SAGE Workshop - Adaptation Hub - Far Rockaway, Queens Brief Summary of Hurricane Sandy
Field Trip Itinerary Start Point - Pratt Institute, Brooklyn First Leg - Walking tour of the Rockaways with a stop in Breezy Point. Led by Walter Meyer of Local Office Landscape Architecture, LLC and Ron Shiffman of Pratt. Second - Office of Emergency Management, Brooklyn Third Leg - Red Hook for dinner and a quick walk.
Field Trip Notes Pam Patrick Christine Brandon
SAGE Workshop May 22, 2014
Field Trip started at Rockaway Surf Club: The Surf Club is a cultural center and restaurant, and was “ground zero” of flooding during Sandy. The restaurant shifted towards “humanitarian efforts” following Sandy. We met Walter Meyer from the Local Office of Landscape & Urban Design, LLC. We planned to return to Rockaway Surf Club later for lunch.
Walked under the A train line to Manhattan. The train tracks are elevated and the area below is being consider for bike lanes.
A retail block is still without electricity (grid) power 1 year after storm. Solar panels were installed on roof to provide basic operations and needs. The surrounding community organized and learned about solar power quickly. Construction trailers with generators were used immediately following the storm.
Walked to 91 St. Community Garden. The garden boxes are constructed with materials obtained from demolition of bungalows. The garden became a distribution center for food. The adjacent street was covered with boardwalk and wrecked cars immediately following the storm. Pieces of boardwalk were used for firewood. The fires served three purposes: heat for physical comfort, heat for cooking food, and light to minimized risk from looters. Solar generator in garden is used to connect to Wi-fi and create community and network to connect with neighboring gardens.
Discussion on Lessons Learned: It is important to remember art as a means of boosting spirits; a sculpture from a famous artist was donated to the garden. Remember areas of ponding are highly vulnerable, because they have long standing water. Landscaping is now considering permeable pavement to address ponding concerns. When all else fails (electricity for pumping, for example), Nature Based design approaches are the last defense against hazards.
Walk along Beach and Boardwalk: Lifeguard stands were destroyed during the storm. It was important rebuild quickly to restore tourism as a means of generating revenue for the area. The project was essentially two to three years’ worth of work that needed to be accomplished in just six months. Some design approaches and solutions consisted of using a prefabricated building which was brought in by barge. The US Army Corp of Engineers was (and remains) onsite to nourish the beach. It is fluidizing sand from about 1 mile offshore and using it to form a dune. Christmas trees are also being used to encourage deposition of windblown sand. Dunes are built by wind deposition at a rate of about 1 foot per month. The beach was opened in time for Memorial Day. Reefs are being considered to help with fishing, surfing, and kayaks. One advantage of offshore reefs over jetties is that they will not create scour on the beach. A baffle wall was installed behind the dunes to stop flooding.
The view from roof top of a 19-story building provided a view of the Rockaways in broader geographic context. Walter pointed out a nearby forested section of the island which was previously a bungalow community. The community plans to dig a 5 foot deep hole in this area in an attempt to alter the drainage patterns of the nearby neighborhood. This would provide a freshwater habitat for migratory birds that is outside of the flying lanes of the JFK airport. The community also plans to build a new vocational high school that would train students for green jobs. This is part of the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency which attempts to incentivize individuals and businesses to make their community more resistant to climate impacts. Another comment: 73% of the buildings that were “red tagged” post-Sandy were one story, wooden, and built before 1979. The Edgemere landfill was also highlighted. It is now closed but maintains bee-keeping hives on site.
Next, we talked with Richard George. He is credited with saving his neighborhood by building dunes before Hurricane Sandy hit. He received $30,000 (in the form of two grants) which he used to plant trees (black pine and pitch pine) and beach grass.
