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NYCEDC and Mayor’s Office of Recovery & Resiliency Announce Request for Proposals to Conduct Study Examining Coastal Protection Measures for the Gowanus Canal & Newtown Creek

Study Will Determine Feasibility of Storm Surge Barriers Along Inland Waterways to Help Reduce Flood Risks to Residents and Businesses

The Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR) Director Daniel Zarrilli today announced a request for proposals, issued by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), seeking a team of experts to conduct detailed feasibility studies of storm surge barriers at the mouths of the Gowanus Canal in South Brooklyn and Newtown Creek on the Brooklyn/Queens border.

Such barriers and their associated infrastructure could prevent catastrophic flooding in the neighborhoods adjacent to these bodies of water while also providing enhanced waterfront access, water quality improvements, stormwater management, and opportunities for economic development.

“Hurricane Sandy didn’t just expose our vulnerabilities along the ocean, it also had a devastating impact along inland waterways in all five boroughs,” said Daniel Zarrilli, Director of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency. “Storm surge barriers along inland waterways would play a vital role in the City’s resiliency efforts and, in coordination with the ongoing Superfund work, would reduce flood risk in these vulnerable commercial and residential neighborhoods, providing new opportunities to transform the city and make our neighborhoods safer.”

“To maintain our place as a globally competitive city, we must consider the long-term investments that need to be made to improve the resiliency of our economy, people and assets,” said NYCEDC President Kyle Kimball.  “This feasibility study is an important first step in evaluating how to ensure these neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens can meet the climate challenges of the future, through the prevention of catastrophic flooding.”

The Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek were major sources of flooding in the neighborhoods of Gowanus, Red Hook, Greenpoint, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, Maspeth, and Long Island City, causing damage to infrastructure and thousands of homes and businesses along both waterways and in neighboring upland areas. Additionally, it is anticipated that climate change and sea level rise will increase the risk of coastal flooding as the number of commercial buildings in the 100-year floodplain along the Brooklyn and Queens East River and New York Bay waterfront will nearly double and the number of residential units will more than double by the 2050s, necessitating planning to prevent future flooding.

To address these challenges, Mayor Bill de Blasio established ORR to rebuild the communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy and plan for the future risks of climate change. ORR is implementing a long-term, comprehensive resiliency agenda, based on the plan, A Stronger, More Resilient New York, which is a detailed action plan to strengthen coastal defenses, upgrade buildings, protect infrastructure, and make vulnerable neighborhoods safer and more vibrant. The plan outlines 257 initiatives around the city, including many physical, social and economic resiliency measures to benefit all New Yorkers. The Mayor’s Office, in partnership with key city agencies, released a report in April that highlighted the full portfolio of sustainability initiatives underway across the city – and for the first time this annual update included resiliency.

Since establishing ORR, the Mayor’s Office has advanced several strategic resiliency initiatives, including the adoption of a Hazard Mitigation Plan and submission of dozens of projects to New York State for consideration of federal funding, such as rebuilding and strengthening hospital facilities that were damaged during Sandy. The City has also released the results of a study for the feasibility of a multi-purpose levee in southern Manhattan and issued an RFP for a study of coastal protection in Coney Island Creek, Brooklyn as well as an RFP to study the food supply chain to identify vulnerabilities. To address the critical issue of flood insurance, the City has released RFPs to study of the impact and affordability of flood insurance as well as hire someone to run a consumer education campaign.

The City is conducting this study as a proactive step to answer key questions about how storm surge barriers along inland waterways could function in a dense, urban environment, how they could be permitted, and what they would cost.  The study will investigate how these barriers would prevent flooding to nearby properties and infrastructure from future coastal storms, while providing the added benefit of creating a new stormwater basin that could be used to facilitate drainage. The barriers would be navigable during non-storm periods, to support neighboring industrial and maritime businesses, recreational uses, and public safety personnel, and would close in advance of storm activity to protect the inland areas.

The RFP seeks a team of experts to explore the technical feasibility and to assess associated engineering, financial and environmental regulatory challenges, including water quality impacts, wetland restoration needs, and stormwater management functionality. The studies will also examine, with stakeholder and public engagement, other potential benefits such as enhanced waterfront access, economic development opportunities, and improved connections between neighborhoods.

The Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek are designated federal Superfund sites and the storm surge barrier studies will incorporate proper coordination with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and other relevant entities. The studies will also complement other recent and ongoing planning efforts for the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek watersheds, including the Rebuild by Design initiative led by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force; New York State’s New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program; and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program.

“If Sandy taught us anything, it is that proper preparation can minimize the damage from storms for residents and businesses,” said Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez.  “This study will examine important tools for protecting communities near the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek.  I look forward to a coordinated effort with significant community input.”

“During Superstorm Sandy, homes and businesses along Newtown Creek flooded, saddling people with millions of dollars in damage,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.  “With climate change causing more severe weather and a rise in sea levels, we need to be prepared for another major storm that could cause even more damage than Sandy in the near future.  I am pleased that Mayor de Blasio is taking positive steps to identify experts who will examine strategies for addressing flooding in the communities I represent so that hopefully we can implement their recommendations before the damage is done.”

