Sandy brings state money to Red Hook for local improvements, by George Fiala

At a January 6 committee meeting for the Red Hook portion of NY Rising, almost 100 potential Sandy-related projects were discussed. The meeting took place at PS 15 and was attended by a host of consultants, committee members and other interested parties. The committee is headed by Gita Nandan, a local architect representing the Red Hook community, and Kate Collignon, a managing partner of HR&A consultants.

The next public meetings for NY Rising/Red Hook is scheduled for February 22 and 23.

The next public meetings for NY Rising/Red Hook is scheduled for February 22 and 23.

Collignon is heading the NY Rising Team in Red Hook. Among her vast credentials is her experience with the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC), where she was involved in the revitalization of Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The meeting began with a recapitulation of previous work and a timeline for upcoming work. NY Rising, a NY State initiative, has allocated money in Sandy impacted areas throughout the state – with $3 million set aside for Red Hook. The purpose of these meetings is to come up with one or more projects that the community agrees upon. Committee members were given a working draft containing 98 projects culled from previous committee and public meetings. The committee was given instructions on how to evaluate the projects, and using those evaluations, come up with five to ten projects for the community to choose from at a future public meeting.

After hearing from the two leaders, the committee broke down into three working groups: Infrastructure; Housing and Economic Development, and Social Resiliency. There was not enough time to go through each individual project, members were given working drafts and asked to go through them during the week and collaborate via email.

The projects were broken down by timeframe, feasibility, cost and risk reduction. Co-benefits were looked at, as well as additional funding opportunities. The day after this meeting, Governor Cuomo announced a $16.7 billion plan for Sandy related improvements, including $200 million set aside for a Red Hook flood management system, vastly increasing the possibilities for additional funding resources. Coordination between the city and state programs was a topic discussed at the Economic Development group.

Some of the more interesting projects included direct financial benefits for local business to help recover costs due to business closures after the storm; creating an information clearinghouse for both businesses and residents to be prepared for the next emergency event; and study of land use to see how “expansion of residential and mixed-use zones might be used to preserve, expand, and increase resiliency of industrial development.”
Land use was discussed, with particular attention on the EDC owned Atlantic Basin and Cruise Terminal parking lots, which are currently underutilized and largely unavailable to the Red Hook community. Under the category of regulatory reform – a plan to make recommendations to NYCHA regarding re-skinning of buildings, installing hallway/stairway lights with back-up battery power, providing generators for emergencies, and mold prevention.

An additional potential project falling under regulatory reform was an incentive program to encourage development of resilient, affordable housing on some of the vacant residential lots, or on lots that have been rezoned residential. New waterfront construction could be required to tie into integrated coastal flood protection plans.

Another idea would be the creation of a flood-proof relief center to serve as a year-round community/cultural center. This new or revamped building would include back-up power, a community charging station, and provision of a large refrigeration facility for storage of critical food and medicines.

A mobile healthcare service provider, such as a mobile pharmacy van, to develop a route through Red Hook before and after emergency events was suggested, as was a study of how local food supply can be made more resilient. Fairway’s resiliency improvements they have already implemented is a positive step, as opposed to the Fine Fair, which shut, never to reopen.

Many suggestions included the installation of green/blue roof systems on commercial and residential properties to reduce storm water runoff and increase building insulation. Other infrastructure topics included massive sewer upgrades, improvements to the Van Brunt pumping station and the creation of a “New Wastewater treatment plant, potentially at the mouth of the Gowanus,” to relieve pressure on the existing pumping stations.

The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) has reached out to NY Rising with the idea of creating an 8-10 foot bicycle paths along the Red Hook waterfront to serve as a permanent flood barrier. Members of BGI met with NY Rising on January 15 to exchange ideas. The areas considered for this are Atlantic Basin/Ferris Street; the Beard Street corridor; the Red Hook Recreation Fields and Court-Clinton Street blocks south of Hamilton Avenue.
Other ideas include the creation of solar power generators. Locations chosen include large roof spaces on privately owned industrial properties, the Cruise Terminal, roofs over the Red Hook Houses, and roofs of some residential properties. The purchase of portable solar power generators is also under consideration. Geothermal and wind power were also mentioned.

Some sort of coordination with Con Edison is under consideration in order to improve the existing electrical grid. Many in Red Hook complain of frequent power interruptions.
As far as transportation and evacuation, suggestions were made to enhance bus routes, ferry service and bicycle pathways.

The local committee will also be spending some time looking at Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement regarding the state’s use of federal Sandy recovery funds. His press release stated that: “To protect the low-lying neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn, the State is developing a $200 million partnership with New York City to construct a comprehensive flood management system – the 1st of its kind in the nation – in the community.

According to Gita Nandan, the committee is mindful of possible overlap and will take this into consideration when prioritizing the possible projects.

Over the next few weeks, all suggestions will be evaluated, and about ten will be presented to Red Hook at the next public meeting sometime in February. They will also be appearing at the next meeting of the Red Hook Civic Association, taking place at PS 15 on Wednesday, January 29.

All $3 million of the grant will be used on the project chosen, as all administrative costs are paid out of a separate fund.

 

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