Coney Island Creek Presents Significant Flood Risk to Area Residents and Businesses, as Seen During Hurricane Sandy
Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR) Director Daniel Zarrilli today announced a request for proposals, issued by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), seeking a team of experts to conduct a detailed feasibility study of flood protection strategies that could prevent catastrophic flooding in neighborhoods adjacent to Coney Island Creek in Southern Brooklyn in the future, while also helping to transform neighborhoods adjacent to the creek with enhanced waterfront access, water quality improvements, stormwater management, and economic development.
“Hurricane Sandy highlighted many of the City’s vulnerabilities to coastal flooding and sea level rise. Southern Brooklyn proved to be no exception, as Coney Island Creek was found to be an important pathway for floodwaters to reach deep into the neighborhoods of Gravesend and Coney Island, severely impacting vulnerable residents and heavily damaging critical infrastructure. It could do so again at greater frequency even with storms of lesser intensity. With the impacts of climate change upon us, we must think differently about coastal resiliency and explore new types of measures to reduce future risks,” said Daniel Zarrilli, Director of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency. “This study will help to answer difficult technical questions about an ambitious plan to transform the neighborhoods along Coney Island Creek where traditional solutions are likely to be ineffective.”
“The resiliency of our City and the safety of all New Yorkers are key priorities, and this feasibility study will help determine ways in which we can protect our waterfront neighborhoods from the impact of future storms,” said NYCEDC President Kyle Kimball. “New York City’s 520 miles of shoreline are critical to our economic development strategy, and we must continue to do everything we can to strengthen the important connection between local communities and the waterfront.”
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in October 2012, Coney Island Creek was a major source of flooding in Gravesend and Coney Island. This flooding caused damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure all along the creek. In response, the City’s post-Sandy climate resiliency plan A Stronger, More Resilient New York proposed a significant rethinking of the creek as one of 257 initiatives to make New York City ready for a future with increased severe weather events and the long-term effects of climate change. This initiative would be one part of a comprehensive coastal protection strategy that, over time, will provide an unprecedented level of coastal risk reduction for some of the most vulnerable and low-lying neighborhoods in the city, including areas of Gravesend along the coast of Coney Island, Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway peninsula.
As described in the plan, a new tidal barrier across the mouth of Coney Island Creek and edge-softening measures such as wetland construction would prevent flooding from a storm like Sandy. Pipes running through the barrier would allow regular tidal flow in non-storm conditions. Those pipes would be closed at low tide before a severe storm, converting the creek into a retention basin and holding back storm surge. Following a severe storm, the pipes would be opened and the accumulated stormwater would flow out of the creek.
Building on this recommendation, the City is launching a detailed study of the Coney Island Creek tidal barrier and wetlands concept to evaluate its technical feasibility and to assess its associated engineering, financial, and environmental regulatory challenges, including water quality impacts, wetland restoration needs, and stormwater management functionality.
The study will also examine other potential benefits such as enhanced waterfront access, the creation of new public open spaces, economic development opportunities, and improved connections between neighborhoods. Finally, the study will identify opportunities for early investments that could provide near-term flood protection with already available funds, while not precluding further action.
“The future of Coney Island Creek and the surrounding communities depends greatly on our ability to learn from the lessons that Superstorm Sandy taught us,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “The economic and emotional devastation it caused have led to this opportunity for our City to act aggressively in the pursuit of greater resiliency and sustainability for our waterfront. I thank the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency and the New York City Economic Development Corporation for their work on this request for proposals.”
“The city has an obligation to explore every viable option for protecting New Yorkers from the ravages of future storms,” said Council Member Mark Treyger. “We must also learn from the mistakes of New Orleans and elsewhere and use proven measures to reach the goal of safeguarding lives and communities without wasting precious resources. This study will hopefully paint a clear picture as to how to best protect residents in Southern Brooklyn, especially considering the enormous damage caused by Coney Island Creek during Superstorm Sandy.”
“Serious structural vulnerabilities were exposed when Superstorm Sandy severely damaged areas like Coney Island and other South Brooklyn waterfront communities,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8). “The storm’s impact underlined the need to better protect our neighborhoods from extreme weather events, and a tidal barrier in Coney Island Creek could mitigate future flood damage. This feasibility study is a positive step in the right direction toward a more resilient New York City, and we’re thankful for the Mayor’s leadership.”
