Yesterday Mayor Bloomberg outlined an ambitious $20 billion plan to protect the waterfront from future storms like Hurricane Sandy. He spoke at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which was flooded with four-and-a-half feet of water during the storm. The Times broke down Bloomberg’s 438-page report on the proposals, which would not be implemented until well after the mayor leaves office later this year. The plan calls for a system of barriers, permanent levees, dunes, portable flood walls, bulkheads, tide gates, and offshore breakwaters all around New York City. Portable flood walls and offshore breakwaters made of rocks would protect Red Hook. Movable gates would be installed in Gowanus. In the Bay Ridge flats and other shore areas in southern Brooklyn, the city would foster wetlands. Bloomberg emphasized that these changes must be enacted sooner, rather than later — waterfront development is showing no signs of slowing, although sea levels are expected to rise 12 to 29 inches higher by 2050. This $20 billion price tag, a price likely to grow, will come from federal and city money already allocated, aid from Congress, and an additional $5 billion from the City itself. Do you think this is a wise way to spend taxpayer money? And will it work?
Bloomberg Outlines $20 Billion Storm Protection Plan [NY Times]
Photo by lazzo51
Two stories based on a report and new data offer conflicting views of the future of New York City and Brooklyn specifically. The City’s population will swell by one million new residents by 2040 and there won’t be any room for them “unless a small city of new housing is built,” according to a report from the Center for Urban Real Estate at Columbia University cited in an article in The Wall Street Journal. The report says waterfront neighborhoods such as Red Hook and Greenpoint are the most logical places to build new housing. At the same time, the City faces an increased risk of flooding and severe weather thanks to climate change. By 2050, the number of New Yorkers living in flood areas will double, according to a warning issued by the Bloomberg administration, based on data from its New York City Panel on Climate Change, The New York Times reported. Since the 1970s, New York City has had an average of 18 days a year with temperatures above 89 degrees. By 2020, the number could rise to 33 days, and by 2050, to 57 days. The biggest increase in flood zones was in Brooklyn, where the number of buildings considered at risk has increased by 253 percent to 25,800. New developments are taking pains to flood proof their construction, but the prospect of significantly hotter and wetter weather does make prewar housing sound less appealing. At the same time, such an enormous increase in population can only push real estate prices up even further. What’s your take?
Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Ellen Honigstock, one of the founders of Solarize Brooklyn. Solarize Brooklyn is a nonprofit focused on bringing solar power into Kensington, Windsor Terrace, Flatbush and surrounding neighborhoods.
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how did you end up there?
Ellen Honigstock: I live with my family on the border of Kensington and Windsor Terrace. I met my husband in July of 2000 on the day after he closed on his Ocean Parkway apartment, and after we got married, I moved in. One day when my now 9-year-old was a baby, we were out walking him around the neighborhood on the other side of the highway and we passed a great but fairly run-down house for sale next to a beautiful community garden on East 4th Street. We weren’t even looking to move at the time but we loved the location and as an architect, the multitude of problems the house had didn’t scare us.
BS: Can you talk about the beginnings of Solarize Brooklyn and how you got involved?
EH: On New Year’s Day, we decided this was going to be the year to add solar to our home! We had already weatherized our house and we wanted to take advantage of the incentives around solar before they started to disappear. I asked a neighbor to see if she wanted me to get her a price quote also and when she responded with an enthusiastic “yes,” I thought that perhaps more of our neighbors would be interested too so I posted the question to our local listserve and got 37 responses. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I responded with a request to help put together a community purchasing program and very quickly, several knowledgeable and enthusiastic neighbors stepped up. We then met with Max Joel from Solar One, a nonprofit green energy, arts and education center, who quickly became our Trusted Advisor and helped us put together a request for proposal for solar PV (electric) and solar thermal (hot water) systems. Since then we have selected the providers and put together several educational sessions to tell community members about the program. We will have at least three more sessions before June 30, the close of the joining date. You can see locations and details here.
