Interim Flood Protection for the Lower East Side and East Village Deserves a second look.
A tropical storm is beating up New York. Temporary barriers have been installed at the South Street Seaport and the Wall Street areas. Nothing is being done for the equally low-lying Lower East Side and East Village. The Office of Emergency Management says nothing is possible for us. Is that correct, or should the OEM give us a more in-depth look? That’s what we are asking for.
See our report on their recent study of Interim Flood Protection for our neighborhood, Not One Sandbag.
These are the follow up questions we asked the Office of Emergency Management (with copies to our area’s City Council Members) after the Interim Flood Protection study was presented at Community Board 3 Parks, Recreation, Waterfront, & Resiliency Committee meeting via Zoom July 16—and from a phone call followup with Suzan Rosen of the OEM.
Backed up sewers
“Drainage issues are insurmountable,” is what Roen said at the meeting. However, the report noted that OEM looked into “smaller sites,” not the whole 2.4 mile coastline. OEM counted the 36 catch basins that would have to be covered on NYCHA campuses.
NYCHA is already doing FEMA-funded flood protection work that might include covering catch basins. Yet Rosen said, “I have no knowledge of what NYCHA is doing.” This was frustrating to hear.
We haven’t a clue as to whether covering catch basins in NYCHA would be necessary. Are other areas of the neighborhood might be protected.
Question 1) Were catch basins in other sections of the ESCR area studied that might be protected from backflow? If not, can that be done?
Question 2) Is it possible to protect any other sections of the ESCR area from backflow?
In addition, one resident pointed out this seeming contradiction: “NYCEM installed HESCO barriers at the South St. Seaport/Wall St area, even though that area is low-lying, has underground streams and a major storm water conveyance sewer outlet by the Brooklyn Bridge beach area. I was told that the Seaport Museum felt the impact of the surge in their basement prior to the water flooding the streets in that area when Sandy hit. Yet OEM says that similar barriers are impractical for the E. 14th/Stuyvesant Cove and other areas of the LES because of the number os Storm Sewer outlets that would have to be capped. Residents need a better explanation.”
Question 3) Why put up barriers for the South St./Wall St. area, which also seem to have significant backflow problems and not put up barriers for the East Village?
Storm Surge Only
During Hurricane Sandy, some areas in the neighborhood suffered only from storm surge flooding, not from back flow. For instance, in the East River coops on either side of Grand St., the parking lot and basements along the FDR flooded only because of the storm surge that flowed over the highway.
Question 4) Are there sections of the ESCR that could be protected with temporary barriers such as HESCOs on either side of the FDR?
Where the Waters Come From
During Hurricane Sandy, in the East Village, flood waters poured down Ave. C from the north, not from the park.
It looks like construction is going to begin between 14th and 25th St. where that water would come from, so temporary barriers would get in the way.
Question 5) Has OEM ascertained that there absolutely nothing that can hold back waters that flow down Ave. C in the next three years?
15-Year Flood Protection
The report indicated that barriers would be effective in some cases for flooding from hurricanes, but not for a superstorm like Sandy.
Question 6) A plain old hurricane is more likely than a monster like Sandy, so why not plan ahead and put protection in for a more likely storm surge?
You said that the city hired an outside firm and used city engineers as well, but there is no engineering report.
Question 7) How did OEM draw its conclusions if there is no engineering report? Can whatever reports there are be examined?
OEM said it would take at least 24 months to implement an interim flood program. In that time, the real flood protection will almost be ready, which obviates the need for interim protection.
NYC waited eight years after Sandy to look at the possibilities and the city finally promised in November it would look into interim flood protection, and now, apparently, it’s too late. But wait.
Question 8) Why would it take 24 months to put some temporary barriers in place?
OEM pointed out that we would have to evacuate even if temporary barriers were in place. NYCHA protection being installed now will protect buildings, not people, so evacuation will also be necessary even if that protection is in place.
Question 9) Are there evacuation plans and shelters for our entire neighborhood if there is a superstorm–or even a regular old hurricane–in the next three years (minimum)?
Question 10) If we have to evacuate during this pandemic, will shelters have provisions for social distancing?
Thank you for whatever information you can provide. It will help our community immensely to understand what is possible—and to make sure that every possibility is examined.
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