protecting the past from a watery future

    Mohawk River Schenectady riverfront park flooding

    ABOVEWATER is an examination of the Mohawk River Watershed to consider how communities can shift development patterns and utilize existing assets to enhance property values and reduce flood damage. The Mohawk River Watershed comprises one-quarter of the Hudson River Watershed and contains the Schoharie Reservoir, part of New York City’s water supply. The 2011 storms, Irene and Lee, were particularly hard on the Mohawk Watershed, dumping over a foot of rain in the Catskills and causing over $100 million in damage. 

    While any river-lining community can experience flooding from time to time, the Mohawk River is exceeding its banks more and more. River gauges near Utica and Schenectady reveal that flooding has increased dramatically over the past decade.

    Recurrent flood damage and aging housing stock have resulted in many homes experiencing flood damage that is more costly than their current market value. The cycle of flooding and repair erodes neighborhood cohesion and discourages investment; yet, when the suggestion of pulling back from the river is offered, it is often viewed in the negative as "retreat," or "giving in." In fact, pulling back just enough to build new flood-ready parks can buffer homes and businesses from flood damage and actually increase the inherent economic value of waterfront development.

    The study led us to believe that communities need to face the futility of flood repair in certain locations so they can imagine a longer-lasting, more effective solution. The product of the grant is RIVERWORKS, an animated short video with a humorous, yet controversial take on perennially-flooded homes and a message of productive change. 

    Identifying solutions to flooding that address the issue and enhance place are part of the key to real change. The flood ready park pictured below protects upland communities from flooding and serves as a daily amenity for residents.

    ABOVEWATER is a research project funded by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) with sponsorship from The Architectural League of New York

    flooding Irene Mohawk New York