On the occasion of the 4th anniversary of Sandy, PortSide NewYork launches Red Hook WaterStories. This is a digital museum with significant resiliency information. The site covers 400+ years of Red Hook waterfront history - NYC’s maritime story in microcosm - and reveals forgotten and overlooked stories from this evocative neighborhood.Read More
PortSide blogs about our WaterStories programs, urban waterways issues, the BLUEspace, development plans for the NYC waterfront, our ship MARY A. WHALEN and other historic vessels, boats and ships of all sizes.
"Red Hook WaterStories” (RHWS) Project Moves Forward
Team grows and makes substantial headway!
What is Red Hook WaterStories
A water-themed history trail about and for fascinating Red Hook, Brooklyn. It will educate visitors and locals, help revitalize Red Hook and help protect this community from floods. It tells NYC's maritime story in microcosm. This year, we are launching a pilot multimedia map and creating a hard copy visitor guide and signs with QR codes around the neighborhood that alert people to the website. We will create large, outdoor, exhibit panels with this content. We are taping more oral histories to share.
PortSide offices aboard the ship MARY A. WHALEN are a buzz as we push ahead with Red Hook WaterStories. Many new consultants and interns have come aboard to help develop and catalog content. The accessibility of our new home is allowing people with valuable skills, but no prior relationship to PortSide, to literally step (or ride their bicycle like David Levine) up to the pier and get involved.
We thank Councilman Carlos Menchaca both for seeing the importance of our new home and for the $20,000 in funding that is pushing the project forward. We have applied for other funding, and have launched a campaign to raise another $20,000 by then end of June 2016.
New people, new energy!
Our Curator and Historian Peter Rothenberg has been joined by a team of consultants, advisors and interns. Some are interviewing, some research archives, some are deep in the html end of the archive. Bios of the team on the Red Hook WaterStories webpage.
We have been collecting new content and looking backward, meaning we sought technology and advice on how to get our archive coded and organized. David Levine has 25 years experience in content management at major corporations and is leading the tech end of the project, selecting the software for content management and website creation. Lots of conversations between him, Peter and new advisors Johnathan Thayer and Marilyn Oliva helped selected us Omeka as the archivist software to use. The first version of the multimedia RHWS website may be Omeka itself. Much to learn and code in all this!
Johnathan Thayer teaches archival practice and preservation at Queens College and is the Senior Archivist at Seaman’s Church Institute, founded in 1834 which has thousands of items and oral histories in its collection. Despite all that content, they have nothing about Red Hook in their files – proof that PortSide’s project has something to contribute.
Regina Carra, a graduate student at CUNY Queens College studying Library Science and History, learned about RHWS from Johnathan and was so excited by the project that she rejiggered her schedule to work with us one day a week.
We have had long meetings and brainstorming sessions around the galley table to discuss what themes, issues and peoples to include so we know to look for such content and have the archive coded in advance to be ready to receive that kind of content. “War” and “”military,” how are they the same or different? With our focus on immigrants who arrived by water or worked on the waterfront, what do we do about the “non-ethnics,” the English or WASPS? How do we deal with false history (the errors so often repeated in the era of Google)?
Do we include a layer that explains sources so people can see that many a map or engraving that has been used to show “this was Red Hook” is an illustration of a plan, an intention, and did not yet exist? That kind of discussion is so pertinent to the resiliency (flood prep) aspect to Red Hook WaterStories.
As a water-aware organization, we planned to talk about underground water issues since we started this work in 2005. After superstorm Sandy, information about the historic filling of creeks, swamp and shoreline is very timely. It's key to understand that so many historic maps of Red Hook show a street grid of intentions over “land” that remained water and swamp into the 1900s. On a lighter note, in honor of our ship cat Chiclet and her devoted followers, we decided to add cat WaterStories. History needs to be fun too!
We have a bottomless font of facts and tips about the history in advisor Norman Brouwer, a noted maritime historian and the person who built the South Street Seaport library. He also has a personal collection of thousands of maritime postcards which we hope to access for illustrations.
