How might we better understand the promises and limits of government buyout programs, or the acquisition of land in flood zones, as a proactive preventive strategy for coping with climate change?

Granted under the Fifth Amendment, eminent domain refers to the power of the government, states, and municipalities to take private property and convert it into public use. Though given just compensation, the homeowners and businesses are not left with many choices. Recently making its 700th purchase, voluntary property buyout programs, such as Blue Acres, are in many ways a less forceful option that is looking to be more widely adopted and considered. Climate Central, a Princeton-based research group, together with Zillow, predicts that by 2050, 196,264 New Jersey homes will be exposed to annual floods. By 2100, between 231,000 and 280,000 homes will be in flood “risk zone”, depending on carbon emission. 

Located just west of Manhattan, the New Jersey Meadowlands is one of the largest contiguous tracts of urban open space in the Northeast, and continues to be a crucial natural barrier against the rising sea level and storm surges, while providing an important refuge for wildlife and biodiversity. However, the densely populated areas surrounding the Meadowlands continue to be threatened by floods, toxic contaminants, and hazardous wastes. The Regional Plan Association proposed to convert the Meadowlands into a “Climate Park”. 

Using a series of research into existing and projected conditions, pollution and toxins, climate equity and public engagement, and finance and public policy, as a basis, this Tiger Challenge team of Princeton students will work with the Meadowlands Climate Park research team and Regional Plan Association to understand the promises and limits of government buyout programs as a proactive preventive strategy for coping with climate change.


Faculty Advisor:

Mario Gandelsonas, Professor, Princeton University School of Architecture

Community Partner:

Robert Freudenberg, Vice President, Energy & Environment, Regional Plan Association