“I watched in person during Superstorm Sandy as flooding around the Gowanus wiped out businesses, damaged homes and infrastructure, knocked over petroleum tanks, caused fires, and put vulnerable people at risk,” said Councilmember Brad Lander.  “Flood protection is essential to businesses and residents around the Gowanus – and has emerged as a top priority during the Bridging Gowanus community planning process. I am happy the City is moving forward on this issue and coordinating closely with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund cleanup.”

“For the communities that border the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek, today’s announcement of an RFP to study flood protection strategies is welcome news and an important step in ensuring we are prepared for future storms,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin.  “Hurricane Sandy wrecked great damage on these communities and it is vital that new strategies are in place for when the next storm hits. Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Office of Recovery and Resiliency Director Daniel Zarrilli, and Economic Development Corporation President Kyle Kimball for announcing this RFP and working to make sure New York City is prepared for future storms.”

“As the Council Member representing Red Hook, an area heavily affected by Hurricane Sandy, I support NYCEDC and the Mayoral Administration’s decision to conduct a feasibility study on local storm surge barriers, which can be crucial to preventing flooding in future storms,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca. “We need experts in the field to verify that these barriers are safe, effective, and maintain community access to open space and the waterfront.”

“I am pleased that we are moving forward on exploring the feasibility of storm surge barriers for the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek, two waterways whose remediation are critical to the environmental health and long-term resiliency of our borough and its waterfront,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.  “These federal Superfund sites pose real flood risks to the communities on its shores, and advancing climate change is increasing the odds of future disasters. I thank the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency as well as the New York City Economic Development Corporation for their continued commitment to Brooklyn’s comeback from Superstorm Sandy, a comeback that cannot be considered complete until we ensure our preparedness for future extreme weather incidents.”

“Superstorm Sandy taught us some very tough lessons: seas are rising, storms are stronger, and we must prepare now!,” said Senator Velmanette Montgomery.  “I am extremely happy that the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency is teaming up with the NYC Economic Development Corporation to explore the feasability of storm barriers on the Gowanus and Newtown Creek, two vital inland water resources that suffered significant damage. I eagerly look forward to the proposals that will insure a safer future for the communities on these waterways.”

“The devastation that Sandy wrought was extensive,” said Senator Martin Malavé Dilan.  “As we continue to recover, the city must take what lessons we can from Sandy and put them into practice. I commend Mayor de Blasio for not letting this opportunity pass us by. It is critical for us to bolster vital services, to help mitigate flooding and improve preparedness for future storms. Likewise, we must protect our natural resources and identify and develop new opportunities to improve our communities.”

“I wholeheartedly endorse Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to protect the neighborhoods bordering South Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal area from the destruction brought about by storm surges,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz. “The infrastructure systems and protective barriers that will be the focus of these feasibility studies hold much promise for protecting human life and property against future extreme weather events while also establishing many economic development and recreational opportunities that will benefit our communities.”

“The neighborhoods surrounding the Gowanus Canal suffered unexpected flooding during Hurricane Sandy,” said Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman. “I applaud the Mayor’s efforts to seek experts who will conduct feasibility studies on storm surge barriers.  These barriers and other measures will provide our communities with a high level of protection during future storms.”

“I join the residents of Queens in applauding NYCEDC and the Office of Recovery and Resiliency in moving forward with plans to improve flood protection at Newtown Creek,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “Too many in our community learned the lessons of Superstorm Sandy the hard way. It is incumbent upon all of us to do all we can to be better prepared next time around.”

“Flooding from Newtown Creek presents a serious risk, so I am glad to see NYCEDC giving this the attention it deserves,” said Councilmember Antonio Reynoso of the 34th District.  “I hope that a solution can be found that protects the surrounding communities and businesses, while supporting the active industrial uses along the creek.”

NYCEDC will manage the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek feasibility studies on behalf of ORR. The consultant team will provide a wide range of expertise in the fields of civil and environmental engineering, coastal risk reduction, stormwater management, urban planning, economic development, cost-benefit analysis, and other relevant disciplines. The study is expected to commence in Fall 2014.

Here is a link to more information on the RFP:
About ORR
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the establishment of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR) in March 2014 in order to recover and rebuild after Hurricane Sandy and prepare for long-term risks. ORR is tasked with improving the City’s activities by enhancing policy and planning coordination, as well as implementing strategies of long-term climate resiliency efforts among City agencies, while also incorporating resiliency into how the City operates; by expediting efforts to secure additional federal funding for resiliency upgrades; by continuing to collaborate on state and federal recovery and resiliency planning processes to maximize investment in New York City; and by expanding economic opportunity for New Yorkers and aligning workforce development and local hiring into every recovery and resiliency project.

New York City Economic Development Corporation is the City’s primary vehicle for promoting economic growth in each of the five boroughs. NYCEDC’s mission is to stimulate growth through expansion and redevelopment programs that encourage investment, generate prosperity and strengthen the City’s competitive position. NYCEDC serves as an advocate to the business community by building relationships with companies that allow them to take advantage of New York City’s many opportunities. Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, or visit our blog to learn more about NYCEDC projects and initiatives.