City alters flood preparedness plans for peninsula

Courtesy of New York City Economic Development Corp.

This map highlights the different parts of the Hunts Point peninsula vulnerable to major flooding.

The city recently changed its initial plans to strengthen energy resources and flood resiliency in Hunts Point, listening to concerns about air quality area residents expressed last year. 

City planners held a hearing at the Point CDC on Oct. 10 to elicit feedback from residents and discuss changes to the original plan, which initially included emergency generators and heating and cooling units that residents were concerned would produce carbon emissions. 

After disasters like Hurricane Sandy, New York City is rethinking the way it structures relief and recovery during emergencies. Because of Hunts Point’s floodplains and the wholesale produce, meat and fish markets along the waterfront, the neighborhood seemed like a good place to start, said Louise Yeung, a project manager with the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

With $45 million in block grants from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the city announced a pilot project in Hunts Point last year called Hunts Point Lifelines, proposing to place emergency batteries and generators in schools and markets, as well as refrigerator trucks and gas boilers outside of key meat markets and grocery stores. 

After a swath of complaints, the city offered up another $26 million of capital funds for a greener resiliency plan to be completed by 2022, Yeung said, though it’s unclear where the funds are being allocated from. Representatives at the EDC did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

“We heard loud and clear what you did and didn’t like and we’ve digested that into this amended pilot,” Yeung said at the hearing. 

Only a handful of residents attended the forum, nearly all of them affiliated with the Point or another environmental advocacy group. Fernando Ortiz, the climate preparedness and resiliency organizer at the Point, said he is cautiously optimistic about the plan. 

“They’re stepping up for sure, starting to focus on neighborhoods who will be vulnerable,” Ortiz said. “We’d like to see more renewable energy, but we understand the limitations.”

Instead of relying on diesel-powered trucks, the plan suggests building something called a tri-generation microgrid, which is powered by natural gas and runs separate from the main grid. The tri-generation energy will serve as a replacement for cooling, heating and powering select buildings if the city’s main power lines give out. 

Certain grocery stores and meat markets can then plug freezers and heating devices into the alternate grid, producing a smaller greenhouse footprint. 

The city would also install solar-powered energy storage in the Hunts Point Middle School (M.S. 424) on Bryant Avenue and the P.S. 48 on Spofford Avenue. The energy will power schools during a disaster, but Yeung said the city hopes it will also provide power all year round, decreasing the neighborhood’s carbon emissions overall. 

“After all this, we feel pretty confident we won’t have an impact on air quality in Hunts Point,” Yeung said. 

Ortiz also said he’s concerned about how long the project will take, leaving the area vulnerable to disasters for another four years. But Yeung said that the city will be working with programs like Be a Buddy, a volunteer program started by the Point aimed at preparing Hunts Point for future climate events, to provide resources to the community should a disaster happen before the resiliency project is completed. 

Residents can read the full amendments to the plan here. All comments about the amendments are due October 22 and can be submitted digitally here.

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