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City Eyes Three Plans to Protect Red Hook From Floods

By Nikhita Venugopal | September 22, 2016 6:16pm
 Van Brunt Street in Red Hook flooded as Hurricane Sandy struck Monday, Oct. 29, 2012.
Van Brunt Street in Red Hook flooded as Hurricane Sandy struck Monday, Oct. 29, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Keith

RED HOOK — Just shy of the four-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, city officials presented three early-stage concepts Wednesday for a $100 million flood protection system that could protect the vulnerable neighborhood, or parts of it, during the next devastating storm.

The concepts would use permanent and deployable features in one of three locations: at the edge of the coast to protect the entire neighborhood; slightly inland, leaving the waterfront vulnerable; or even further inland, according to representatives from the Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency and Dewberry, an engineering consulting firm that presented the potential "scenarios" to Community Board 6's environmental protection committee.

Officials were quick to note Wednesday that these scenarios should serve only as a framework to understand the pros and cons of each option. Details remain scant about when or where the flood barriers would be built.

"These are the types of conversations we need to have with people," said Jessica Colon, of the Mayor's Office for Recovery and Resiliency.

Though $200 million had initially been promised for the project, available funds now consist of $50 million from HUD's Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program and $50 million from FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. 

The options will be outlined again Oct. 13 at Red Hook's P.S. 15, at 71 Sullivan St., city officials said.

A feasibility study, which began in October 2015 and will continue until the end of this year, is primarily meant to address whether a system can be built that incorporates federal and legal requirements with community needs.

The scenarios factor in design-flood elevation — the height above sea level each system would meet — and "alignment," or the location of the system.

The "outermost" alignment would largely follow the Red Hook waterfront. While this option would offer the greatest protection against flooding, with the highest design-flood elevation, it is also the most expensive and would likely impact accessibility to the waterfront — a crucial concern for the community.

The "in-between" alignment would be located inland, mostly on unspecified public property. The third scenario is an "innermost" option where the system would be built even further inland, also on unspecified locales. 

While the two inland options would not affect waterfront access and would cost less, they would offer lower levels of protection, particularly for properties nearest the water.

"Greater intervention height provides greater flood-risk reduction benefits and potential flood insurance reduction," according to the presentation. However, greater height would likely impact characteristics of the Red Hook community. 

The city will continue to seek the community's feedback during the study period to determine the preferred alternative.

City officials did not make mention of a proposal floated earlier this month by engineering firm AECOM to build a subway tunnel to a redeveloped Red Hook and construct 45,000 new residential units.

On Oct. 19, at the Center for Architecture, BASF, a leading global chemical company, will present its own five-point coastal resilience plan for Red Hook.