“I would like to thank the Mayor’s Office and the NYCEDC for their tireless efforts in improving the quality of life for the people of Coney Island and the surrounding area,” said Senator Diane J. Savino. “Because of their hard work, studies will be conducted to ensure that if and when future storms like Hurricane Sandy take place, our neighborhoods will not have to experience the amount of heavy flooding like in 2012. With these proposals, Cony Island will have the opportunity to gain important knowledge that will ultimately better prepare its citizens and change the outcome of major storms in our neighborhoods.”
“The devastation of Coney Island and other shoreline regions reminds us that New York is vulnerable to extreme weather events such as hurricanes, and also shows us that the City must be prepared for an increased possibility of such events in the future,” Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny. “The proposal for the Coney Island Creek tidal barrier and wetland system is a valuable system to study because it focuses on creating a healthy environment by restoring wetland buffers against flooding, while effectively controlling the flow of storm water. The goal of protecting residential areas and communities from storm-related damage and flooding must necessarily involve prevention. I support the Coney Island Creek proposal and encourage the submission and study of other solutions to dealing with storm preparedness.”
“The question remains: if another storm like Sandy hit tomorrow, how prepared would we be?,” said Councilmember Vincent J. Gentile. “It must be our job to make sure this City never experiences that sort of devastation again. It is so important that we learn from our response to Hurricane Sandy in order to prepare for the next storm. To that end, my colleagues and I in the New York City Council are continuing our efforts – and our promise – to find ways to strengthen our City’s infrastructure following the storm. Together we can ensure that our City is even better prepared to meet Mother Nature’s next challenge. I look forward to reviewing the findings of this study.”
“The call for this study reflects the belief that thoughtful planning can not only make our waterfront communities more physically, socially, and economically resilient, but also provide amenities that improve the lives of area residents,” said Carl Weisbrod, Chairman of the City Planning Commission. “This project has the potential to transform Coney Island Creek and its surrounding area into a beautiful, accessible waterfront space that also provides protection to neighboring communities and improves the area’s ecology.”
“NYC Parks properties along the waterfront are vital to the protection of the City’s waterfront communities from the effects of climate change and the impact of violent storms like Hurricane Sandy,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver FAICP. “We look forward to partnering with the Mayor’s office of Recovery and Resiliency and the Economic Development Corporation on this feasibility study, which is sure to be a big step forward towards our mutual goal of a stronger more resilient New York, one that provides open space for more and more New Yorkers along our remarkable coastline.”
“It is important to investigate innovative coastal strategies that will ultimately provide flood protection to adjacent communities while improving tidal wetland ecosystems,” said Emily Lloyd, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.
“With our partners we are working to make our buildings more resilient to address the results of climate change,” said Shola Olatoye, Chair and CEO of the New York City Housing Authority. “This Coney Island Creek study will help our collaborative effort to plan for the future.”
“As President of the Sea Gate Association and a long-time homeowner in the area, I know that our vulnerability to future storms comes not only from crumbling bulkheads and eroding beaches, but also from flood waters from the Creek and Gravesend Bay,” said Sea Gate Association President David Wynn. “Even as we have a lot of work left to do to recover from the last storm, I am glad that the City is taking steps to study bold solutions to protect us from the next one.”
“This community does not want to pack up and leave,” said Roxanne Boothe, Tenants Association President of Sam Burt Houses. “We want to continue to invest in solutions that would mitigate problems at Coney Island Creek. I’m glad that we are taking this opportunity to address long-standing community needs, particularly environmental concerns around the Creek, and we can start to understand how to address other problems we may find.”
“The viability of our community depends on us being able to safely live next to the Creek,” said Deborah Carter, Tenants Association President of Gravesend Houses. “The community in Gravesend Houses and all around us was devastated by Hurricane Sandy and we cannot afford to no longer feel safe in our homes. The Creek is a big problem that requires a bold solution like the tidal barrier concept and we look forward to seeing the results of this study.”
“Since 2001, Friends of Kaiser Park has worked to engage local residents and the City in improving Kaiser Park on the south side of Coney Island Creek, as well as Calvert Vaux Park, Coney Island Creek Park, and the Home Depot Walkway Path,” said Rocco Brescia, President of Friends of Kaiser Park and the Alliance for Calvert Vaux Parks. “I am 100% supportive of this study of ways to maximize the recreational benefits of these parks, while also helping to protect the neighborhood from flood risks.”
NYCEDC will manage the Coney Island Creek feasibility study on behalf of ORR. The consultant team will provide a wide range of expertise in the fields of civil and environmental engineering, coastal risk reduction, stormwater management, wetland creation, urban planning, economic development, cost-benefit analysis, and other relevant disciplines. The study is expected to commence in Fall 2014.