Across the city during the past week, local residents marked the five year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy in many different ways. On Friday. NYC public officials and community leaders gathered at Pier 35 (near Clinton Street) for the unveiling of a “High Water Mark” sign.
Signs have been put up in various areas throughout New York to raise awareness of the growing flood risk. The program is sponsored by FEMA and administered by the NYC Office of Emergency Preparedness, with cooperation from the Economic Development Corp. A local group, Friends of Pier 35, led a campaign for the installation of a high water mark sign on the Lower East Side.
The sign reads:
October 29, 2012: On this day, Hurricane sandy brought a storm surge of 5 feet to this area as indicated by the red line below.
On Friday, NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito said, “This sign is here to remind everyone about the life-threatening storm surge we experienced when Hurricane Sandy hit and to urge New Yorkers to stay prepared should another storm hit.” City Council member Margaret Chin and State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh also attended the event.
As we have reported, the city’s multi-million dollar plan to create flood barriers along the East River has been pushed back. Construction was supposed to begin this past summer but is now anticipated to start in 2019.
Just a few days before the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the Lower East Side is still waiting for the city to begin resiliency upgrades along the East River. But beginning next Friday, you’ll see small signs of progress along the waterfront.
Make that a small sign similar to this one. There will be an unveiling on Friday the 27th at 11 a.m. on South Street near Rutgers Street, in front of Pier 35. It’s part of FEMA’s High Water Mark Initiative, which is meant to,” increase local communities’ awareness of flood risk and encourage action to mitigate that risk.” Joseph Esposito, commissioner of the NYC Department of Emergency Management, will be on hand for the ceremony. There was some debate as to the “high water mark” during Sandy in this area. The powers that be eventually settled on 5 feet.
About $200 million has been dedicated for flood protection in the Two Bridges area (below Montgomery Street). According to the most recent presentation from the city, flood barrier construction in this area is not anticipated until 2020. There were reports over the summer that cost overruns and other complications had delayed construction on a separate flood protection initiative along East River Park, above Montgomery Street.
Paths to Pier 42 spring celebration, 2015.
Last we heard, work was scheduled to begin early next year for the transformation of Pier 42. The area just below East River Park will one day become a new recreational space overseen by the NYC Parks Department. In the meantime, community groups are trying to keep Pier 42 in the public eye. Their next event, a Halloween celebration, takes place this coming weekend.
The event coincides with the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. So Saturday’s waterfront festival is called, “Sandyween.” There will be a Halloween costume contest, a dance contest, face painting and a walking tour to learn about coastal flood protection (here’s info about the walking tour). You can stop by any time Saturday between noon and 4 p.m. The celebration is co-hosted by Paths to Pier 42, a coalition that advocates for waterfront resources; and LES Ready, the community organization created in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
East Side resiliency has been in the news this week. Sociologist Eric Klinenberg wrote a piece for Wired that looked at the importance of strong communities in overcoming devastating natural disasters. Community-based organizations on the Lower East Side have won widespread praise for their quick response to Sandy. They were the real “first responders” in the hours and days after the big storm.
A multi-million dollar project is now underway to protect the neighborhoods along the East River with a series of berms and levees. Klinenberg was the research director for Rebuild by Design, the federal competition to come up with the best flood mitigation schemes. In the article, he touted the ultimate vision, which offered protection for vulnerable residents, but also focused on increasing their access to the waterfront. Here’s part of what he had to say:
The portion of the design proposed for the Lower East Side—which is, for now, the only funded part of the project—lines the waterfront with lushly planted berms that give pedestrians easier access to a slew of amenities on the water’s edge. The berms, which are 18.5 feet at their peak, absorb storm surges when necessary, but their everyday function is just as important: serving as parklands and recreational areas for people who live in an especially gray and unpleasant part of an especially gray city… (The plan) could get steered off course. Late-stage budget cuts could reduce the Lower East Side’s verdant berms to an ugly and imposing seawall, exactly the kind of project that Rebuild by Design was supposed to reject. But so far the plans have wide support from local and federal offices, and other cities around the world have taken notice.
You can read the full article here.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez and SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet joined AAFE staff and business owners yesterday.
U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the Small Business Administration, were in the neighborhood yesterday to talk up the rejuvenation of a Hurricane Sandy emergency loan program.
That’s right, three years after the big storm there’s a new push to aid businesses and homeowners who became frustrated in the aftermath of Sandy and never processed their applications. In an event at the headquarters of Asian Americans for Equality on Allen Street, they publicized the program, which was brought back to life late last year.
The SBA stopped taking applications in 2013. A report by the Government Accountability Office found that it took the feds as long as 45 days to approve or deny emergency loans. Legislation authored by Velazquez and enacted in November renewed the program. $3.4 million has been loaned in New York City since December.
At yesterday’s press event, the officials highlighted the case of Chinatown businessman Peter Li of “47 Division Street Trading, Inc.” In the aftermath of Sandy, the poultry and meat supplier suffered losses of about $500,000. While AAFE’s Renaissance Economic Development Corp. provided a small emergency loan to the business, the SBA loan wasn’t processed for six months. On average, the government is now pushing through loans in eight days.
There was plenty of praise to go around yesterday for Velazquez and for AAFE. The SBA administrator presented AAFE with an award in recognition of the local non-profit’s longstanding partnership with the SBA.
You can learn more about the SBA Disaster Loan Program here. Residents can receive up to $200,000 to repair physical damage — and $40,000 to replace personal belongings. Businesses and non-profits are eligible for up to $2 million.
The public is invited to NYC Comptroller’s Hurricane Sandy oversight hearing tonight at Two Bridges Tower, 82 Rutgers Slip. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.
The post-Hurricane Sandy initiative, New York Rising, is holding a series of meetings early next month. See the flyer above or check out the NY Rising web site for more information.
Last night we reported that Knickerbocker Village, the affordable housing complex near the Manhattan Bridge, had been awarded $1.46 million in federal hurricane recovery funds. More details were released a short time ago at a news conference on the Lower East Side.
Tomorrow -a day after the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy – city officials will finally announce that Knickerbocker Village has been awarded federal disaster aid.
Here’s a look at some events and updated information regarding today’s one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.
This coming Tuesday is the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Among the events to mark the occasion is a forum featuring experts and community leaders at University Settlement.
The following story first appeared in the October 2013 edition of The Lo-Down’s print magazine.