Archive for the tag 'flooding'

Source: nasa.gov

Superstorm Sandy as seen from outer space. (Source: nasa.gov)

The New York City Council passed new building code laws last week in an effort to make structures more resilient should another natural catastrophe like Superstorm Sandy strike again.

The New York Times laid out the details of the new building code laws in their report:

One change requires residential buildings five stories or higher to add faucets in common areas like laundry rooms so that residents on higher floors have some access to water for drinking, flushing toilets and other uses. Upper floors lose water when electric pumps stop working during blackouts, a problem that worsened conditions and forced many people out of their buildings after the hurricane.

The requirement applies immediately to new residential construction, while existing buildings have eight years to add the fixtures…

Another piece of legislation requires new and existing hospitals and nursing homes in flood zones to install hookups that would enable quick connection to temporary generators and boilers so that such facilities can maintain electricity and heating when the power is out. The law requiring the hookups is effective immediately for new buildings, but gives existing buildings 20 years to comply.

Another new law makes it easier to install backup generators and generators that run on natural gas, which is considered a cleaner and more reliable source of power than diesel fuel. And a fourth law allows temporary flood barriers on sidewalks.

Russell Unger, who chaired the task force charged with providing the Council with recommendations, spoke to the overall singular goal of the new laws.

“It will make it much more possible to stay in a large building for an extended period without power,” Unger told the Times.

Source: Jacinta Quesada via Wikimedia

Source: Jacinta Quesada via Wikimedia

The following is a notice from the National Weather Service.

Notification issued on 7/1/13 at 10:18 AM. The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Warning citywide until 1:00 PM. Excessive runoff from heavy rainfall will cause flooding of urban areas, highways, streets and underpasses as well as other drainage areas and low lying spots. Do not drive your vehicle into areas where the water covers the roadway. The water depth may be too great to allow your car to cross safely. Move to higher ground. For the latest information visit: http://www.weather.gov/nyc.

Stay safe and be smart everybody.

UPDATE (1:15 p.m.): The Flash Flood Warning has been extended until 3 p.m.

Source: Jacinta Quesada via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Jacinta Quesada via Wikimedia Commons

Rising temperatures, more hurricanes and torrential flooding; these are the increasingly extreme weather factors that New Yorkers are expected to live with over the next 50 years. The New York Times is reporting on the statistics released by the Bloomberg administration that indicate the onset of climate change and its effects on the city’s coastline in the coming decades.

The study released by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office states that the number of city residents living in the 100-year flood plain will nearly double from 398,000 currently estimated to be at risk, to 800,000 by the year 2050. Another disturbing statistic points to how future New Yorkers should expect more scorching summer days and rising sea levels:

Administration officials said that between 1971 and 2000, New Yorkers had an average of 18 days a year with temperatures at or above 90 degrees. By the 2020s, that figure could be as high as 33 days, and by the 2050s, it could reach 57, according to data collected by the New York City Panel on Climate Change…

In 2009, it projected that sea levels would rise by two to five inches by the 2020s. Now, the panel estimates that the sea levels will rise four to eight inches by that time, with a high-end figure of 11 inches. Between 1900 and 2013, sea levels in New York City rose about a foot, administration officials said.

Based on these numbers, it may become pointless for the city’s elderly to retire to Florida as New York becomes a sweltering tropical swamp by the middle of the century.

To fight this encroaching environmental nightmare, Bloomberg also laid out his $20 billion plan to protect the city’s 520 miles of coastline with a network of flood walls, levees and bulkheads. The ambitious plan would also cover improvements to the city’s power grid and infrastructure and making city bridges hurricane proof. Bloomberg was adamant that work on the project begin quickly.

“This plan is incredibly ambitious — and much of the work will extend far beyond the next 203 days — but we refused to pass the responsibility for creating a plan onto the next administration. This is urgent work, and it must begin now,” the Times reported Bloomberg saying.

To put the $20 billion price tag in context, the entire New York City annual budget is approximately $70 billion.

With over 250 recommendations, the large plan is only likely to grow in cost and scope if enacted. An example of this is the proposed construction of “Seaport City,” which would be built just south of the Brooklyn Bridge. The purpose of Seaport City would be to remodel Battery Park City and protect lower Manhattan from flooding. The cost of Seaport City is not figured in the initial $20 billion estimate but is expected to cost billions more.

To reach the minimum $20 billion cost of the project, the city would have to raise $5 billion. As much as $15 billion is already covered by federal and city money already allocated via the Sandy aid package approved by Congress. Bloomberg believes that the cost to protect New York now will far outweigh the cost of restoring New York after a future storm 30 years from now, which he estimates could cost the city upwards of $90 billion. Superstorm Sandy cost the city an estimated $19 billion.

More locally, the city would be planning to install a series of wetlands and tidal barriers to Coney Island, illustrated below.

Source: nyc.gov

Source: nyc.gov

All in all, if enacted, Bloomberg’s plan would radically alter the landscape of New York City, transforming its landscape and coastline. The cost would be enormous, but given the extreme weather changes facing the city in the coming decades, the investment might be well worth the cost and effort.

