Archive for the tag 'flooding'

Flooding on Lake Avenue (Photo by Missy Haggerty)

Flooding on Lake Avenue (Photo by Missy Haggerty)

While a rainy day for most of us is just a pain in the neck, it’s an absolute hazard in the Sheepshead Bay courts – the bungalow colonies lining the eastern end of Emmons Avenue.

The below-street-level communities, which date back about 100 years, have long been prone to flooding. Neighbors are getting fed up, today sending us photos and video to illustrate just how bad it is.

Today’s nor’easter was forecast to bring about three inches of rain to the area. But due to runoff from the streets, Lake Avenue – a court just east of Nostrand Avenue between Emmons Avenue and Shore Parkway – was four inches under water by noon, according to resident Missy Haggerty.

“Flooding always happens during heavy rains. So do the other six courts,” said Haggerty. “It has gotten worse since [Superstorm Sandy].”

The problem is that the streets – which are pedestrian only and approximately eight feet wide – is not that they are just below the city’s street level, it’s that there’s no real drainage to speak of. There are small drains peppered throughout the blocks, but they go down into a shallow dirt well. They were never connected to the city’s system when it was laid out in the first half of the 20th century, also when streets were raised.

Another Lake Avenue resident, Ellen Chang, filmed the flooding as she attempted to take her dog for a walk. Without rain boots, the walkways are positively dangerous and her pup – not a small dog at all – is submerged nearly up to his chest:

Cheng said in the video that she was never informed of the flooding issue when she bought the house 14 years ago.

“I didn’t know my house had flooding like this when there’s heavy rain. All the neighbors are suffering,” she said.

Cheng and other neighbors are calling on the city to construct proper drainage connected to the city’s sewer system.

“I pay taxes. I have a right to a sewer system, and the government didn’t do anything,” she said.

“All we need is to just dig a sewer connection to Emmons Avenue sewer system. That won’t cost the city a lot of money,” she added by e-mail.

The problem is that the city considers these streets private – a justification they’ve also given for not replacing worn out street signs in the area – and in the past has claimed that residents need to band together and pay for it themselves.

The unique layout of the courts has also caused Sandy recovery issues. Build it Back chief Amy Peterson said at a Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association meeting last week that the narrow streets, lack of vehicle access and close proximity of houses is causing delays in the construction process, and leading the agency to explore a neighborhood-wide approach.

We’ll be pinging city agencies to see if they have an approach in mind to address the ongoing flooding concern, and will update you when we hear back.

cih-rendering

Rendering of proposed building, as seen from Avenue Z and East 6th Street. Designs have not yet been finalized.

Coney Island Hospital (2601 Ocean Parkway) is slated to construct a new, resilient building to house critical services, ensuring that Southern Brooklyn’s only major medical center will continue without significant service interruptions in the case of another weather event like Superstorm Sandy

The new building, as well as a planned 1,720-foot flood wall, is being funded using part of a $923 million grant from FEMA, representing the lion’s share from a slated $1.6 billion payout Health and Hospital Corporation (HHC) announced last week.

“Few services are as critical as our hospitals during extreme weather. This unprecedented investment will make four key public hospitals much more resilient next time they need to be,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference at Coney Island Hospital on Thursday.

The new building will be constructed in a section of the hospital campus’ parking lot near Avenue Z. It will be elevated by pillars 10- to 15-feet high, allowing water to pass beneath in the event of a future flood.

When it’s completed, the new building will be the largest investment and expansion of the hospital in more than a decade.

The hospital’s critical services – many of which were off-line for months after Superstorm Sandy – will all be housed in the new, flood-proof structure. A ramp will bring ambulances to a second-floor Emergency Room, and the medical center’s most used services – X-ray, CAT scan, MRI, pharmacy and lab departments – will all be in the same building.

“This is a big deal for the community. They should be excited about it,” said Coney Island Hospital’s Associate Executive Director for Public Affairs Robert Cooper. “This is going to shore it up and guarantee that there won’t be any disruption in their healthcare in another storm like Sandy.”

When it’s completed some four to five years from now, it’ll be the largest investment and expansion of the hospital since the completion of the  inpatient bed tower building in 2006.

The parts of the campus not currently storm-proofed, which include the tower building and the main building, which houses the emergency department, will be wrapped in a 1,720-foot flood wall, designed to protect from a storm surge on the scale of that predicted to occur only once every 500 years.

