Mayor Bill de Blasio this month signed legislation that will expedite approval of demolition and construction work performed by New York City–procured contractors under the Build it Back program. This bill will help to fast-track the city's rebuilding efforts that continue four years after Hurricane Sandy. Build it Back is a city initiative that provides funds to rebuild areas devastated by the historic storm. “We are pushing every day to accelerate construction, cut red tape and get people back into their homes. I want to thank Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership, the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Mark Treyger, and the rest of the City Council for passing this essential bill,” de Blasio said. The bill, known as Intro. 1341, offers two ways for the City to speed up construction: First, it expedites the demolition process by allowing necessary paperwork to be completed after the demolition, given that the work is supervised by licensed safety professionals. Second, it allows projects that were not allowed to move forward because of violations pre-dating the Build It Back program to proceed while simultaneously protecting the safety of those homes and their homeowners in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, many of whom are ready to get back to their daily lives. The goal is to get those people back in their homes, but also to plot a path forward for resilient neighborhoods that can withstand future storms. Previously, the de Blasio administration and the city council have provided tax relief for property owners affected by the 2012 storm and have also helped to remove unnecessary zoning restrictions on both elevation and construction. “Four long years after Hurricane Sandy, many New Yorkers are still waiting to be able to return home. We cannot allow red tape or sluggish bureaucracy to continue to delay the full recovery of the families enrolled in the Build it Back program. I am proud to have sponsored this long-overdue legislation, in partnership with the Mayor, and prouder still to see it signed into law. This bill is designed to remove unnecessary obstacles that have prevented the Build it Back program from moving forward while ensuring that rigorous safety standards are upheld,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger, chair of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency.
Posts tagged with "Hurricane Sandy":
The creator of New York's post-Sandy rebuilding initiative says the program is an unmitigated disaster. At a Congressional field hearing yesterday on Staten Island, Brad Gair, former head of Mayor de Blasio's Housing Recovery Operations, called Build it Back a "categorical" failure at its primary goal of getting homeowners back into their homes in a timely manner. "From the 'Road Home' program in post-Hurricane Katrina Louisiana to Build it Back in post-Hurricane Sandy New York City, [Housing and Urban Development Community Development and Block Grant Disaster Recovery] programs have generally been categorical failures in supporting timely and effective housing recovery," Gair testified. "But the root of the problem is that no local or state government, regardless of its capability, can successfully create and setup in a few months what amounts to a multibillion dollar corporation with hundreds of employees and contractors, numerous storefront locations, a broad based marketing campaign and integrated customer service operations while tens of thousands of desperate customers must wait anxiously for help as hope dwindles." The purpose of the hearing was to ascertain the efficacy of disaster-relief investments at all levels of government in the New York City metropolitan area, DNAinfo reported. Witnesses discussed how agencies coordinated disaster response, and what lessons Sandy offered for disaster planning going forward. In addition to Gair, six other non-profit leaders and government officials testified, including Daniel A. Zarrilli, the Mayor's chief resiliency officer. Those looking for some C-SPAN-level infotainment can view the entire session here: Gair suggested that government should be creating a-la-carte programs for disaster recovery to save time and money, rather than formulating "patchwork" programs post-disaster. Build it Back gives federal money to single and multi-family homeowners for repairs or reimbursements, funds resiliency projects in public housing, and provides support for other compatible resiliency projects. In response to Gair's critique, a spokesperson for the mayor's office stated that 80 percent of 5,319 approved applicants have either had work done on their homes or received checks from Build it Back. So far, $120 million in reimbursement checks have been sent out, although the program, critics contend, is hampered by mismanagement: Aid was not distributed to homeowners in a timely fashion, and it gave $6.8 million to contractors who performed substandard work, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer's 2015 audit. To close his testimony, Gair issued a scathing critique of disaster management bureaucracy and a lofty call to action:
"We are all here today for the exact same reason that many similar Congressional committees and subcommittees have been convened in the aftermath of virtually every major disaster over the past several decades—the system is broken, everyone is mad, and billions of dollars continue to be wasted. The Post-Katrina Reform Act reformed next to nothing; the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Improvement Act improved far too little. Now let’s try something different. Let’s start over, decide who and how much we want to help, establish a comprehensive policy for disaster resilience and recovery, devise an implementation strategy, build an integrated set of programs that get the job done, and empower our public servants to lead genuine, sustainable, cost effective efforts that restore communities and support families in times of need."