You can read the entire plan here.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The company seeking to run a gas pipeline under Floyd Bennett Field and build a meter and regulating station in a historic airplane hangar there commissioned a report that found a .2 percent chance the planned facility would be flooded, even amid rising sea levels.

The Williams Transco pipeline company’s report came in response to an April 4 letter from the New York Department of State seeking reassurance that the station couldn’t be breeched after the Federal Emergency Management Agency updated its flood maps, post-Hurricane Sandy.

“Infrastructure in general was severely impacted by Sandy and NYDOS would not be adequately addressing coastal policies if we did not try to ensure that new infrastructure projects were able to withstand coastal impacts, including flooding,” Laz Benitez, an NYDOS spokesman said in an email.

Keep reading to find out Transco’s response.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the worst consequences of Superstorm Sandy is the inevitable rise of insurance rates which are expected to come on the heels of FEMA’s redrawing of the city’s flood zone lines. The new flood zone lines will force people to both buy expanded flood insurance and make expensive alterations to their homes to meet new regulations.

This mix of new insurance and home construction upgrades are incredibly costly. According to a press release, new legislation sponsored by Senator Charles Schumer hopes to protect homeowners already victimized by Sandy from burdening unneeded expenses.

The proposed legislation is known as the Strengthen, Modernize and Reform the National Flood Insurance Program Act (SMART). If enacted the legislation would delay rate increases by six months after FEMA’s affordability study is complete and allow for an extensive study on how these increased costs will impact communities.

“This legislation ensures that Congress will have the necessary time and data to make changes to National Flood Insurance Program before any premium increases go into effect, so communities aren’t overwhelmed and property values aren’t decimated,” said Schumer.

Here is a list of everything SMART act will do:

  • Delay premium increases until 6 months after FEMA’s affordability study is submitted to Congress.
  • Expedite FEMA’s affordability study. To expedite this, the legislation permits FEMA to use available funds outside of the National Flood Insurance Fund to complete the required study and makes a technical change to the affordability study to ensure the timely completion of the study.
  • Allow properties currently receiving a subsidized rate to keep that rate when sold.
  • Study voluntary community-based flood insurance options which could provide communities with the option to purchase blanket policies for all properties in their communities or a portion of their communities. This could allow for communities to offer more affordable insurance policies to their residents and provide greater incentives for community-wide migration activities.
  • Eliminate penalties on communities for self-financing flood protection. FEMA’s AR and A99 flood-zone categories provide more affordable flood insurance to qualifying communities in the process of flood protection projects. Currently, while flood expenditures on these activities can be fully counted toward community eligible calculations, there is a cap on the amount of state and local funds that may enter this calculation. Proactive communities who are sharing cost burdens with the federal government for flood protection should not be penalized for self-financing these projects. This bill will eliminate the 50% cap on state and local contributions to these projects.
  • Federally funded new construction is currently prohibited in V-zones. In some situations, new construction should be permitted in the V-zone when relocation is impractical, provided the facilities are built to strict, established flood protection standards. These facilities will also be subject to a FEMA evacuation plan to promote the safety of the persons who occupy or access them.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning to propose placing 12 foot high removable steel barriers along the city’s waterfront should a massive storm like Sandy head our way again, NY1 reports.

If enacted, Bloomberg’s plan would see the installation of the removable barriers along flood-prone city coastlines. Bloomberg is betting that this method of flood prevention will not only protect the coastline and the environment but be more cost effective then the massive Dutch-style barriers that have also been proposed.

Governor Andrew Cuomo prefers this latter option, pushing for a more permanent and ambitious solution to fight massive flooding, a plan that oceanographer Malcolm Bowman thinks is the right course.

“I think we have to do what Governor Cuomo has asked for, and that is an engineering analysis of storm surge barriers across the major entrances to New York Harbor, Rockaway to Sandy Hook, and then the East River,” Bowman told NY 1. “Because nothing less will protect the major airports, the shipping facilities, all the infrastructure that we saw devastated during Sandy.”

Just yesterday, we reported on the $6 billion in federal aid earmarked to prevent flooding of the subway system. While the details of that plan have yet to be specifically devised, and are ultimately up to Cuomo and the MTA, several lower cost ideas have been floated, similar to Bloomberg’s plan. These include installing deployable watertight grates across vents and stairways and installing protective walls along the subway lines that run outdoors.

Source: J. Reed via Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE (5/22/2013 @ 12:45 a.m.): It turns out that Nathan’s famous opened for business the night before we posted this story on Monday, May 20, at 7 p.m., according to a CBS report. Hot dog mode, engaged!

Original Post

The iconic Nathan’s Famous (1310 Surf Avenue) has faced a long and sometimes trying path to recovery. Weathering extensive flood damage following Superstorm Sandy and a small fire that broke out on its roof while being repaired, the famous wiener mecca is closer than ever to reopening, hoping to dole out dogs before Memorial Day.

NY1 is reporting that not only are the repairs on Nathan’s almost complete, but that they have significantly upgraded their service counters and infrastructure. The changes include a redesigned interior space, a new clam bar that will be serving oysters for the first time in 30 years and an overall modern more modern look.

