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New York, New Jersey storm projects chosen

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After Sandy After Sandy

By JONATHAN LEMIRE and DAVID PORTER | AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- A system of dikes around the tip of lower Manhattan, and water pumps and parks across the Hudson River in New Jersey were among the projects selected Monday to receive nearly $1 billion in federal funding as part of efforts to protect the New York City region from Superstorm Sandy-type flooding.

The six projects -- winners of a design competition created by President Barack Obama's Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force -- are intended to offer a variety of safeguards to protect the low-lying coastal areas that were punished by catastrophic flooding when the superstorm made landfall in October 2012.

"Today is just the beginning in making these projects a reality across the region," Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said Monday in Little Ferry, New Jersey, a community just north of the Meadowlands sports complex that suffered severe damage from a storm surge in the Hackensack River. "We are going to build them, we are going to make lives better and make communities and families safer."

One winner, nicknamed "The Big U," would create an 8-mile long system of dikes that will be placed around the tip of Lower Manhattan. Another plans to build a series of natural breakwaters -- including oyster beds and other living reefs -- that could absorb the brunt of storm waters racing toward Staten Island.

Another would protect a key food market in the Bronx while a fourth aims to help drain stretches of Long Island. The four winners, chosen from a group of 10 finalists and announced in Manhattan on Monday, will receive $540 million in federal funding.

The two New Jersey projects are centered in the northern part of the state and will get a total of $380 million in HUD funding. One will protect Weehawken, Hoboken and Jersey City with green space to slow storm surges and water pumps to discharge the runoff. The other will create additional wetlands and a multi-purpose berm, or ground barrier, in the Meadowlands. An eight-foot tidal surge overwhelmed an earthen berm during Sandy and sent water rushing through Little Ferry and surrounding towns.

Donovan, who headed the task force and was nominated last week to take over the federal Office of Management and Budget, was joined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Charles Schumer, all Democrats, to announce the New York winners. Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined him in Little Ferry.

"The issue before us is resiliency: protecting our city, our state, against an ever-changing climate," de Blasio said.

The projects are subject to many levels of government review and would likely be many years from completion. Asked when groundbreaking would happen for the New Jersey projects, Donovan didn't give an estimate.

The projects are a small piece of the overall rebuilding effort; New York City alone plans to spend $3.7 billion to fortify its coastline. Much of New Jersey's damage occurred on the shore, and Donovan was questioned why neither HUD-approved project announced Monday focused on the coastline.

"These were the best projects we saw for New Jersey," he said. "We are doing a huge amount of work on the shore in terms of rebuilding public infrastructure and working with the Army Corps of Engineers to make sure dunes and other protection is built on the shore, so this is one piece of a much broader investment that the federal government is making."

More than 100 people in the region died due to the storm.

Porter reported from Little Ferry, New Jersey.

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