Reimagining American Community

Hurricane SandyIn this report, Philip Berke and several colleagues present their research on how New Urbanist design has (or has not) been used to promote community resilience in the face of natural disaster.  Berke, who teaches at the University of North Carolina’s Department of City and Regional Planning, takes a very nuts-and-bolts approach, focusing on rewriting codes to build in awareness of vulnerabilities to things like– well, floods, for example.

No urban design code is going to help with a 13-foot storm surge.  But the dramatic devastation of Sandy is not the only kind of challenge to the urban fabric, and Berke’s suggestions might well prove useful in addressing the increasing number of “ordinary” floods.  The question he raises– Can urban design do anything to help shield communities from the effects of disasters, or help them recover more quickly afterwards?– is one that, at the very least, should be asked.

“Despite its emphasis on high densities, New Urbanism holds considerable promise for reducing vulnerability caused by development in dangerous locations. Mitigation techniques may allow New Urban developments to become a more com- patible alternative to sprawl for creating disaster resilient communities. The proliferation of New Urban development offers living laboratories for testing new ideas on how best to integrate mitigation initiatives into urban form.”

About the Author
Born and raised on Manhattan, a small island in the Atlantic, Susannah Black received a degree from Amherst College and another one from Boston University. She has written for The Distributist Review, Front Porch Republic, Amherst Magazine, The L Magazine, and (in her young and foolish libertarian days) National Review. Having moved back to the New York area, she is now taking her stand in Central Queens, helping to run a sort of boarding facility/rental commune/household for her relatives and friends out of her great-grandparents’ big old house. She is also obsessed with tall ships and in the summers can be found helping to sail a schooner in New York Harbor. She blogs at