Nathan’s also made the effort to protect themselves against future storms.

“We used to have all of our utilities in the basement, so we brought everything above flood line, so if something should happen again it won’t knock us out completely,” Bruce Miller, senior director of operations told NY1.

While lamenting that they couldn’t recreate the location exactly as it once was, Miller promised that the new Nathan’s is working hard at improving what they have.

“You can’t go back to the way it used to be 50 years ago. You have to make everything current to code, so Nathan’s took the opportunity to not only bring everything up to that level, but also to take an opportunity to provide a better service for our customers,” Miller said.

People visiting Coney Island before the Surf Avenue Nathan’s reopens can still grab a hot dog at their boardwalk spot, which was quickly rebuilt following the storm.

Source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority Patrick Cashin

As the $60 billion Sandy aid package finally gets doled out, it is interesting to see how that mountain of money actually gets spent. A New York Post editorial highlights how Governor Andrew Cuomo intends to spend $6 billion worth of the pie on water-proofing the city’s subway system.

On top of the $6 billion set aside to figure out a way to somehow make sure the subway doesn’t get flooded again, the MTA is also receiving $4.8 billion in federal funds for general Sandy repairs. The Post editorial takes aim at Cuomo and the MTA for trumping up the damage estimates to ensure the biggest federal payout possible.

For example, when accessing the damage to the A train tracks in the Rockaways, the MTA guessed that they would need $650 million. Construction on that line is nearly finished and will open at the end of the month. In Cuomo’s actual budget released at the end of March, the cost so far has only amounted to $17.9 million. According to the Post, something isn’t adding up:

From photo op to photo op, there’s no reconciliation between huge initial numbers and later smaller ones. But this seeming opposite of a massive cost overrun isn’t that surprising — and it’s more Cuomo’s fault than the MTA’s.

Last year, the MTA was under huge pressure to announce huge numbers, fast — or watch the state lose out on federal aid. And now that the state has secured that cash, no one much cares what happens to it. After all, the money was free.

The cost overruns are creating questions as to where the money earmarked for the ‘water-proofing’ plan is going and how exactly it will be spent. While officials have solutions on how to protect above ground subways from storm surges by building protective walls, they have less of a clear picture on how to protect the underground portion of the system.

At a recent press conference, MTA chief Tom Prendergast admitted that he has no idea how to prevent flooding in places like Lower Manhattan, which has over 500 flood entry points alone.

The Post noted that many ideas floated to protect the underground subway are practical and low on cost, like installing deployable watertight grates across vents and stairways and placing inflatable bladders in key locations. Despite this, the Post is guessing that Cuomo and the MTA will likely favor a more expensive and futuristic idea that makes full use of the billions headed their way.

Source: nytimes.com

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office announced that it is doubling the number of evacuation zones along New York City’s coastline. The New York Times is reporting that the expanded map will add 640,000 residents to the three million New Yorkers already living in such zones, putting 37.5 percent of the total population in evacuation zones.

The city is hoping that by expanding the evacuation zones, people will take calls to evacuate more seriously. The new map represents only a preliminary look of what is expected to change. A more detailed map is expected to be released in June.

While the evacuation zones have been expanded, it’s worth noting that to date, residents located in Zone A, which includes Sheepshead Bay, have been the only ones ever asked to evacuate.

The release of the new map was the major highlight of a city report on the response to Superstorm Sandy. The New York Times summarized a list of other conclusions and initiatives drawn from the report.

Many lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy will be set down in new “playbooks” for city agencies that had to learn on the fly how to deal with a major storm’s aftermath: how to request waivers and extensions from federal school-lunch and food-stamp programs to serve a deluge of needy families; how to muster economic development programs to help battered businesses get back up to speed faster.

Others issues will be left to future task forces to interpret.

A number of smaller recommendations are already being acted on, like the purchase of more emergency lights, generators and small boats for firefighters.

The report also calls for new regulations for hospitals, nursing homes and adult homes during evacuations. It recommends the creation of a patient tracking system, better communication equipment and guidelines for the return of patients.

Regarding hospitals, the Times criticized the report’s defensive posture over the decision not to call for an evacuation of the city’s medical facilities, including Coney Island Hospital. The report failed to address the basic fact that many major hospitals are located in vulnerable evacuation zones, leaving no guidelines for future planning.
The city insisted it would release a different report on infrastructure in the future.

We received the above photo from Missy Haggerty, the Lake Avenue resident who helped lead dozens of neighbors to safety out of the flooded corridor during Superstorm Sandy.

Missy tells us the bungalow courts remain underwater even as most of the water from this morning’s flash floods have receded elsewhere. The courts are below street level, and the drains – which, we’re told, are not connected to city sewer lines – were still clogged from Sandy, causing all the water to back up.

Residents are using pumps to get the water out now, and we’re told by a rep in Councilman Lew Fidler’s office that they’re working to get the Department of Environmental Protection on scene to help pump the water out of the alleyways.

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