At a public meeting in the Marcy Avenue Armory yesterday, MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast was joined by agency heads and elected officials to explain L train repair scenarios and field questions from the community. After assuring the public that there would be no option for nights and weekends work, nor the money for a totally new tunnel, the agency laid out the pros and the cons of two scenarios: An 18 month total shutdown with no L train service between Manhattan and Brooklyn, or a three-year partial shutdown with very limited service between the two boroughs. 400,000 passengers ride the L train every weekday, a 236 percent increase since 1990. 225,000 of those straphangers travel through the tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn. If considered in isolation, the L would be the tenth busiest subway in North America. While other tubes could be repaired with nights and weekends works, the damage to the 92-year-old cast iron and concrete Canarsie Tubes (L train tunnel) is too extensive to be completed in that limited timeframe. The duct banks, where 37,000 feet of electrical cables with varying voltages are housed, were so corroded by saltwater during Sandy that contextual repairs are impossible; the entire network must be replaced. To repair the tunnel, moreover, crews drilling into the tunnel generate hazardous silica dust which could not be cleared from from the tubes in a safe and timely way over nights and weekends. Under scenario one, the 18 month closure, L trains would run from Rockaway Park in Canarsie to Bedford Avenue, with no L train service in Manhattan. Ferries, Select Bus Service (SBS), beefed-up regular bus service, bike- and ride-shares, plus enhanced service capacity on the G, J/Z, and M lines would accommodate L train refugees. The benefits to a total tunnel closure, the MTA notes, is that contractors will have total control over the work zone and 80 percent of riders will be less impacted by the same level of disruption. Work would begin in January 2019 and wrap by mid-2020. Scenario two, the three-year shutdown, would be more logistically complex. Trains would run from Rockaway Parkway to Lorimer Street, and from Bedford to Eight Avenue, with shuttle bus service in between Bedford and Lorimer. The benefit to this plan, Prendergast explained, is that it would preserve limited inter-borough L train service, but with significant drawbacks. Prendergast noted that during rush hour, the L line runs 40 trains per hour. Under a partial shutdown, only one of two tracks would be open, and trains would run every 12 to 15 minutes. 80 percent of the passengers who would want to ride the train wouldn't be able to board. The MTA is worried about overcrowding at stations and in the cars, as well as about unplanned closures—if one train stalls, or a passenger falls ill en route, the spillover effect could cause nightmare delays. With that in mind, Prendergast emphasized, "[minimizing] inconvenience is a top priority." Regardless of the plan that is chosen, riders will enjoy a new access point at Avenue A (!), new elevators at Bedford Avenue and First Avenue, a rehabbed pump station, and two new breaker houses, among other improvements. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, whose V-shaped district encompasses many L-dependent neighborhoods, was the first pol to bring up the impact of the shutdown on local businesses. She asked the assembled agency leaders whether there would be "a mitigating plan for small businesses," especially for residents and businesses on Bedford and Grand avenues. A second community meeting will be held later this month. More details can be found here.
Hurricane Sandy brought more than two feet of water inside 85 percent of homes in Union Beach, New Jersey, a low-to-middle income shoreside community south of Staten Island. In all, 315 homes (15 percent of the total housing stock) in the borough of 6,200 were damaged beyond repair, and demolished. Led by Jennifer Maier, resident and founder of the nonprofit Rebuilding Union Beach, the community built back. Rebuilding Union Beach commissioned the design and construction of flood-proof modular homes that now house 14 displaced families. The prefabricated homes, available in eight different styles, measure 950–1350 square feet, depending on the household's size. Constructed off-site, each took three to six weeks to build (excluding shipping and installation), at an average cost of $220,000 each. In tandem with homebuilding assistance, Rebuilding Union Beach helped homeowners apply for government assistance, insurance, and other storm recovery programs. These homes are reinforced to withstand another hurricane, and attendant 115 mile per hour winds. Rebuilding Union Beach touts the structures' "cement board siding, hurricane strapping, renewable and non-toxic materials, rainwater catchment, erosion-resistant planting, and solar panels." To help recovering communities in the region, the organization has shared their methods via a project guide. The project guide doubles as a process manual, sharing which interventions worked for the community and which were less successful. The guide explains, for example, that standard, three tab roof shingles have insufficient grip in high winds. Consequently, the houses were fitted with more durable, five tab shingles. The project was funded by a $770,000 grant from the Robin Hood Sandy Relief Fund and a $1.67 million grant from New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie’s Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.