After the jump, how to get involved with the program, why Brooklyn is a good place for these initiatives, and what’s in the future for Solarize Brooklyn… (more…)
Brooklyn R train riders will not be able to take the subway into Manhattan for at least a year while the MTA repairs the R train tunnel under the East River, the WSJ reported. The agency also plans to close the G train tunnel between Brooklyn and Queens for 12 weekends this year. Both lines need attention because of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. The G train service will be replaced by a shuttle between the two boroughs. The MTA didn’t say what R train riders should do, but transfers to the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, F, B and Q are all available from the R line in Downtown Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, the R train services parts of Gowanus, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge. There is also express bus service from Bay Ridge to Manhattan.
Brooklyn-Manhattan Subway Tunnel to Close for Repairs After Sandy [WSJ]
R Tube to Be Shut More Than a Year for Storm Repairs [NY Times]
Photo by MTA
Grassroots nonprofit Solarize Brooklyn just launched with the aim of bringing cost-effective solar power to Brooklyn homeowners on a large scale. The 2013 campaign will focus on bringing solar power into Kensington, Windsor Terrace and Flatbush with the help of Sustainable Kensington Windsor Terrace, Sustainable Flatbush, and Solar 1. The program will provide community purchasing power to acquire solar systems at a discount, certified solar installers, and education and information about solar power, energy savings and tax incentives. This is the first time residents will have access to “group buying” of solar energy in Brooklyn. Solarize Brooklyn has already picked the two solar installers serving the program from various candidates. For more information, Solarize is hosting a Community Education Session on June 1 — sign up here. Neighborhood residents will have until June 30 to sign up for free assessments from contractors and the solar installations will begin in late 2013 and early 2014.
A prototype for emergency housing is going up in Downtown Brooklyn, right next to the Office of Emergency Management. Designed by Dumbo’s Garrison Architects for manufacturer American Manufactured Systems and Services of Vienna, Va., it’s a three-story, three-unit building with two three-bedroom apartments over one one-bedroom, handicapped accessible apartment, The New York Post reported. What makes the housing suitable for emergency situations is how quickly it can be built. Each unit is 40 feet long and comes preassembled. A contractor clips the units together and hooks up the utilities. They even have balconies and photovoltaic panels on the roof to generate electricity. The design meets all city codes, and the concept could eventually be used for permanent high-density housing of no more than four stories, said the architect.
Crisis Housing Advances [NY Post]
Rendering via NY Post
More zoning changes are in store for flood-prone areas of the City such as Red Hook and Dumbo. The City wants to change building rules to conform to the latest federal standards for flood resistant construction, and the public review process started Monday, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said. New rules would affect building heights, the location of mechanicals and off-street parking, the placement of stairs and ramps, activities on ground level, and the quality of the streetscape. But raising the ground floor above the flood line can make for some really ugly buildings, so the rules would allow gradual grading, stair turns, porches and plantings to “prevent unnecessarily stark landscapes with blank walls, and promote ‘eyes on the street’ to foster street-level vitality,” as a City press release put it. Burden, a Bloomberg appointee, has already rezoned a staggering 36 percent of the City, including “transforming the Brooklyn waterfront from its industrial past to its green park and glass tower present,” according to Crain’s. To comment on this story, head over to Brownstoner Queens.
Twitter photo via Weather.com
Landlords in Coney Island, Red Hook and Dumbo are helping out their Sandy-ravaged commercial tenants with rent and other aid, DNAinfo reported. Thor Equities has lowered rents by as much as 40 percent on Surf Avenue in Coney Island, benefitting Brooklyn Rock and Wampum, among others. Red Hook landlord Gregory O’Connell, whose own business moved back into its Red Hook HQ only last week, has offered low-interest loans and rent abatements to tenants. Two Trees Management in Dumbo has also been letting tenants pay rent later and talking to insurance companies on their behalf, as well as helping out with property repairs.
