Sunset Park discusses strengthening after Sandy

April 26, 2013 Denise Romano
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Nearly 100 Sunset Park residents gathered at Trinity Lutheran Church to discuss waterfront development after Sandy with representatives from New York City’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) on Wednesday, April 24.

The evening was coordinated by grassroots organization UPROSE, which has already been discussing how to combat climate change in the neighborhood for decades.

“This is a community that has already been planning. Every development in Sunset Park has to reflect that climate change is here and we have to be prepared for 10, 20 years in the future,” explained Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE. “We know about resiliency and bouncing back. We are not starting from scratch like other communities. We have been thinking about this for a [long time].”

Attendants were presented with some ideas and projects that can prevent another disaster like Sandy. They included: a deployable floodwall; constructing a wetland system; moving mechanical equipment to upper floors or roofs; installing co-generators which are self-sustaining that would kick in should power fail; removing tenants from bottom floors; and installing industrial flood vents and deployable flood gates.

Participants broke out into smaller groups for a workshop managed by a facilitator. There were tables for English, Spanish and Fujianese speakers. Each group brainstormed about strengths and vulnerabilities of Sunset Park, as well as safety measures to prevent another storm.

“They have to bring back the B37,” said Carmen Cruz, a Sunset Park resident for over 60 years. In case of flooding, buses are more likely to run than trains.

“This is a walk-to-work community. We have to preserve that it would be best to keep the community next to their work,” said Jonathan Ferrer, a 17-year-old member of UPROSE.

Marisol Delgado said that the nabe would benefit from big box stores, such as Target, but near the waterfront. However, many agreed that the federal prison near 30th Street restricts access to the waterfront and chokes development.

“What’s going on in those factories? We need more residential [housing],” Delgado commented.

“Houses are overcrowded,” Cruz added.

Ferrer did note that there are unknown chemicals in the brownfields along the waterfront.

“Chemicals can be brought up to residential houses. We don’t know what’s there,” he said, adding that flood walls are not the answer either.

“Economically, big flood walls are not good,” Ferrer said. “They are really expensive and surrounding neighborhoods are still vulnerable. Red Hook and Bay Ridge would get flooded.”

Ferrer suggested water buffers made of glass and coral – much like the ones presented in the Museum of Modern Art’s “Rising Tide” exhibit – that would reduce storm surges.

Other ideas included: developing methods to protect subway trains and stations; fiberglass storage tanks to collect water that can then be used to irrigate trees; more green space on roofs; forming alert teams who can identify vulnerable seniors and a mobile health unit that can get to them; making Third Avenue more pedestrian friendly; and creating a community space that’s a safe haven for local residents, especially immigrants.

For more information on the SIRR, visit

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