City develops new emergency housing prototype

December 4, 2012

Although the majority of New Yorkers are no longer experiencing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, thousands of families remain homeless after the natural disaster destroyed their homes.

One of these families of Gallatin freshman Alyssa Yurasits, who is from Massapequa, N.Y. Her parents and younger brother have yet to return to their home in Long Island and are renting a two-bedroom apartment in Bethpage, a few miles north, while they wait for their house to be rebuilt.

“We were lucky to even find a place,” Yurasits said. “FEMA provided the funds for a month’s stay in a hotel. My family is still on a wait-list for many hotels, even motels.”

But families left untouched by the hurricane are doing more than considering themselves lucky. They are also opening their doors to less fortunate neighbors.

“One of my friends has opened his house to any high school students who lost their home and need somewhere to stay,” she said. “There are anywhere from eight to 11 teenagers living in his house still because their parents are having trouble finding rentals or hotel rooms.”

The Bloomberg administration has been working with the Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Design and Construction to develop a plan for emergency housing for five years now.

The plan began with an Open Competition in 2008 called What If New York City. The result led to the plan to use repurposed shipping containers to create modular temporary housing, and OEM had just began the process of getting a prototype of the temporary housing built before Sandy hit.

Despite the delay, OEM expects to have a prototype built by the second half of next year. One container, about 40 feet long, 12 feet wide and 10 feet tall, will include a bedroom, a bathroom with clean towels, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, a kitchen equipped with cookware and a small living area.

The shipping container units will be stackable and brought to all the boroughs in the event of an emergency or disaster and would act as temporary homes for those in need of repairs.

Gallatin junior Eric Fuchs-Stengel, who is studying environmental sustainability and social change, said the containers’ design are not only fast but green.

“They’re super sustainable because they’re modular,” he said. “They can be moved to a new location.”

NYU professor of Urban Design and Architecture Studies Jon Ritter said the plan showed potential in the city’s sustainability efforts.

“The city has been proactive in anticipating these problems going far back,” he said. “I think it looks promising. Being import-heavy, we have a lot of shipping containers. It’s a smart way to reuse existing materials.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Dec. 4 print edition. Emily Bell is a staff writer. Email her at cstate@nyunews.com.

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