Julia Golia, Director of Public History at the Brooklyn Historical Society, told us about resources in their archives and was receptive to partnering as they move ahead with their waterfront museum and waterfront history website in partnership with Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Melinda Boros, an immigrant from Romania, brings us a fresh perspective in her role as consultant. Red Hook was one of the first neighborhoods she found after emigrating in 1998. It's abandonment was something she expected in Ceaucescu’s Romania not the USA, so she dove deep into historical research to come to understand it. Barbara Wye, a recent grad in Anthropology and Digital Media Design with experience in community organizing around preservation, is helping with outreach, event planning and graphic design.
Many Red Hook WaterStories involve Spanish speakers, especially since the first point of arrival for Puerto Ricans in NYC was ships docking at Red Hook piers. Intern Ivy Ann Rosado, a senior at Hunter College of Dominican heritage is helping with this research and other aspects of the project.
We are interviewing more people for more video and oral histories. Jenny Kane leads the oral history work. John Weaver handles the video camera. Our President Carolina Salguero, an award-winning photojournalist in her prior career, does some of the interviewing.
If you, or someone you know has some Red Hook WaterStories to share, get in touch! WaterStories include: all things working waterfront (shipbuilding/repair, ports/freight movement, creation of ports/changing shoreline, merchant marine/worked on boats, ferries), emigrated here by ship, worked at waterfront facilities, played/fished/relaxed on the waterfront, waterfront religious rituals, drownings, Sandy experiences, created an art work or piece of literature inspired by the Red Hook waterfront.
This project is supported in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and funding from NYC Councilman Carlos Menchaca.
PortSide NewYork won a White House “Champions of Change” award in April 2013 for our hurricane Sandy recovery work and honors shortly thereafter from the New York State Senate.
A huge part of our Sandy recovery work depended on the generous actions of three people PortSide honored at our fundraiser just before the two-year anniversary of the storm on October 28, 2014 at Hometown Bar-B-Que. More on them below.
Blogpost about the fundraiser in general
Blogpost about our special good neighbor award to IKEA
Victoria Hagman of Realty Collective
Victoria Hagman is principal of Realty Collective. So much of PortSide's recovery work after saving the MARY A. WHALEN was enabled by her generosity. Despite Victoria's home having been flooded along with the basement contents of her Red Hook business location, Victoria, without hesitation and no strings attached, allowed PortSide to use the 351 Van Brunt storefront as an aid station.
That offer included free electricity, heat, (and telephone and internet once those were back up.) This became Red Hook’s first small business recovery center, before the location at IKEA, hosting different groups. The storefront housed a gallery at that time, so PortSide had a stylish aid station, and the fact that the gallery was there is a testament to the trust that Victoria offered in making the space available. Several Sandy survivors commented that the white gallery space and bright art was uplifting.
Victoria helped set up a meeting for homeowners to get resilient rebuilding advice from Jim Garrison an architect from Pratt Institute and more. She continues to do work for Red Hook Sandy recovery and resiliency efforts via multiple groups by participating in NY Rising, in special events promoting red hook, a zoning working, being on the CB6 board and the Gowanus CAG, Ready Red Hook emergency response plan… Safe to say, that if there’s some group working to improve Red Hook, Victoria’s probably in it.
Danny Schneider of Schneider Electrical Contracting
Danny Schneider, the principal of Schneider Electrical Contracting in Park Slope, walked into PortSide's Sandy aid center "351" within days of the storm and offered free electrical services. He had heard through his wife's Facebook page that electricians were needed in Red Hook.
PortSide offered to coordinate his work, and word of the “electrician sign-up sheet” at 351 spread like wildfire in Red Hook. PortSide amalgamated requests by phone, email and text and conveyed them to Danny, who worked off the sign-up sheet.
Danny reports that he inspected and certified sixty buildings (which means many more families than sixty) for free, and repaired some two dozen for the cost of parts. When electrical parts were getting hard to source, he passed that info to PortSide who began hunting for parts in bulk. He battled hours of traffic each day to get to Red Hook; and in the middle of all that, his license was up for renewal so he battled traffic and lines downtown to get that renewed, and came back to help. He also did volunteer electrical repair in the Rockaways. Video of
Danny Schneider receiving his award He also speaks at the end of the video with honoree Victoria Hagman.
Peter Rothenberg, Historian & Curator, PortSide NewYork
Peter Rothenberg is PortSide’s Historian and Curator. His recovery work includes prevention, restoration of historic artifacts and direct service to Red Hook Sandy survivors, as well as reassuring ministrations to ship cat Chiclet. on our ship during the storm. See video of Peter receiving his award here.