Visit to Breezy Point: The area lives up to its name! It is consistently windy and sand is often blown into houses. Trees are being planted to help minimize this by trapping sand. Electricity grid power was restored about 60 days following storm. This is a gated community. A single went on fire which spread to destroy 110 houses. The fire was so devastating because fire trucks could not navigate the streets, and when they arrived, water was not functioning adequately. Most reconstruction is completed, although some work remains ongoing. The beach is actually growing, as sand from the Rockaways migrates and accumulates through littoral transport (drift). This area is home to a surfing community (including hosting Wounded Warriors) and likewise has an interest in maintaining beach. Note the differences in economics and post-disaster response between Breezy Point and the Rockaways.
Rockaway Surf Club for lunch break: The Occupy Sandy movement is attempting to revitalize the communication lines that were created during the Occupy Wall Street movement. Solar panels (“carts”) have been made by students for about $400 and can be used to charge cell phones and laptops.
Visit to New York Office of Emergency Management (NYOEM). Met with NYOEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno and Cynthia Barton. Discussed plans for building high density temporary housing and the PlaNYC report. NYOEM suggested FEMA look into a need for high density temporary housing, however FEMA did not seemed interested. The City of New York then decided to “go it alone” seeing a need both for NYC as well as other high density coastal areas (Boston MA, Los Angeles CA, etc.). The plan started with a competition to encourage creative ideas. The design was then set in place and a prototype is currently being tested. The prototype is designed with all “off the shelf” parts, with the idea of setting a contract in place with one or more companies. The companies would be responsible to assemble and transport hundreds, possibly thousands, of these units on demand with relatively short notice. The benefit to this type of housing (as opposed to traditional FEMA trailer parks) is that it can hopefully keep people near their communities. It is important to “keep the corner store open.” Likewise, executing this plan and contract could be very expensive, but hopefully save money in the long run by preventing economic decline of a community. The current prototype is considered a “worst case” as it is being built for permanent usage and is tied into public utilities. The next major step in the plan is identifying sites where this construction could be set up (eg: public streets, public parks, renting space from private owners, etc.)
The unit is a modified shipping container that can house a family. It contains a kitchen, a living area, a bathroom, and up to 3 bedrooms. The units can be stacked 3 high, with the bottom unit containing space for a gallery or store. Stairs are placed on the outside of the unit. It took 13.5 hours to assemble a 3 floor prototype and 3 weeks to finish the interior work. Ideally, a site would be picked before a disaster and modified with a solid foundation and utilities hookups, but this could also be done post-disaster.
Met with Dan Zarilli of the Recovery and Resiliency for the Mayor’s Office to discuss the PlaNYC report. PlaNYC was started in 2007 to address the challenges of accommodating 1 million more residents in NYC by 2030. It also established the NYC panel on climate change. This panel has reported findings that suggest that NYC will experience a 4.1 to 5.7ᵒF rise in average temperature, 4-11% increase in precipitation, 1 – 2 (but possibly as much as 2.5) feet of sea level rise, and triple the number of days of temperatures over 90ᵒF by 2050. The 100-year floodplain is expected to expand by 17 square miles and encompass 51% of the city. This includes 68,200 buildings and 400,000 people. Swiss Re estimates that every dollar spent in prevention is worth 4 spent in recovery. Therefore, NYC recognizes the need to start enacting adaptation and mitigation strategies.
Lessons learned from Sandy:
1) Building codes work
2) Infrastructure is linked and regional
3) Prepared communities bounce back more quickly from a disaster
4) There is a false dichotomy between green and gray infrastructure
5) Sandy wasn’t the worst case scenario
6) We’re vulnerable now and must take action to reduce our risk
Keep in mind that NYC has the financial resources for this scale of undertaking. There is a new plan released last June. It outlined 257 initiatives to be implemented over the next 10 years. The latest progress report from PlaNYC says that 202 initiatives are already underway. It is estimated to cost $20 billion. The new plan was presented to elected officials and the community. 74% of New Yorkers approved of the plan after it was released (this is really high!). Dan commented that knowledge of how natural infrastructure will protect coasts and what other benefits it provides is lacking.