Exact specifications of the new building are not yet known. Although the hospital worked with HHC, FEMA and consultants on the proposal and have created a rendering, seen at the top of this post, the actual designs have not been finalized. The project will go out to bid shortly after funding comes through the federal pipeline.

In addition to the new building, a portion of the $923 million is being used to reimburse the hospital for repairs already made to the facility’s basements, first floor and electrical systems.

Despite being more than a quarter-mile away from the waterfront, the hospital suffered severe flooding during Superstorm Sandy, devastating its basement and first floor. The hospital was evacuated after the storm and its emergency department was shuttered until February 2013. It did not see all services restored until later in the spring, and its temporary closure caused overflows at other hospitals that stretched resources thin.

Video tour of damage after Sandy, filmed in November 2012:

Some improvements have already been made to make the campus more resilient, including the elevation of electrical systems and the acquisition of temporary flood barrier systems that can be deployed before another storm.

Coney Island Hospital is the only major public hospital in Southern Brooklyn, and the only HHC facility in Brooklyn damaged during Sandy. Officials also announced on Thursday that Bellevue Hospital will receive $376 million, Metropolitan Hospital will receive $120 million, and Roosevelt Island’s Coler Specialty Hospital will receive $181 million as part of the same grant through FEMA’s 428 program for resiliency.

Local pols are praising the investment in resiliency for local healthcare services.

“We must do all that we can to minimize future impacts to public health facilities like this vital Southern Brooklyn institution that serves thousands of people,” said Councilman Mark Treyger via press release. ” We can’t afford having Coney Island Hospital and others lose power and shut down emergency room access, when so many in our vulnerable residents rely on our public hospitals.”

“In the crucial months following Hurricane Sandy, residents were transported and referred to nearby hospitals. In a medical emergency, seconds can mean the difference between life and death,” said Councilman Chaim Deutsch in a statement.

Photo by Randy Contello

Looks like it’s going to be a heck of a day, especially for anyone stuck working outside. Neighbors across Brooklyn are facing a double threat today, with the National Weather Service warning of both high temperatures and the threat of flooding.

With temperatures expected to hit the high 80s and the heat index pushing that further up into the mid-90s, the National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for all of New York City from noon today until 5:00 p.m. tonight. The conditions can be dangerous to health, and residents are advised to avoid strenuous activity. People without air conditioning, older adults and those with chronic health conditions are most at risk. Make sure to check on elderly or disabled neighbors. It does not appear that New York City has opened its cooling centers, and the Office of Emergency Management’s cooling center locator website is not currently activated. Libraries are always a safe bet for those in need of cooling off, though. The city also has these tips on staying cool.

And while we bake, we await the rain. All of New York City is under a Flash Flood Warning today through Friday morning. According to the National Weather Service:

A cold front will slowly move across the region today before departing late tonight through Friday morning. This front will interact with some tropical moisture streaming into the region from the south, resulting in periods of heavy rainfall. A total of one to three inches of rainfall is expected, with locally higher amounts. Thunderstorms will be possible, helping to enhance these rainfall totals.

Low-lying streets and roadways, and areas with poor drainage, could quickly fill with water. Residents are advised to clear out any drainage systems on their properties.

Remember, folks: check on your neighbors, and lend a hand where you can!

contaminent

The sediment-filled waste coming out of a covered sewer overflow pipe. (Source: Pete Castro)

The city’s long-awaited solution to street flooding along the Coney Island peninsula has some locals wondering if the remedy isn’t worse than the disease.

West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue (Source: Google Maps)

West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue (Source: Google Maps) Click to enlarge.

The Department of Environmental Protection is in the midst of a massive clearing operation in western Coney Island, pumping years of sand, debris and residue out of long-jammed sewer lines, which neighbors say caused the streets to flood in even the slightest rain. But now the city is fielding a new set of complaints from residents who say the toxin-filled water is flowing into Coney Island Creek through a combined sewer overflow pipe at West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue, adjacent to Kaiser Park beach.

“Yes, you’ve got to clean out the drain. But my logic, my god-given common sense, is that you don’t foul it up, you don’t create another foul condition when you solve that problem,” said Pete Castro, a resident of West 35th Street.