Brooklyn Waterfront’s Landlords Forgo Rent to Keep Sandy-Ravaged Tenants [TRD]
Photo by Lock
Planned upgrades to a Gowanus Canal sewage pumping station are still on track, despite damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, The New York Times reported. Mayor Bloomberg announced changes to the project at a press conference yesterday. The pumping station redirects sewage from the Gowanus Canal into a sewage treatment center; it was out for about 33 hours after the hurricane cut power to the station, during which time about 13 million gallons of raw sewage were released into the canal. The City was already well into a three-year project to upgrade the station to decrease the amount of sewage going into the canal, partly by increasing the amount of clean water it contains, and has now amended the project to prevent the discharge of raw sewage into the canal in future storms by raising the elevation of mechanical equipment above the flood area, Bloomberg said. It is also building a wall and floodgates. While the cost of the project has increased, the whole thing is still on track to finish up this year.
Upgrades on Schedule for Gowanus Pumping Station Despite Hurricane [NY Times]
There is a new wrinkle to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to put massive storage tanks under the Thomas Greene Playground and Douglass Degraw Pool in Gowanus. Not only are neighbors up in arms but the City agrees. The agency wants to install the 8-million-gallon tanks to handle the massive sewage overflow that can run into the Gowanus canal following a heavy rain — as it infamously did when it was caught on video in 2010. The overflow would then be pumped to treatment plants, reducing the wastewater flow into the canal by as much as 78 percent. Residents are against the plan because of the possible lengthy closure of the pool and park and concern about little ones cavorting over massive storage tanks full of raw sewage. But, according to The Brooklyn Paper, the City contends that raw sewage isn’t the canal’s main problem (that is one polluted site when raw sewage isn’t the main problem). (more…)
All the rain today brought flooding into Gowanus and parts of the Slope. Weather.com posted photos of severe flooding at Fourth Avenue and Carroll Street (pictured above) and 9th Street between 2nd and Smith. South Slope News nabbed photos of crazy flooding on 4th Avenue between President and Garfield and minor flooding along 7th Avenue. What’s the situation over in Gowanus now, since the rain’s calmed down a bit?
Twitter photo via Weather.com
The New York Times yesterday took a look at the controversy over just how to rid the Gowanus Canal of its toxic sludge. If you’ve been following along, none of this will be news to you, but in brief: One group opposes the plan to shut down the Double D swimming pool to locate an overflow tank underneath it, while others don’t want the toxic sludge processed in Red Hook or encased in cement and used as landfill in Red Hook. The paper didn’t mention a new group that has formed to champion local processing on the grounds that it might bring jobs to Red Hook. In any case, the EPA has repeatedly said it’s open to shipping the toxic sludge out of state for processing, a more expensive remedy.
Neighbors Resist a Plan to Clean a Toxic Canal [NY Times]
A group of Red Hook residents say they are in favor of a controversial part of the Gowanus Canal cleanup plan because they believe it will bring jobs to Red Hook, The Brooklyn Paper reported. Residents of neighborhoods surrounding the canal are fighting over a plan to encase the canal’s poison sludge in concrete and use it to enlarge a pier in Red Hook. ”This is something to look forward to,” said coalition member Ray Hall of the idea. “People can change their lives tremendously by having a job.” Federal officials say the plan would bring 60 jobs to Red Hook over six years. The EPA will release its final plan this summer.
Sludge Fight! [Brooklyn Paper]
Photo by Jim.henderson for Wikimedia Commons
If you’ve eaten at Lulu & Po in Fort Greene, you’ve seen the warm modernism of interior and certified LEED designer Kananshree Prasse, a partner at Brooklyn-based Ka.Va Design. For her first personal project, her family home in Prospect Heights, Prasse wanted to do something ecological and energy efficient, but quickly realized a fully LEED certified house would not be possible on their budget. So she decided to focus on the two things that would give them the biggest bang for the buck in terms of energy savings. “If you have limited resources, the most important thing is to insulate the exterior envelope and get good windows,” she said.
