City requests $500 million for Downtown storm protection

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC  |  Having made it to the second, and final, round of a national competition where $1 billion is up for grabs for storm protection, the city plans on submitting an application focused on Lower Manhattan — just not all of it.

The National Disaster Resilience Competition (N.D.R.C.) is the last of Superstorm Sandy money to be allocated, and is run by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

“We’re going to be putting the full force and backing of the city behind one specific application for Lower Manhattan,” Daniel Zarrilli, director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, told Community Board 1’s Planning Committee on Mon., Sept. 21.

However, the area defined for the application is from Montgomery St. to the Battery. Battery Park City and Tribeca are not included.

The city is hoping to win the competition’s maximum amount — $500 million — and Zarrilli said that by including Battery Park City, “we would just be taking it well beyond what was possible in the competition.”

Zarrilli emphasized that the city is starting this month a request for proposals, or R.F.P., that will include the neighborhood.

The R.F.P. is for a preliminary design, environmental review and community engagement “for a comprehensive look at Lower Manhattan’s resiliency, including coastal protection, storm water management, the types of risks that we know we face,” said Zarrilli, for an area that stretches from Montgomery St. to the northern end of Battery Park City.

This process could take anywhere from 18 months to two years, said Zarrilli.

“We know we can’t wait and we need to continue that design process,” he said.

Before March this year, Lower Manhattan was shut out of much of the money for resiliency and recovery after Sandy. Out of $4.21 billion the city received, the southern tip had received $1.5 million. In March, $15 million from the city and state was allocated to Downtown. At the end of August, the city announced $100 million more for protecting Lower Manhattan.

At an August press conference announcing the Downtown money, Zarrilli said the city would try to include protections for Battery Park City if it won the federal grant.

This week, Zarrilli said the city money is “not going to be enough for the whole project. But $100 million on the table to demonstrate our commitment to this project… [may] stimulate the federal government to leverage that up and provide even more.”

The N.D.R.C. started in September 2014 and was open to any area that had a disaster in 2011, 2012 or 2013. Sixty-seven cities, counties and states applied for the first round. In June, the city found out it made it to the second round, when the field was cut down to 40. The deadline for the application is Oct. 27. The winner will be announced in January.

HUD has already had one resiliency competition called Rebuild by Design. The city was awarded $335 million for what was then called the “BIG U” for the segment of the E. 23rd St. to Montgomery St. The “U” was to protect the southern half of Manhattan.

The city’s application, called “Lower Manhattan Protect and Connect,” includes measures such as berms or deployable flood walls from Montgomery St. to the Battery and investments in nine NYCHA housing complexes to better handle storm water and resiliency, Zarrilli explained.

C.B. 1 Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes said that only part of the application that includes Lower Manhattan is the island’s tip, which is roughly around $225 million.

“The other three projects that the city’s putting forward are not located in Community Board 1,” she said.  The balance is in C.B. 3 on the Lower East Side.

The committee asked Zarrilli how the city would prioritize if it didn’t win the $500 million or was awarded less.

“We’re not at that place yet,” he said. “Part of it is, if we pull this off in the right way and we advocate correctly to the Feds, we won’t have to make that decision. If at some point, they decide they only want to fund x, y or z, and it’s something less than the full $500 million, we’re going to have to reassess.” 

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