Residents of Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach and Sea Gate will gather tomorrow night for what will be their last chance to weigh in on how the state will spend millions of dollars to strengthen the Coney Island peninsula from future storms.
The meeting kicks off at 7:00 p.m. at MCU Park (1904 Surf Avenue), and all are welcome to attend.
Organizers will present information and solicit feedback for the final time on a set of proposed projects to help the communities recover and become more resilient. It’s the culmination of nearly a year of work by the New York Rising project, a state-sponsored, federally-funded program to bolster the neighborhoods. The state brought together a committee of grassroots stakeholders with planning experts and consultants to identify shortcomings and vulnerabilities in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and propose ideas that would fill those gaps.
After several public hearings and draft plans, they’re finalizing the plan that the state will begin implementing. You can read the full report here, but we’re boiling it down to what you need to know ahead of tomorrow’s meeting.
The first thing to note is that there’s already millions of dollars allocated to each community to see these projects through. The committee’s job is to come up with the list of projects to receive those funds. This is basically the highest priority stuff that they’re asking the state to pay attention to. Once the report is finalized, the state will pluck from the list and give their final go-ahead.
Some of the projects require multiple phases, of which only the first phase is funded. We’ve tried to note that in the entries below.
There are also projects that the committee thinks is a good idea, but not good enough to receive money from the existing pot. Those will require separate funding from what’s already been doled out by the feds. To keep it simple, we’re not including these in our list.
If you think any of these ideas are a waste of money, or you have suggestions for a tweak or change in plans, make sure you attend tomorrow’s meeting. A similar plan has been drawn up for Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach, which we’ll be breaking down before their meeting next Monday.
Without further ado, here’s the list of projects that the local committee is recommending for funding through federal money already held by the state (and, where noted, the unfunded second phases). We’ve organized them in order of estimated price tag.
- Upgrades for Manhattan Beach bathhouse - $4 million – No timeframe given – Even though the bathhouse has been shuttered for years, and even though the report notes that “the project would not directly reduce risk to the Community,” Rising has given the largest allocation to this project, which would upgrade the structure to allow it to reopen year-round. It would also explore the use of renewable energy systems and solar panels, and evaluate floodproofing measures. There’s a catch though – before a dime is spent, the Parks Department and the committee will have to come to an agreement on the building’s ultimate use. Once the use is figured out, the $4 million covers basic upgrade costs, but an estimated $15 million to $20 million is expected to be needed to fully reactive it. Potential uses include recreational amenities, retail concessions or a community center.
- Sea Gate bulkhead replacement - $3 million – Two-year project – This project seeks to replace the crumbled bulkhead around the Sea Gate community, helping mitigate the effects of future storm surges. The bulkhead was in bad condition before the storm, and Sandy nearly obliterated them, causing water to gush into the streets and homes of Sea Gate. The project requires the cooperation of property owners, which would allow the bulkhead to be extended in length, and protect more neighborhood assets.
- Community streetscape enhancement - $2.5 million – $3 million – One-year implementation – This isn’t just to replace to the dead trees in the neighborhood. It’s also mean to create more tree pits and vegetative areas, which provide important drainage in the wake of a storm. A better looking streetscape has also had measurable effects on commercial activity and property values. It wouldn’t really help in a storm like Sandy, but the communities involved already suffer flooding issues in much less severe rainstorms, which this could efficiently address. It appears though, that this doesn’t include Mermaid Avenue, which could raise the price tag by $2.2 million. The committee decided that the corridor needs significant infrastructure improvements before streetscaping could be done.
- Installation of sewer cut-off valves for one- and two-family homes - $2.4 million – $3.5 million – One of the most frequently heard complaints after the storm was that homes flooded not from actual stormwater, but from overflowing sewers that backed up into homes. This proposal would provide funds for the purchase and installation of 1,000 cut-off valves for local homeowners. Essentially, the valves seal off the home if waste is heading the wrong way through the pipe.
