Environment / Food

Waterfront planners receive $20M grant

Care of Penn/OLIN

An artist’s sketch of a new boathouse that would be part of a plan for revitalizing the waterfront.

A team of planners and engineers has been awarded $20 million in federal funding to enact a plan to protect and revitalize the Hunts Point waterfront.

The Penn/OLIN group launched the beginnings of the project last year, visiting area businesses to assess flood risks and organizing community forums to gather ideas from residents, business owners, advocates and public officials.

In all, ten teams working in areas vulnerable to storm surge up and down the East Coast presented proposals to US Department of Housing and Urban Development director Shaun Donovan and a panel of environmental experts in early April, as part of the Rebuild by Design initiative. Each of the teams told the judges how they would use federal grant money to protect those areas from major flooding while sprucing up local economies.

The panel selected six of the ten projects to fund, including Penn/OLIN’s plan, dubbed Hunts Point/Lifelines. The City will administer the allocated federal grant money for it.

The project stems from President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force, which brought designers, academics, policymakers and communities together to develop rebuilding strategies in the wake of the 2012 superstorm, which has cost the country over $60 billion.

The Hunts Point team placed much of its focus on protecting the Food Distribution Center. It pointed out that flooding in the meat, fish and produce markets would have a devastating effect on the entire metro area’s food supply.

Its plan calls for a series of strategies that include:

  • A flood protection levee lab to keep the peninsula dry while opening access to a waterfront greenway,
  • A micro grid and new energy generation to keep the Food Distribution Center operational even if the power grid fails,
  • New piers to allow for the use of marine highways and improved disaster preparedness,
  • Living wage jobs in construction, maintenance, and research, all of which would be geared to benefit the local workforce.

Local residents, business owners and officials were thrilled to learn that Hunts Point was among the final selections.

Wanda Salaman, Executive Director of Longwood-based advocacy group Mothers on the Move, was one of several residents and activists who spoke at the April presentation to urge Donovan and the HUD panel to fund the Hunts Point proposal. The plan put the community upfront in all its planning and design efforts.  In other places, the community is an after-thought or a gloss applied after plans are finalized.  Hunts Point is different; this process was refreshing and a model for others around the globe,” she said.

Healthy food advocate and community gardener Tanya Fields, who heads The Blk Projek, said it was “vital to integrate food justice into the fabric of any plans for the future of our community,” adding that the new plan “addresses the real needs of our community such as creating access of the fresh, affordable food.”

Representatives of the produce and meat markets agreed that protecting the power grid was a key issue.

“Resilient power for the wholesale markets is one of our most pressing infrastructure needs.,” said Bruce Reingold, General Manager of the Hunts Point Cooperative Market.

“Energy resiliency is among the top priorities of the Market and we are thrilled that it is a key element of the Hunts Point plan,” Said Myra Gordon, Executive Director of the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative Association.

Rep. Jose E. Serrano agreed, saying “The team successfully made the case that the key infrastructure in the Hunts Point Peninsula, including the various food markets, cannot be left unprotected in the face of the next major storm.”

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