RED HOOK — By August, the city will install a semi-permanent wall along the lowest street in Red Hook as part of the first phase of a $100-million plan to protect the waterfront neighborhood from a mild coastal storm surge.
The Beard Street barrier will be high enough to fend off flood waters from a 10-year storm, but not a 100-year storm like Sandy, which inundated the neighborhood in October 2012, officials said.
"If it was a Sandy-level storm, it would not protect it," Jessica Colon, a senior policy advisor for the Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency said at a sparsely attended public presentation Saturday morning at the Red Hook Public Library. The plan was first revealed to the neighborhood at a Thursday meeting.
In planning parlance, a 10-year flood means the area has a 10 percent chance of flooding in any given year; A 100-year flood means there's only a 1 percent chance of it happening any given year.
If the city wanted to keep out the storm surge from another 100-year storm, the likely alternative would be something like a 16-foot permanent wall along the neighborhood's entire waterfront. Not only would that be something residents would likely oppose because it would block views of the water, it could also create a "bathtub" effect by preserving floodwaters that made it inside the walls from flowing back out, Colon said.
"Red Hook also floods from underneath," she said. "It can bubble up on the dry side of the wall. We don't understand that fully, but storm surge can push up the groundwater table," which is only 5- to 10-feet below the surface throughout Red Hook.
After Sandy, some residents and NYCHA buildings saw their basements re-flood through the concrete even after water was pumped out.
The short-term plan calls for the installation of Hesco barriers, a 4-foot high wall filled with dirt, on the sidewalk along Beard Street from Van Brunt Street to a point just up to the IKEA property line, Colon said. The barrier will abut the building at the corner of Van Brunt Street and abut the construction fence for the future "Red Hoek Point," a Norm Foster-designed office complex on the site of the former Revere Sugar factory, she said.
The city already has the Hesco barriers in storage in Bushwick and has installed some at Coney Island Hospital and Hunts Point Market in The Bronx. Red Hook will be the city's first neighborhood-level use of the barriers. They'll be in place by August.
In case of a pending storm, within a matter of hours the city could also deploy inflatable barriers at certain low-lying areas in the neighborhood. The city already has emergency contracts in place with crews who would install the orange water- filled tubes — called "Just-in-time Tiger Dams," Colon said.
The next phase of the project calls for raising the level of Beard Street (which could also mean the end of the cobblestone street there,) and erecting a buried floodwall, she said. The low-lying Atlantic Basin at the Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal would get a new bulkhead around the NYC ferry landing plus a flood wall. The longer-term permanent fixes would be constructed by 2021, subject to approval by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The $100 million project will be equally funded by federal and city sources: $50 million comes from New York City capital funds while another $50 million comes from the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds from New York state.
In 2016, Red Hook locals were surprised to learn they were only getting a $100 million project, rather than a $200 million project they had been promised after Sandy. The $200 million figure, touted by officials including Governor Andrew Cuomo and then-Vice President Joe Biden, was merely a"back-of-the-envelope" number, officials later said.
Councilman Carlos Menchaca offered to provide more funds for resiliency efforts, Colon said during the meeting. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
The Red Hook Integrated Flood Protection System Feasibility Study findings will be up for further review at more neighborhood meetings in coming months, Colon said.