City presents Two Bridges flood-protect plan

Lauren Micir, of AECOM engineers, right, explained how the posts for the flip-up barriers can be meshed with other design amenities. Photo by Sydney Pereira

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | The Mayor’s Office of Recovery & Resiliency recently presented 3-D models of flip-up barriers and flood walls proposed for the Two Bridges area as a part of the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency project.

The 0.82-mile section of Two Bridges is considered fully funded — with $203 million allocated for the project. The city says it plans to prioritize the use of flip-up barriers, so that the esplanade will remain usable, with views open for the community.

The hands-on community meeting was intended for O.R.R. to hear feedback on the project, which aims to protect the neighborhood from storm surges after Hurricane Sandy flooded it nearly six years ago. Since then, major infrastructure improvements to protect the city from future storms have largely been done in a piecemeal approach, with older buildings being retrofitted and new buildings installing mechanicals on higher floors. However, construction of protective infrastructure along the waterfront has not yet begun.

After years of involvement, Trever Holland, a member of Tenants United Fighting for the Lower East Side (TUFF-LES) and a Two Bridges Tower resident, said the de Blasio administration has come a long way regarding the design models.

“The city is listening to the wishes of the residents,” Holland said. He added that he hopes the project limits permanent flood walls and opts for more deployable barriers and walls that flip up during storms and otherwise remain down 99 percent of the time.

“We still remain a little concerned about what portion of it will have walls,” he added.

As it stands, much of the nearly 1-mile stretch will have flip-up barriers, except for portions beneath the Brooklyn Bridge and west of Pier 36, which sports a three-block-long pier shed that runs north of Jefferson St. The only visible part of the flip-up barriers would be posts sticking up from the esplanade — which would be where roughly 10-foot-tall barriers would be raised up before a storm.

The steel posts, explained Lauren Micir, an associate at the engineering firm AECOM, can be meshed with design amenities, such as playgrounds, exercise features and lounging space. When lowered, the flip-up barriers lie flush to the ground.

“We’ve been imagining, ‘What else could these [steel posts] be?’” Micir said at the Wed., July 18, presentation.

“We looked at every open space, street, sidewalk, every possibility within this neighborhood,” she added.

View corridors along Robert F. Wagner Sr. Place, Catherine Slip, Market Slip, Pike Slip and Rutgers Slip are where additional flip-up barriers could be installed to accommodate these access points to the East River.

“The view here is pretty spectacular,” Micir said. “We really want to preserve that connection.”

Although much of the Two Bridges stretch is expected to have flip-up barriers, the city is proposing floodwalls in sections beneath the Brooklyn Bridge and the three-block stretch between Jefferson and Montgomery Sts., where Pier 36 is, according to the latest conceptual designs presented at the Two Bridges community meeting.

At the Brooklyn Bridge, the walls would block off much of a Department of Transportation parking lot beneath the bridge, leaving the sidewalk open for use, according to a conceptual rendering. For the northern part of the Two Bridges area, the city is proposing a floodwall running along the F.D.R. Drive to the west of Pier 36 in place of flip-up barriers for three reasons: Views are already blocked by existing buildings; there is an existing wall and fence; and the floodwall is expected to have a lower required height, according to the city.

The meeting included a free dinner, and community members asked questions about the 3-D models before returning to the roundtables for further discussion.

The roundtable discussions — during which around 50 people discussed their ideas and feedback with L.M.C.R. staffers taking notes — largely focused on possible programming that could be added at Two Bridges.

In a neighborhood lacking the public spaces and activity areas many believe it needs, some expressed the desire for added playground space, picnic tables, a dog run, an ice-skating rink and a pool.

The expected influx of thousands of new residents based on four proposed Two Bridges towers, plus Extell Development’s One Manhattan Square, which is currently being completed, is expected to spark the need for even more extensive, quality public space on the esplanade.

But underlying questions remain, such as who will maintain the walls and barriers to protect New Yorkers generations into the future? Another concern was who would maintain added public spaces funded under the Two Bridges project; Jonathon Gardenhire, a Smith Houses resident, suggested the city choose a nonprofit community partner to do it.

The workshop was the fourth in a series with Two Bridges community members. Designs remain conceptual, but the city is aiming to build before the federal deadline to spend the allocated cash expires.

“We’re not promising anything tonight, but we’re trying to have a conversation about what we want,” Jordan Salinger, O.R.R. senior policy adviser for planning, told the meeting.

“We know that Sandy was five and a half years ago,” he added, addressing concerns that some feel they are no safer now than in 2012. “Continuing talking about that is the most important [thing] for us.”

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