Remember the bizarre-seeming proposal by cement manufacturer John Quadrozzi to encase poisonous sludge from the Gowanus Canal in lumps of concrete and then use this as landfill to expand the size of one of his Red Hook shipping docks? Well, this idea was adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of its official plan to clean up the Gowanus Canal, and now the proposal is pitting residents of different neighborhoods against each other, Gothamist reported. “The Gowanus Canal runs through Carroll Gardens,” shouted third-generation Red Hook resident Brian Melton at a recent EPA meeting at the South Brooklyn Community High School. “Put the stuff there!” A group called NoToxicRedHook has formed to fight the Red Hook portion of the EPA’s plan. ”We do not want toxic wastewater processed in our neighborhood,” said group co-founder Carly Yates. Meanwhile, supporter Marlene Donnelly, an environmental activist who owns a house near the canal in Carroll Gardens, said she believes the opposition to the Red Hook part of the cleanup plan is “an orchestrated campaign to discredit the Superfund” by developers, the City, and National Grid. A resident of Red Hook said she thought the plan to remove toxic chemicals from wealthier areas and put them in Red Hook had a “race aspect.”
Environmental Racism? Toxic Gowanus Sludge Is Heading for Red Hook [Gothamist]
Photo by wallyg
Mark Bittman will speak on “The Future of Food” in Downtown Brooklyn Tuesday. The $20 admission will benefit the Brooklyn Food Coalition, which describes itself as a “grassroots organization dedicated to the vision of a just and sustainable food system in Brooklyn.” The event is co-sponsored by Long Island University’s Public Health Program. Bittman is a New York Times cooking and food policy columnist. His latest book is “VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6 PM To Lose Weight and Restore Your Health…For Good.” The event takes place at 6 pm April 30 at Long Island University at the Schwartz Athletic Center at 1 University Plaza. For more details or to buy tickets, go here.
Community Board 6 unanimously approved the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to clean up the Gowanus Canal. There were some conditions and caveats, however. Some of the highlights: They asked the City, state, and feds to commit to a certain standard of water quality, to prevent a contaminant known as Nonaqueous Phase Liquid (NAPL) from seeping into the canal, and to make “responsible parties,” not homeowners, pay for bulkhead upkeep. What’s more, they want the EPA to minimize disruptions to businesses in the area and compensate them for any necessary temporary relocation, business losses and other effects while the work goes on. We have a feeling that last request could be controversial.
Photo by Jim in Times Square
A popular City pool that has already been saved once from city budget cuts is now threatened with closure by the pending cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo reported. The pool at the Thomas Greene Playground, nicknamed the Double D for its location on Nevins and 3rd Avenue between Degraw and Douglass, sits where the EPA plans to build an underground sewage storage tank. The tank will house raw sewage runoff from the canal during rain storms. Nearby residents have started an online petition protesting the closure.
Locals Rally to Save Swimming Pool Threatened by Canal Cleanup [DNAinfo]
Photo by Brooklyn Paper
Never mind babies in bars in Park Slope. Times are changing. With all the construction and new families in Williamsburg, there’s a new outrage to worry about: The dust and noise of construction there, which is ruining walks and nap time for babies, according to DNAinfo, and the entitlement of parents who pay $5,000 a month to rent or millions of dollars to buy in the neighborhood. It is a fact that Williamsburg has the highest number of new buildings going up of any neighborhood in Brooklyn. It does seem as if there is construction on nearly every block. What to do?
Williamsburg Construction Boom Ruining Babies’ Naps and Walks [DNAinfo]
Photo by Meredith Hoffman for DNAinfo
Two kayaking teams from Red Hook and Gowanus will go head to head in what they are terming the first “regatta” to take place on the polluted Gowanus canal, reported The New York Daily News. “This is the first race where the entire course, and the ensuing awards banquet will be held completely on a U.S.-government sanctioned Superfund site,” said Owen Foote, a member of the team the Gowanus Dredgers. The Dredgers will face off with the Red Hook Boaters June 15. Each group plans to raise $500 to help underwrite the Dredgers’ educational program about New York City waterways.
Gowanus Canal to Host Its First Regatta in June [NY Daily News]