Making rooms: Tour Brooklyn’s slick disaster house

Look inside: This interim disaster prototype Downtown will open as part of Open House New York on Oct. 14 and 15.
Brooklyn Paper
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Get a peek at sweet relief.

Next weekend you can take a tour of a home you will hopefully never have to live in! A prototype house designed for disaster victims will open its doors to visitors on Oct. 14–15 as part of Open House New York, an annual two-day event that grants public access to normally closed spaces across the city. The slick model apartments are much nicer than the typical emergency tents and trailers, and the project’s architect wants people to know that it is possible to house catastrophe victims in humane conditions.

“We have to show people everyone deserves to have a quality environment critical to their health and well-being,” said Jim Garrison, a professor at Pratt Institute. “The reason it’s nice is because people have to make it their home.”

The city commissioned the Urban Post-Disaster Housing Prototype shortly after Hurricane Sandy, and it was assembled in a lot Downtown in just 13 and a half hours, creating two three-bedroom apartments and a one-bedroom unit bolted together to make a three-story building.

Garrison designed the housing for dense urban areas, and it emulates the streetscapes of Brooklyn.

“They’re meant to make complete streets like brownstones and townhouses would,” he said.

After a disaster, the housing could be quickly assembled in narrow spaces, such as the Ikea parking lot in Red Hook or next to public housing complexes.

The prototype has been sitting in the lot since it debuted in 2014, and is usually only open by appointment. Garrison would like to see his design deployed to areas hit by recent hurricanes, although there has not been enough support to make it happen.

“It takes a lot of political will and money, we haven’t been able to move on it,” he said.

In addition to the prototype home, Open House New York will also let visitors explore other usually closed Brooklyn sites, including the Sims Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility and the Kingsland Wildflowers Green Roof in Greenpoint. New to the program this year are tours of Bushwick’s Evergreens Cemetery and the Five Boroughs Brewing Company in Sunset Park.

Open House New York (Cadman Plaza East and Red Cross Place Downtown, Oct 14–15, every 20 minutes from 10 am–4:40 pm. Free, but RSVP required.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:54 pm, July 9, 2018
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