By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This summer, a three- to four-story “post-disaster housing complex” made of shipping containers will be set up across the street from the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in Downtown Brooklyn.
The housing complex – a prototype of emergency housing designed for urban areas -- is being given a dry run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC), OEM and FEMA in preparation for the next catastrophic storm.
The cozy container units – complete with furniture and spaces for cooking, bathing, living, and sleeping -- will be tested at a fenced-in lot at 165 Cadman Plaza East at Red Cross Place for a year, and will be occupied by residents for at least six months, the city says.
There’s no official decision yet on who gets to live inside the container housing, an insider said. Calls to OEM were not returned by press time.
One first-floor unit may be used as a project gallery space open to the public.
The city is taking proposals from hopeful container contractors until March 21 for the million-dollar test project, and the prototype should be ready for occupants sometime this summer. After the year is up, the contractor will have to remove the housing and clean up the site.
If the prototype works out, the city will be closer to rolling out multi-family emergency housing designed specifically for city dwellers, allowing them to live and work in their own neighborhoods after a disaster.
Because of its high population density and lack of open space, disaster experts say modular container housing is better suited for New Yorkers displaced by disaster than the conventional interim housing used in other parts of the country.
Set up in parking lots or on campuses, the containers can be stacked and clustered in a neighborhood-like configuration including an open square or playing areas, a laundry and even retail.
Roughly 930,000 people live within evacuation zones in New York City – including hundreds of thousands in Brooklyn. But only 605,000 can be housed for three–five weeks in the city’s current emergency shelters.
The emergency housing is a follow-up to the What If New York City... Design Competition, held in 2008 by OEM and DDC.
In December, OEM said that following a catastrophic event, New York City will need to supply Interim Housing Units (IHU) “at an unprecedented speed and scale.” To do this the city “needs vendors who can design, manufacture and implement a system of removable and reusable housing delivered quickly and configured for densely populated urban areas.”