Bjarke Ingels receives LafargeHolcim Global Bronze Prize for his work to make a more resilient Manhattan
The LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction has recognized New York City's commitment to progressive and resilient solutions by awarding Danish architect Bjarke Ingels of his eponymous firm BIG the Global Bronze Prize. AN was on hand as Ingels and company accepted the award. https://vimeo.com/117303273 Having been extensively covered by AN, it has become common knowledge that BIG’s plan to wrap Lower Manhattan in a landscape berm, known as "The BIG U" keeping floodwaters at bay has been accoladed left, right, and center. As a response to the Rebuild By Design competition organized by the federal Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), BIG's winning scheme called for a piece of what Ingels called "resiliency infrastructure" to give the project a strong social context. The Rebuild competition offered incentives to develop urban protection strategies in post–Hurricane Sandy world. Ingels touched on this at the ceremony when he talked about questions the BIG team asked themselves when developing the project. "Could we imagine a way that this resilience infrastructure wouldn't create a see wall that would segregate the life of the city from the water around it?" Ingels asked the crowd. Speaking about when Sandy hit in 2012, Ingels recalled: "Even my office was without power for two weeks, and we were the lucky ones!" The scheme has also been dubbed The Dry Line, referencing the High Line linear park in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. "Maybe we can learn from the High Line...which has become one of the most popular promenades in the city," Ingels said. He noted that in the case of the High Line, the infrastructure itself had been decommissioned and has since manifested its way into city life. "What if [we] don't have to wait for the infrastructure to be decommissioned?" He continued. "What if we can design the resiliency infrastructure of Manhattan so it comes with intended social and environmental side effects that are positive?" Ingels has attempted to answer these questions in his scheme for Lower Manhattan. Despite being in the process of realization, the project will take a lot of extensive collaboration and planning to be a success. If realized, here's what we can expect life on the Dry Line to be like: https://vimeo.com/90759287
New York City is getting serious about future superstorms with $100 million to fund floodwater mitigation
On August 27th, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYC Office of Resilience & Recovery announced plans to spend $100 million to fortify lower Manhattan against future superstorms. The latest proposal calls for green spaces, levees, and floodwalls to protect the area from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street, and around the northern tip of Battery Park City. https://vimeo.com/117303273 This is on top of $15 million pledged in March 2015 for flood prevention in the area. To further capitalize the project, the city is leveraging its $100 million dollar investment as it enters the HUD National Disaster Resilience Competition in the hopes of gaining up to $500 million to finance flood protection in the target area. All current storm and floodwater mitigation efforts are a part of OneNYC, the city’s $20 billion global warming resiliency plan. Lower Manhattan is the target area because of its vulnerability to flooding during superstorms. The objective is to combine flood protection with accessible parkland for the affected neighborhoods. Of special concern is the storm readiness of NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) complexes, including the Alfred E. Smith Houses on St. James Place, which were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Initially, a submission from the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) branded dually as the BIG U or the Dry Line, was selected as one of six winning projects for 2013's Rebuild by Design competition. Sponsored by HUD, the Municipal Art Society, the Van Alen Institute, and other regional stakeholders, Rebuild by Design asked firms to envision how New York City and the region could protect itself against extreme weather. In the proposal, BIG U covered a more extensive area—from West 54th Street, to Battery Park, and up to East 40th Street—and envisioned more intensive modifications to the built environment. Rebuild by Design initially awarded $335 million to the project. The adapted plan draws on BIG U's guiding principle of small but powerful interventions that fit the scale of the neighborhood and activates public space, but the scale of the project will be reduced to meet the city's budget. Heather Fluit, from HUD Public Affairs, told AN that she couldn't comment on whether BIG's design will remain in any future project. "We've closed the book on that competition," she said. The final plan will be determined by the size of the grant received from HUD. The Office of Recovery & Resiliency is preparing a round-two proposal for the Disaster Resilience Competition. HUD is expected to share grant winners and funds allocated to each of the chosen submissions by January 2016.
