Red Hook

Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway could do double duty as a flood barrier in Red Hook

‘Sixty percent of Red Hook is fill. It’s permeable.’

August 3, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Boarded up businesses in Red Hook one week after Superstorm Sandy hit NYC in October 2012. Photo courtesy of New York City Small Business Services
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An innovative plan to use a scenic greenway as part of a flood protection system for Red Hook is inching closer to reality.

Red Hook experienced unprecedented flooding during Superstorm Sandy, which left many residents and businesses without basics including electricity, heat and water for weeks.

As part of New York City’s long-term resiliency plan, an “Integrated Flood Protection System” for Red Hook is in the works. The system includes barriers at flood-prone sites, storm water sinks and resiliency construction at NYCHA’s Red Hook East and West.

One idea under review entails integrating the Red Hook section of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway into this flood protection system.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The scenic, 14-mile Greenway for bikers and walkers will eventually run along the waterfront from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge. Six miles have already been constructed.

A preliminary design study recently released by the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative and the city envisions the Greenway as integrating flood barriers — such as raised sections and green berms — and providing storm water detention, an emergency route for the community during a flood and public amenity spaces in Red Hook.

“While you’re digging up streets, it’s time to consider all the other possible benefits,” Milton Puryear, co-founder of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday.

Puryear says the Red Hook section of the Greenway has received money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for flood protection in certain locations, one being Beard Street, where an underground flood wall would be built below the Greenway.

“Sixty percent of Red Hook is fill. It’s permeable,” he said. “Water pushes in through the soil and into basements. A flood wall on Beard Street would prevent that for the properties inland from Beard Street.”

A similar phenomena happens at Pioneer Street and at Pier 11, he said.

“Water pushes underground and also overtops the perimeter of the Atlantic Basin, into properties across from Imley Street,” he explained.


Specific design concepts (Community Board 6 shares them here) include raising the Greenway about 4 1/2 feet, to a total elevation of 9.9 feet above water level around Imlay Street, Bowne Street and the Clinton Warf ferry terminal. It would be raised 3 1/2 feet, to an elevation of 8 feet, along a section of Beard Street.

The Greenway could run atop a 14-1/2-foot flood wall (with flood gate) at Ferris Street (elevation 19 feet), or, alternately, atop a 5-foot green berm.

Other design ideas include a “pocket park” at Imlay Street which would collect water during a storm, and a waterfront plaza at the Clinton Warf ferry terminal.

Another suggestion is closing Sullivan Street, Puryear said. “It doesn’t go anywhere, and would make it easier to build a berm at Ferris.”

Brooklyn Greenway Initiative is also working on creating a 2-acre Columbia Waterfront Park (running from Kane to Degraw streets). The park’s landscape would serve as the northern end of the flood barrier system.

Sunset Park

A feasibility study for the design of the Greenway as a flood barrier in Sunset Park has also been completed.

The study centered on protecting the area from 29th to 51st streets from flooding.

“You got almost 8 million square feet of industrial and commercial space being revitalized by the city and private sector, and a substantial part of that is in the 100-year flood plain or in the areas hit hard by Sandy” he said. “Our hope is that the city takes advantage of some ideas outlined in the study to protect its investment.”

Not for the Big One

A 10-year floodplain (aka 10 percent floodplain) is an area with a statistical probability of one in 10 of being flooded in any given year. A 100-year flood has a 1 percent probability of occurring in any given year.

The measures under study are meant to protect residents and businesses in the 10- to 25-year floodplain, Puryear said.

“These measures won’t protect against The Big One — the 100-year flood,” he said. “Just the most frequent ones.”

Walls protecting against 100-year floods would be “so high people would probably object because they obstruct the view,” he said.


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