- Solar-powered street lights - $2 million – $3.5 million – 18 month implementation – It took weeks to restore street lighting on the peninsula after Sandy. This would help ensure they never go out again by making the lights independent of the power grid. Not only would this lower city utility costs, but it improves the real and perceived safety of the area in the wake of an outage. The proposal covers between seven and 10 miles of local streets.
- Small business support center - $1.96 million – Two year project – This basically creates a temporary facility for small business owners to turn to as they continue to recover. The staff here may also help establish merchant associations or business improvement districts, in addition to guiding business owners through the various city, state and federal resources for grants, loans and more. Part of the price tag here is also to help fund additional streetscape improvements and even create a fund to help flood-proof commercial properties.
- Designate Emergency Response & Recovery Centers – $980,000 – 12-month timeframe to find location – This is only a partially funded project. The price tag includes the cost of finding and evaluating potential sites, as well as some construction, equipment and operational costs. But the plan notes that once a site is identified, additional funding would likely be required to activate it. The center is proposed in response to concerns that there was no formal or efficient place for stakeholders to organize, or from which disaster recovery services could operate. This could end up sharing space with an existing or future organization.
- Pilot small-scale renewable power project - $900,000 – Three-year project – This would establish a small solar-powered backup system for a senior or nursing home in the area to help residents get back into their homes quickly after a disaster event. If it works, it could be rolled out elsewhere with additional funding.
- Beach grass planting on Coney Island, Brighton Beach - $800,000 – One-year implementation – In cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Parks Department, this plan will see the creation of small dunes and beach grass to be planted on the eastern and western ends of the peninsula’s beach, immediately south of the boardwalk. Similar implementations can be seen in Atlantic City. The grass helps keep the sand where it is – a major concern after Superstorm Sandy, which saw several tons of sand pushed into residential streets and commercial corridors. The dunes also help weaken the force of storm surges. The estimated cost of the project also covers the relocation of water supply valves from the water side of the boardwalk to the land side, a more accessible and protected space for Parks Department access.
- Boardwalk surge protection at Ocean Parkway and West 25th Street - $750,000 – The Riegelmann Boardwalk has two gaps at these locations that allowed surge waters to push further inland than anywhere else on the boardwalk. The price tag here covers a study to assess the best way to plug the gaps, which could include reconstructing the berms beneath the boardwalk, as well as part of the construction cost. More funding will likely be needed.
- Southern Brooklyn Emergency Response plan - $640,000 – Two-year project – Pretty self-explanatory. Identify who the local groups on the ground are, and make sure city, state and federal agencies are working with them before, during and after a disaster event.
- Vocational training program – $500,000 – $750,000 – Two-year project – Employment on the peninsula was bad before the storm, and worse after it. With all the projects being proposed, the committee hopes to create the workforce needed by employing local high school graduates. This proposal creates a vocational high school curriculum, and connects students with local internship opportunities.
- Energy resiliency for NYCHA and Mitchell-Lama properties – $340,000 – Two-year study – NYCHA and Mitchell-Lama residents are still suffering from heat, hot water and power breakdowns in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. This study is to figure out the best way forward, which could include creating green solutions, or the creation of independent, flood-proof “micro-grids” that keep the densely populated housing facilities full of vulnerable residents up and running during and after a storm. Once the options are figured out, funding will need to be obtained to carry it out, which is believed to be in excess of $10 million.
- Disaster preparedness outreach campaign - $160,000 – Two-year project – Following complaints that disaster preparedness and recovery information was poorly distributed to non-English speakers and elderly residents, the campaign would seek better ways to reach those audiences and hold preparedness workshops that suit their needs.
- Storm surge protection for Sheepshead Bay - $100,000 – Two-year project – New York Rising stakeholders for Manhattan Beach repeatedly complained that much of their flooding came from the Sheepshead Bay side of the peninsula, not the ocean. As such, they’re proposing a “reconnaissance study” to identify viable options to keep the bay contained in future storms. If some options seem doable, a feasibility study will commence, and then implementation. There is not yet funding for either the feasibility study or the implementation.