The New York City Comptroller's office marked the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy with a dire report on the expected costs of the next big storm. Based on updated flood insurance maps from FEMA, the report finds that over $129 billion worth of property sits within the city’s 100-year floodplain – an increase of more than 120% from earlier maps. (100-year flood zones cover areas that have a 1% chance of flooding each year.) “In short, FEMA’s revised maps depict a greatly expanded floodplain that places almost three and a half times as many structures in high-risk zones and anticipates greater severity of flooding for those buildings already in the flood zone,” reads the report. “This new landscape holds important implications for resiliency investments, flood insurance, and the role of government in protecting homeowners from the next great storm.” To protect the city, the comptroller suggests significant investments in resiliency projects like HUD’s Rebuild By Design competition. These types of large-scale projects would protect property and, ideally, control flood insurance insurance premiums which are expected to spike when FEMA's proposed maps take effect in 2016. But that will only happen, explains the comptroller, if FEMA becomes a more agile and responsive agency: “FEMA is under no obligation under current rules to regularly review and update premiums despite the fact that the installation of costal protections—including surge barriers, artificial reefs, dunes, jetties, living shorelines, and floodwalls—are proven to help stem the effects of localized flooding and substantially lower flood risk." [h/t Vice]
Archtober Building of the Day #16 Post-Disaster Urban Interim Housing Cadman Plaza East & Red Cross Place Garrison Architects Nearly three million residents live in New York City’s six emergency evacuation zones. After a natural disaster ravages communities, displaced people often leave their neighborhoods never to return, causing catastrophic economic and social upheaval. The Prototype for Urban Interim Housing Units is an attempt to remedy this condition after the storm. Instead of dispersing, residents could begin to regain what they lost, starting with a safe, resilient home. When New York's Office of Emergency Management (OEM) began looking for a post-disaster housing type for New York City, they looked for inspiration both nationally and internationally. The design would have to be modular, or manufactured offsite, but the single-family temporary housing installed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina would not fit the urban NYC landscape. Six years ago, OEM hosted a competition and received 117 innovative submissions from 31 countries. From there, OEM worked with industry leaders to compile a set of design specifications that could be applied nation-wide. Two years ago, OEM put out an RFP and Garrison Architects answered the call. “Modular building techniques are advancing,” said Jim Garrison, principal at Garrison Architects. This structure, with a steel frame and plenty of concrete, is stronger than conventional buildings. The flexible design includes three separate units that can be arranged any number of ways. The modular units come in one- and three-bedroom layouts and are all ADA compliant. Aside from clearing the land and preparing utilities, the structure can be assembled in two days. After the initial designs were complete, Deborah Gans, professor at Pratt Institute, worked with her students to find potential sites for the building in Red Hook, a diverse neighborhood that was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Residents and community groups supported the model and helped determine where to place the temporary housing. Suggestions included the roof of IKEA and on NYCHA campuses, where the majority of the neighborhood’s residents live. In addition, the building can be constructed on found sites where structures once stood but have been cleared of debris, street beds, parking lots, under elevated highways, in parks, and more. The building satisfies all permanent housing requirements on temporary sites. All OEM staff members are testing the units by living in them for a week at a time. These units are not available for the public yet, but the gallery unit on the first floor is open for visitors every Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Emma Pattiz is Policy Coordinator for the AIA New York Chapter.
Five state capitals will get help from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop green infrastructure that could help mitigate the cost of natural disasters and climate change. Resiliency, whether it be in the context of global warming or natural and manmade catastrophes, has become a white-hot topic in the design world, especially since Superstorm Sandy battered New York City in 2012. EPA selected the following cities for this year's Greening America's Capitals program through a national competition: Austin, Texas; Carson City, Nev.; Columbus, Ohio; Pierre, S.D.; and Richmond, Va. Since 2010, 18 capitals and Washington, D.C. have participated in the program, which is administered by the EPA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. In each city, EPA will provide technical assistance to help design and build infrastructure that uses natural systems to manage stormwater. Here's a bit on each of the new projects via EPA:
· Austin, Texas, will receive assistance to create design options to improve pedestrian and bike connections in the South Central Waterfront area, and to incorporate green infrastructure that reduces stormwater runoff and localized flooding, improves water quality, and increases shade. · Carson City, Nev., will receive assistance to improve William Street, a former state highway that connects to the city's downtown. The project will help the city explore how to incorporate green infrastructure through the use of native plants, and to enhance the neighborhood's economic vitality. · Columbus, Ohio, will receive assistance to develop design options for the Milo-Grogan neighborhood that use green infrastructure to improve stormwater quality, reduce flooding risks, and encourage walking and cycling. · Pierre, S.D., will receive assistance to redesign its historic main street, South Pierre, in a way that uses green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff and improve resiliency to extreme climate conditions. · Richmond, Va., will receive assistance to design options for more parks and open spaces, and to incorporate green infrastructure to better manage stormwater runoff on Jefferson Avenue, a street which serves as the gateway to some of Richmond's oldest and most historic neighborhoods.
