An Idea Comes Around Again

by Don Friedman on April 11, 2017

The New York Times recently published an article about how the flooding that accompanied Hurricane Sandy has changed building design in low-lying areas of New York City. Some of it seems familiar from our work: for example, we’ve participated in three separate projects where electric equipment rooms have been moved out of basements and up to a height where they can’t flood.

However, one item in the article jumped out at me as being familiar for a different reason. The new building at 540 West 26th Street* has its first floor raised above grade to put it above the design flood level. Where have I seen that idea before…oh yeah: stoops. Ordinary rowhouses in England typically have a couple of steps up from the sidewalk to the parlor floor, while Dutch stoops are much higher because of the history of flooding. I can’t prove that this is why rowhouses in Philadelphia and Boston** tend to have just a few steps up while rowhouses in New York*** have stoops of seven or eight steps, sometimes more, but I sure believe it.

If modern flood protection means a return to the use of stoops****, count me in.

* With structural engineering by our friends at DeSimone.

** Settled by the English.

*** Settled by the Dutch.

**** Accompanied, of course, by some adjacent form of universal access for people unable to climb stairs.

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