First, the resulting clouds would be more transparent – just as big blobs of water in oil create a more transparent mixture as salad dressing separates out, compared with the milky, opaque emulsion you get when you shake it into lots of tiny droplets. Thinner clouds absorb less radiation from the warm ground, allowing more to escape into space. Second, clouds made from larger ice particles have shorter lives, because the big crystals sink down through the atmosphere under gravity.”  When modifying weather, the room for error is low and that is why the risk factor is so significant.

 

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Planners are now emphasizing Geoengineering from a bottom up perspective. Rather than seeding clouds, the enforcement of codes to reduce the carbon emissions of homes seems more effective in the long run. However this requires advanced modes of technology and a change in behavior via community efforts. Geoengineering has its dark side in weather modification but can also be extremely beneficial when viewed from a planners perspective. For example if civil engineers devised a plan to advocate for the consumption of fewer resources in every city while remaining just as efficient. This would greatly reduce our carbon footprint as a society. The promotion of public transportation and building of sidewalks reducing the number of cars on the road today. We are looking for short term solutions to long term problems with cloud modification. Every community must play an essential part in reducing energy consumption and carbon generation for results to be seen.

 

References:

1.) http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130304-the-trouble-with-cloud-seeding

2.) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170725154206.htm

How Smart is Smart Growth?

Since the mid-1990’s, a term known as “smart growth” appeared among planners that could be seen through scattered development, commercial strip development, and large expanses of low-density or single use development. The whole point of smart growth is to create walkable areas to prevent sprawl from occurring. Smart growth also focuses on long-term sustainability and development as well as preserves natural and cultural resources and promotes public health.

John M. Levy in “Contemporary Urban Planning” states that the definition of sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The symbol of sustainability can be seen below.

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For a community to be sustainable, they need to follow a balance within society, the environment, and the economy.

New Jersey has been working to become more sustainable through the Sustainable Jersey imitative. Sustainable Jersey is a certificate and incentive program from New Jersey municipalities that want to go green. These municipalities can gain this certificate by implementing and promoting these green initiatives; examples of areas to be addressed include global warming, pollution, biodiversity, buying locally, community outreach, green building, and sustainable agriculture.

I was very unaware that New Jersey was taking such steps to promoting a greener state. I think by providing incentives for municipalities is a great way to promote sustainable development through smart growth as it allows our state to start taking steps to a greener and more sustainable world since it is so necessary due to the effects that humans have had on our planet. Since we cannot reverse the effects we have already made, it is at least worth it to reduce any effects we may have on the future.

Additionally, since 2002, New Jersey Future has honored smart planning and development in New Jersey through the Smart Growth Awards. Below is an image of all the New Jersey Future smart growth projects that received awards.

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One project in particular that is most relevant to me occurred in Long Branch New Jersey. As I am from Aberdeen, Long Branch is a neighboring town that I grew up going to, especially in the summertime.

This project name was the Woodrow Wilson Commons, Phases I and II, the rebuilding of public housing as an open, walkable community asset. The smart growth challenge was to determine the best way to transform an outdated public housing project so that it connects with the surrounding community and becomes an asset to the public.

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The original 1950’s Woodrow Wilson Homes were public housing designed as two-story barrack style buildings. Most of these apartments faced the center of the site instead of the public streets with limited access and connectivity to the surrounding neighborhoods. Additionally, the site was considered a “topographic bowl” meaning that after a storm, the runoff would collect in the center of the development and resulted in the tenants stranded in their homes.

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Woodrow Wilson Commons prior to renovations

After the redevelopment of the area, the new housing consists of mixed-income rental housing. There are two large superblocks that are broken into smaller blocks with a grid of new streets and sidewalks to increase walkability and reconnect the homes to the surrounding community. As for the storm water management, the ground floors of the homes were build above the flood line and a central rain garden was developed along with two infiltration basins that provide short-term water storage so there is no flooding and serves as a “wet meadow” to support wildlife in the area.

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Renovated Woodrow Wilson Homes

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“Wet Meadow Basin”

Some areas of Long Branch New Jersey do not have the best reputation as there are dramatic changes in affluence around the town. The fact that this smart growth development occurred here was extremely important for the City of Long Branch as well as reflected well on New Jersey to provide better housing opportunities for its residents. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge how this project also worked on sustainability with storm water management in during this development.

 

Sources

Contemporary Urban Planning by John M. Levy

http://www.nj.gov/dep/opsc/

http://www.njfuture.org/smart-growth-101/smart-growth-awards/2014-smart-growth-award-winners/woodrow-wilson-commons/

http://www.njfuture.org/smart-growth-101/smart-growth-awards/