By 2019, two new Staten Island Ferry vessels should be crisscrossing the New York Harbor. Outside of the Whitehall Ferry Terminal this morning, United States Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that New York City had been awarded a $191 million grant to design and construct these vessels that will be more agile and storm-resilient than what's in the ferry's current fleet. These funds will also allow the city to invest in resiliency measures at the ferry's terminals and at surrounding public transit systems. This federal grant was just one component of the U.S. DOT's latest round of Sandy-related funding, which provides over $3 billion for resiliency measures for the East Coast's public transit systems. Roughly 90 percent of this money is allocated for projects in New York State and New Jersey. “The projects we are funding aren’t exactly what you would call glamorous projects,” said Secretary Foxx at the announcement, “many of them will be invisible to many riders, but they will give this region a fighting chance to withstand the kind of punishment that mother nature can mete out.” To prevent the type of catastrophic flooding seen at the South Ferry subway station during Hurricane Sandy, Foxx said street-level vents would be sealed and pump rooms would be flood-proofed. As the city and state continue to rebuild after Sandy, though, there are difficult questions about whether areas that are especially vulnerable to rising sea levels should be rebuilt at all. When asked about that issue by AN, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the city would not stop building in threatened areas. “This region is home to 15 million people and clearly we are here to stay," she said. "I think our job is to make wise decisions about where to make investments, but, certainly, I think you can see from where we are in Lower Manhattan, which is one of the financial capitals of the world, we’re going to be rebuilding, and we’re going to making it stronger than ever.” Today’s press conference comes a day after roughly 400,000 people marched through the streets of Midtown, Manhattan in the People's Climate March—the largest climate march in history. Event organizers hope the massive showing will pressure global leaders to take action on climate change at the UN Climate summit this week. Ahead of that march, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City will attempt to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, based on 2005 figures. To achieve this very ambitious goal, the city said it will retrofit its 4,000 public buildings and incentivizing private building owners to increase energy efficiency. Specifically, the city pledged to invest in on-site, green power generators, install 100 megawatts of solar capacity on over 300 public buildings, and to “implement leading edge performance standards for new construction that cost effectively achieve highly efficient buildings, looking to Passive House, carbon neutral, or ‘zero net energy” ‘strategies to inform the standards.” Mayor de Blasio's climate plan builds upon Mayor Bloomberg's, which set out to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management has opened a full-scale prototype of its temporary housing units that would shelter those displaced from the next Sandy-like storm. The OEM describes "The Urban Post-Disaster Housing Prototype Program," as a “multi-story, multi-family interim housing solution that will work in urban areas across the country.” The prefabricated structures are designed by Garrison Architects and intended to be dispatched quickly after an emergency and assembled on-site. The individual housing units are currently on display in Brooklyn and range in size from 480-square-feet to 813-square-feet. According to Gothamist, the temporary homes include bedrooms, a bathroom, a balcony, a kitchen, and storage space. They measure 40-feet wide by 100-feet long. The prototype will be tested in the coming months by city officials and local universities. In the next few weeks, a gallery will open inside the structure to explain the project's development process to the public. This is not the first time Garrison has been tasked with creating resilient, modular structures for New York City. Last summer, the firm’s 35 prefabricated lifeguard stands and bathrooms opened at Rockaway Beach. But shortly after they appeared, some of the stations began rusting and leaking. At the time, DNA Info reported that the railing on one station had to be secured with duct tape. And since July, two of the stations have been covered in a tarp, placed behind a locked fence, and guarded around-the-clock with security. A Parks Department spokesperson told DNA that the bathrooms will be reinstalled later this year.
Seventeen months after Superstorm Sandy pummeled New York City, Mayor de Blasio and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced major changes to the city’s Sandy relief efforts. At an announcement in late March in the Rockaways, Mayor de Blasio said that $100 million of federal money has been reallocated into the city’s Build it Back program, which will help storm victims regardless of their income or priority level. The mayor’s office says that funds from this program are already being sent out. In an effort to further cut red tape, the mayor also announced new staffing and policy changes to accelerate the delivery of resources to those impacted by the storm. “Today’s announcement is a down payment, and I look forward to this administration taking additional steps to ensure Sandy victims who went into their pockets to pay for repairs themselves will be quickly made whole. The De Blasio administration deserves major credit for tackling this problem quickly and making necessary changes to a program that wasn’t working well at all,” said Senator Schumer in a statement.