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UES Marine Transfer Station Needs $2.4M in Flood-Proofing

 A quietly released report indicates that the city will have to spend $2.38 million to flood-proof the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station.
East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station
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YORKVILLE — The city needs to spend almost $2.4 million to protect the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station from flooding after an inspection showed a storm the size of Sandy could leave it deluged.

Though a city document showing the controversial site was being built too low was uploaded to the Department of Sanitation's website without much fanfare last month, opponents now claim it flies in the face of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposals to storm proof the city, announced Tuesday.

Bloomberg's bold suggestions to protect Manhattan against climate change include creating a landfill-based "Seaport City" on the East Side of Lower Manhattan.

“In light of Mayor Bloomberg’s speech acknowledging the inevitability of massive flooding in New York City, his own administration continues to push ahead with plans to build a 5,280 ton capacity marine transfer station in a densely populated residential neighborhood along the East River,” said Kelly Nimmo-Guenther, president of Pledge 2 Protect, a group opposing the site.

“Continuing with this dangerous and ill-advised monstrosity is a ticking time bomb for New York City residents and businesses.”

Under the current East 91st Street design, city-commissioned consultants found that Sandy's storm surge "either approached or exceeded the proposed 91st Street" pier of the station.

This pier structure remains from the site's previous iteration as a marine transfer station, and will also be used as the base of the new project.

Waters rose from eight inches below to six inches above the platform during Sandy, indicating that "critical lifesaving" equipment would be at risk in the new facility, the report said.

Analysts added that "the current design's pier level is 5.59 feet beneath" the elevation recommended by Department of Building Regulations and FEMA's most recent flood insurance map.

Greeley and Hansen, the consulting firm that completed the report for the city, said danger could not be lessened by raising the MTS — as "the change in elevation is too great to be considered feasible."

"It would necessitate major revisions of the ramp structure and barge loading operations, including moving the location of the entire facility to accommodate the new ramp design," the report stated.

Instead, they suggested that the station's perimeter and rooms are flood proofed with "critical equipment necessary to run the facility."

The safeguards will cost $2,380,000 according to the report.

Jed Garfield, president of Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, slammed Bloomberg for still supporting the trash plan, claiming the project flouted any demands for safeguards against rising sea levels.

"On one hand, the City says we must become less vulnerable, strengthen our building codes, build green infrastructures and protect the residents and businesses along the coasts from future intense storms and flooding," he said in a statement.

"On the other hand, the City continues work on the creation of a 10-story, two acre garbage dump on the very coast line that they claim they want to strengthen and protect.”

Officials counter that the station can withstand severe weather and that they have taken extreme weather events into account.

"The City has studied the potential flood risks for the East 91st Street MTS in light of the site's experience during Hurricane Sandy and the revised advisory flood maps recently issued by FEMA," said John J. McCarthy, a spokesman for the mayor's office.

"In addition to the resiliency measures incorporated in the original design, we plan to add perimeter flood-proofing and critical-room dry flood-proofing to the MTS."

McCarthy elaborated that the plan combines a "second layer of protection" so that if there's a breach in the perimeter flood barrier, critical equipment would remain undamaged, he said.

McCarthy said the City would "make every effort to accommodate within the existing budget," reiterating the administration's position that the station would not drastically affect the neighborhood.

"We are confident that the East 91st Street MTS will safely withstand extreme weather events, and will operate with minimal impacts on the surrounding community," he said.