Hoboken, N.J., suffered major flooding in 2012. The city has a plan to reduce its risk from future surges in water levels. (Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg)

Hurricane Sandy “filled up Hoboken like a bathtub,” the mayor of that New Jersey city told reporter Eric Jaffe. The storm flooded 1,700 homes, knocked out the power grid and did $100 million worth of local damage.

And since Sandy’s onslaught in 2012, half a dozen more floods have hit the city, which sits across the Hudson River from Manhattan. There are no longer any doubts in Hoboken, Jaffe writes, of the threat posed by climate change.

In the December issue of the Atlantic magazine, Jaffe describes the innovative “Resist, Delay, Store, Discharge” plan Hoboken is trying to formulate to reduce its flood risks.

Planners envision a combination of “hard” and “soft” infrastructure: “Hard” flood walls will protect high-risk sites along the riverfront. Meanwhile, a “soft” system of parks, green roofs and terraced wetlands will act like sponges, soaking up water long enough to keep the sewer system from being overwhelmed; remaining runoff will be held in a combined park/water-storage site until the storm passes, when pumps will return floodwater back into the river.

Jaffe’s report focuses on the plans of landscape and urban designer Diana Balmori, who has completed large water-management projects in New York, Memphis, South Korea and Spain. If her project can manage storm surges in a densely packed and paved area such as Hoboken — 50,000 residents in about a square mile — planners hope they can replicate it in larger, equally threatened areas.


Hurricane Sandy which made landfall along the New Jersey shore, left parts of the state and the surrounding area flooded and without power. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)