After several public and closed meetings of the NYRising Community Reconstruction Project to gather ideas from residents of the Bellmores and Merricks on how to protect their communities from further damage caused by catastrophic storms such as superstorm Sandy, the NYRCRP offered its first concrete visions for better, more resilient communities at a Levy-Lakeside meeting on Thursday evening.
No fewer than 20 plans were presented on large easel-sized placards describing the main thrust of each project, its estimated cost and how it is designed to help stave off infrastructure destruction and increase the likelihood of survival in the event of another storm such as Sandy.
The main task of those attending last night’s meeting was to thoroughly review each of the projects, numbered P1 through P11 (proposed projects) and F1 through F9 (featured projects), discuss them with ARUP consultants, pick the project they think is most vital to begin perhaps the years’-long transition into safer communities and comment why they think they may be the best project(s) to start with.
Co-chairs Joe Baker of Merrick and Dr. Larry Eisenstein of Bellmore
“I’m all for projects 1 and 2,” remarked Richard Landau of Merrick, who experienced three boats crashing into his canal property during Sandy. He said the most important aspect in maintaining the integrity of community infrastructures in the face of another superstorm like Sandy would be in keeping the water off the streets, and P1 and P2 would do that.
Project 1 would improve the capacity of storm drains in the communities south of Merrick Road to absorb larger quantities of water to drain streets more quickly, allowing for quicker response time for first responders and for residents to get to other destinations. Its estimated cost would be $4,310,000.
Project 2 inspects all the outfall pipes along the South Shore to determine their condition and need for replacement, and then installs 25 tidal check valves to prevent flooding water rushing up into the pipes and into the streets. The cost is $750,000.
Joann Bo, a NYRising CRP committee member and member of SPLASH (Stop Polluting Littering And Save the Harbors), also nodded to P1 and P2 as appropriate projects to begin with. She lives along a canal in Bellmore.
However, Gary Panasuk, owner of the Blue Water Yacht Club in Merrick, disagreed with P1 and P2 as appropriate projects, saying he didn’t care for any of the projects being proposed. “These projects won’t keep hurricane-force water off the streets,” he said to Landau.
“No one really talked about wave action, and its destructive powers,” he told this magazine.
Sue Ambrosini, senior planner from ARUP consultants
He suggested wave attenuators, or floating docks dispersed throughout the bays and channels, which would reduce wave action on shore surfaces by reducing the force of waves in the bays and channels first. He admitted there would still be flooding, but the damage would be much less severe because the wave energy in the water movement would be greatly reduced – or eliminated.
For example, reduced wave energy could keep docks from snapping in two, reduce or prevent crashes against bulkheads or jostle existing outflow pipes, rendering them vulnerable.
Indeed, when Landau pointed out to Sue Ambrosini, senior planner for ARUP, the consultants hired by the state to help develop and actualize the NYRising Community Reconstruction Project, that keeping water off the streets to maintain infrastructure integrity – besides being the most effective project – would use up much of the $12 million allocated for projects, Ambrosini disagreed with him.
“There is no one project, or silver bullet,” she told Landau, which would trump one project over another. She said the thrust of the NYRCRP was to get funding for as many of the projects as they could apply for.
She told those in attendance that the first five projects may be the most viable for getting funding: stormwater drainage repair (P1), tidal check valve installation (P2), the Southwest Merrick Masterplan (P3), community resource centers (P4) and priority road streetlight retrofitting (P5).
She noted that the Southwest Merrick Masterplan, which involves the sanitation department, the landfill, the Merrick golf course, Norman J. Levy Park and the baseball fields – which she called a cluster of publicly owned places that were significantly damaged during Sandy – may be unique because “they are a great place to do visionary planning using a Green infrastructure.”
She said microgrids could be set up and the cluster sections moved around for greater use. The cost is $250,000.
In a rare appearance, Merokian Maureen Garvey, director of the Bellmore Memorial Library, came to the meeting to view the project proposals and then sit down to fill in a comment card. She said she liked P4, which creates a network of community resource centers (CRCs) such as libraries and senior centers. “With the libraries acting as defacto community centers we could do so much more for the communities with more resources to do them,” she said.
She said the Bellmore library was up and running within a day or two after Sandy, and provided shelter, warmth, a place to meet and provide information on how to get help. In addition, it became a central location for tens of residents to charge their cell phones and communicate via email using the library’s computers.
P4 would designate the four community libraries and buildings such as senior centers as central locations in which to obtain information about emergency preparedness, to distribute resources such as foods, water, blankets, toiletries, bicycles and clothing. Natural gas generators would be installed at each of these centers to guarantee power during a storm.
Possible CRCs sited include the Bellmores and Merricks libraries, the Bellmore and Merrick senior centers and Newbridge Road Park. The cost is $3 million.
Ken Devens of Bellmore said he was glad to see the project coming into focus by providing actual project visions. “Things are coming into a focus in our immediate areas now,” he said.
While he mentioned P2 with its backflow devices, he appeared partial to P5 and its retrofitting of solar LED lighting to provide lighting during blackouts. The lights would be retrofitted with photovoltaics and battery packs, and would help first responders with rescues because lighting would quickly be available in the case of a blackout. The cost is $2,500,000.
He referred also to project F6, a featured project that may not be implemented until more essential projected projects are completed. F6 calls for smart grid improvements that contain and isolate areas of trouble in a storm without affecting other areas. Features might include more electrical conduits underground of the type used by Con Ed.
Project committee member Alison Frankel, president of the South Bellmore Civic Association, remarked that, while she liked all five initial projects, she too was partial to P5. “With so many days in the dark, it became difficult and scary,” especially with a baby, she said.
With County Legislator Dave Denenberg in attendance, he asked to what extent the Town of Hempstead would be in a position to agree to any proposals being put forth. Ed Powers, director of emergency management for the Town of Hempstead, said there is indeed healthy skepticism because of the amounts of funding being presented, where it would come from and how available it was to implement the projects.
“These are reimbursement projects,” he said, and the town has 10 Community Reconstructions Zones within its borders. If each of the zones has $2 million worth of projects, and the town has an annual $50 million capital budget, that’s a lot of outlay, he maintained.
With plans due at the end of March to begin applications for funding them, there is $5,667,415 available for Bellmore and $6,429,011 available for Merrick. There is also a $3 million bonus for more competitive or ambitious projects, Ambrosini said.
Funding is being provided by the federal government from the Department of Housing and Urban Development under the name Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR).
“We need to repair what is broken and prevent any more damage to housing and the infrastructure,” she said of the NYRising Community Reconstruction Project.