Protect us from flooding, by Jake Bienecke and Andrea Sansom

(EDITORS NOTE: Andrea and Jake are Red Hook residents. They have generously offered Star-Revue readers their experiences and advice in dealing with the changes since Sandy, as well as this call to action).
Hurricane Sandy is sometimes called the “storm that sparked a thousand conferences,” a reference both to the effect the storm has had on the collective conscience of New Yorkers waking up to the risks of coastal living in an era of climate change, and to the widespread perception that there is too much talk and not enough action.

Adapting the city to better manage these risks, however, is an enormously complex undertaking, and the process will likely occur not at once but in successive stages spanning the next fifty years. The planning discussions now underway are critical, as they will determine the basis for prioritizing and directing resiliency spending for the foreseeable future.

In Red Hook, there are currently three planning processes operating in parallel, managed respectively by the City, State and Federal Governments (SIRR / OLTPR, Communities Rising, and Rebuild By Design, respectively). All of these programs received funding through the Community Development Block Grants that were established as part of the Sandy Supplemental appropriation by Congress.

Although there are differences between each of these processes, the overall aim is shared: to improve the resiliency of neighborhoods in the face of a changing environment, first by reducing exposure and risk, and second by strengthening the systems that can help restore normalcy after a major disruption like the one caused by Sandy.

Each process combines advice from technical experts with community input. Since the outcome of these planning efforts will not only direct funds currently available through the Community Development Block Grant program (approximately $16 billion), but also set the stage for long term infrastructure, zoning, and regulatory development, it is important that everyone in Red Hook makes an effort to contribute. Otherwise, we will have missed a singular opportunity to have a voice in the future of our community.

Here’s how:
CITY: The Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) plan was completed in June, 2013 and offers a comprehensive plan for all of New York City with specific recommendations made on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis, with the intention of having everything completed by 2050. Because the SIRR plan was completed largely before the Communities Rising and Rebuild by Design initiatives got underway, it is often a reference for these other planning efforts. The SIRR Report recommended a coastal barrier for the whole Red Hook Neighborhood, under Coastal Protection Initiative Number 23 (See below). Other recommendations included: address the major expense of repairs and resiliency for low-rise buildings; understand the tremendous hurdles attached properties face in meeting FEMA guidelines; provide flood protection from inland water bodies [Gowanus]; mitigate street and property flooding, combined sewer overflow events ; address the particular risks of industrial properties; and increase transportation redundancy. The SIRR report plan can be viewed here: and you can write in support of this recommendation by clicking Contact NYC Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency at

STATE: The New York Rising Community Reconstruction (NYRCR) Program was established by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to provide additional rebuilding and revitalization assistance to communities damaged by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee. This program empowers communities to prepare locally-driven recovery plans to identify innovative reconstruction projects and other needed actions to allow each community not only to survive, but also to thrive in an era when natural risks will become increasingly common.” The process is currently underway and is actively seeking community input. You can view the plan at and submit comments at

FEDERAL: The Federal Rebuild by Design task force selected 10 international design/infrastructure/consulting/urban planning/environmental teams to compete in the creation of enduring and inventive resiliency projects for NYC. The preliminary proposals were unveiled at the end of October, and several participants have been invited to participate in the next stage of the planning process. Unfortunately, very few of the proposals focused on Red Hook, and these did not include comprehensive coastal protections. You can view the proposed projects here: The proposal submitted by one team, HR&A Advisors, who are also one of two consultants managing the NY Communities Rising process, suggests flood surge protection exclusively for Van Brunt Street, and can be viewed and commented on here:
You can also go to Talking Transition: to tell Mayor-elect de Blasio what you want for Red Hook and there will be a Talking Transition station at Red Hook Initiative soon.
Get Involved! Leave your comment on the 3 websites.
Come to a meeting on Monday, November 25:
Red Hook Innovations: Design Proposals and Big Thinking
Monday, November 25
PS 15 Auditorium (71 Sullivan Street)
6:30 pm to 8 pm
Red Hook Flood-Mitigation Group:
The following is a statement from a long-time Red Hook family:
As long-time residents of Red Hook, over the course of thirty years, we have deeply experienced the changes that have occurred in our community. Following Superstorm Sandy, we have seen neighbors more than willing to remain in Red Hook by doggedly rebuilding. We have seen our businesses renovate, restore and and reopen, bringing back the vibrancy that evokes the spirit of our neighborhood. We have further witnessed new or planned residential construction that follows required elevation codes. All this means to us is that people truly want to live in Red Hook.
But in order for people to have a future here, we need a comfort zone – a level of defense that will ensure this future. It is our heart-felt belief that proposed coastal protection efforts can provide this sense of security. However, a basic band-aid plan would not be nearly sufficient to stem the tide! – by 2016.” Isaura and Michael Horenstein, Richards Street, Richards Street – emphatically Red Hook

Coastal Protection Initiative 23

Install integrated flood protection system in Red Hook.

“Red Hook faces a number of challenges from climate change: A low-lying topography; older, often-attached buildings; a significant number of industrial businesses with valuable, ground-floor equipment and inventory that are difficult to elevate; vulnerable commercial corridors; and a significant population that lacks the means to make resiliency investments. These conditions make site-specific flood protection measures a challenge, likely leaving many residents, businesses, and infrastructure assets exposed. Subject to available funding, the City, therefore, will install an integrated flood protection system in Red Hook, composed of permanent features, temporary features, and landscaping and drainage improvements. This approach would protect much of the neighbor-hood but, at the same time, would not interfere with the neighborhood fabric during non-storm conditions. The design will be selected following an international competition and may include elevation of portions of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. Other elements likely would run along the first mapped street inland of the waterfront throughout the neighborhood. The goal is to commence design in 2014 with completion expected by 2016,



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