Castro has been on the beach almost daily for the past week and a half, filming and taking photos of the Department of Environmental Protection’s private contractor, National Water Main Cleaning Co., as they pump water into the sewer and it flows out of a nearby outfall pipe, onto the beach. The 30-year resident said the water is thick and black with sludge, oil and other contaminants, mucking up a habitat in the midst of a revival.

“I’ve been seeing wildlife come back to the beach, egrets, the occasional swan, ducks go over there. And they’re dumping that oil there and apparently DEP is okay with it,” he said.

The DEP confirmed that they’re clearing out the sewer lines, and that some debris was simply destined to enter the environment.

“We are working to clear out the sand-impacted storm sewers. This is in response to flooding complaints in the area. We have been cleaning out the sewers for weeks and we understand there have been complaints about pumping stuff into the sewer, but in reality this is what we have to do to clean the sewers,” a spokesperson told this outlet.

Despite years of flooding complaints on the Coney Island peninsula, the latest round of work began after a site visit by Superstorm Sandy recovery honchos Bill Goldstein and Amy Peterson. Led by Councilman Mark Treyger, the team visited P.S. 188, where the students and faculty shared the following video showing the extent of flooding outside of the school in even modest rain.

“This is not Sandy, it’s just an average rainstorm,” Treyger told this outlet about the video. “It is a eye-opening video that shows severe flooding that is so bad that a car floated from the street and crashed into the front of the school, that’s how bad the flooding is. We showed the video to Amy Peterson and Bill Goldstein and they were very alarmed by it.”

“It is a damning video that just absolutely validates and confirms portions of Southern Brooklyn had been neglected by the [Bloomberg] administration.”
- Treyger

The Sandy team put pressure on the Department of Environmental Protection to address the flooding immediately. After inspection, the DEP determined that the sewers were clogged near the outfall pipes that go into Coney Island Creek, and dispatched contractors to clear it out.

Treyger admitted that solving one problem for residents caused concern for others. Castro and neighbors made complaints to his office, and he forwarded the video and photos to the DEP for a response.

As a result, Treyger said, the DEP conducted a review, meeting with the contractor and also bringing in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which has jurisdiction over area waterways.

“My sense was that they’re going to review and basically provide greater oversight of the work being done,” said Treyger. “For many years the infrastructure has been an issue here and as we move forward to fix it, we’re not looking to create more environmental disasters. This type of work has to be done in accordance with all environmental regulations and we’re going to make sure that that happens.”

truck1

The vactor truck at work on West 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue. (Source: Pete Castro)

But Castro fears the agencies are being less than thorough in their review. Shortly after Treyger met with the DEP, officials from both the DEP and the DEC spoke directly to Castro about his concerns, assuring him they would investigate the spillage and make sure it was in compliance. But instead of investigation, Castro said he received a call from the DEC rep several hours later saying that they had reviewed the operation and concluded it was safe.

“According to his dubious investigation, some guy [from the DEC] just miraculously put his finger in the air and said it’s okay to put that foul oil onto the beach,” said Castro, adding that there was about six hours between the phone calls – four of which was during hours when the trucks were not pumping. “You can get chemical results like that, with a snap of the finger?”

The DEP spokesperson said she did not know of any specific involvement of the DEC in this matter, but said, “I’m sure we’ve been in touch with DEC at some point.” Asked over the course of multiple phone calls if there was knowledge of the contaminants flowing from the pipe, she said, “I have to double check, but don’t forget it’s the sewer system and it has to get out of the sewers. It can be anything.”

She did not have an answer about contamination when we followed up, instead pointing out that the city uses vactor trucks – essentially giant vacuum cleaners that suck out debris, suggesting that there should be no spillage into the waterway. When we noted that there was spillage, as evidenced by video, she reiterated, “We’re doing work out there.” She did not respond to further questions.

Treyger said he requested the DEP hold a meeting in the community in the upcoming weeks to discuss their operations and respond to potential concerns. He said it will be announced soon.

Until then, Castro said he’ll continue to document the filth and hopes to find someone’s help analyzing water samples. In addition to the wildlife and habitat, he’s also concerned about the numerous indigent locals who turn to Coney Island creek to fish for their meals.

“I can’t see it getting much worse. I’m just waiting for the dead fish to pile up,” he said.

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.

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