Within the crew of rambunctious wits that is PortSide NewYork, Peter is a quiet, private worker and just the kind of steady guy you want around when a storm is coming and things are going to hit the fan.
Peter helped PortSide prepare the tanker Mary Whalen for Sandy for four and a half days, and he rode out the storm on the ship with PortSide Director Carolina Salguero and Chiclet.
Peter came armed with foul weather gear and four gallons of corn chowder left over from a Brooklyn Botanic Gardens event (after three days of corn chowder, that taste will forever be associated in our minds with the hurricane). He also came armed with a tender heart for Chiclet who had that knowledge animals have that something bad is coming and washed herself steadily for many hours. Peter made Chiclet a tuffet of pillows so she could see out the tankerman’s cabin porthole
During the storm, Peter joined Carolina working outside easing lines… putting a chimney cap on the stove… putting another line around the tarp covering the wheelhouse windows… and the epic job of tying together every dockline not already in use and dragging that through the water to the pier 265’ to the north. That line was to prevent the MARY A.WHALEN from floating up onto the pier, and maybe rolling or impaling herself on a bollard or wreaking any havoc. As the surge waters rose around him, Peter crawled on hands and knees across the jersey barriers along the bulkhead back to the ship.
After the storm. Peter helped rinse out and dry our flooded electrical transformer (which we are still using); and when he found out that Carolina Salguero had forgotten to get our collection of historic documents out of the shed, he set to drying out the collection. Within hours, he had every horizontal surface aboard the tanker covered in wet historic papers, interleaved with whatever we had at hand (sheets, towels, paper towels, wax paper). The stevedores' lounge in the shed was also covered with this project for several weeks.
Peter and Carolina came ashore and set up and ran the aid station at 351 Van Brunt for several days until Dan Goncharoff could make it in from Manhattan to join us. Peter spent much of his time at 351 helping people who did not know how to use computers apply for aid and do other work on the internet.
At our October 28, 2014 Fundraiser "Resiliency is our HOOK," PortSide went off script, as we are wont to do, and gave the Red Hook IKEA store a surprise award.
We presented IKEA with a "PortSide Good Neighbor Award for Sandy Recovery Work" in recognition of the varied, inventive and generous aid they provided for over a year.
We gave this award because we think IKEA deserves recognition at the community level for what their Brooklyn store did for Red Hook after Sandy.
We also gave IKEA the award because we are an educational organization, and we think there are some important lessons in the IKEA Sandy story.
WHAT’S TO LEARN HERE
1) IKEA was able to help because they built a resilient building in the first place with the store set high up on a second floor (the garage beneath the store is flood-able space) with elevated electricity and mechanicals. The rectangle of the building was also angled so that a corner faced the water so that it could part waves as does the bow of a ship. Given the surge in resiliency planning talk after Sandy, we think people should be looking at a design that worked and a company that thought to build that way nine years before Sandy.
2) The absence of reporting about IKEA’s large-scale, diverse and prolonged recovery work says something about the media. It shows how reporting clusters around themes, how reporting can be an echo chamber reiterating earlier stories. That a big box store could turn its cafeteria into and aid center and NOT have that generate a single feature story is a remarkable absence. The Fourth Estate can help the discussions of what worked and failed in the recovery period and is going to foster intelligent discussions of resiliency planning, so we ask them to look more closely.
3) Looking to the future, it is important when making recovery and resiliency plans to understand who really did what in the wake of Sandy. We encourage everyone (the Red Hook grassroots level, the consultant/planner/think tank contingent, elected officials and the media) to think about what gaps in reporting about Sandy may exist and research those gaps. PortSide raised awareness of some knowledge gaps in the article “PortSide NewYork & other hidden Sandy Stories” that we wrote at the invitation of the local paper, the Red Hook Star Revue.
Activities of the IKEA Brooklyn store in Red Hook
IKEA Brooklyn donated furniture to over 25 small businesses.
IKEA Brooklyn donated products directly to local non profits.
IKEA opened its Red Hook doors to National Disaster Organizations (FEMA & SBA, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and others which used half of the cafeteria and other spaces for their operations.
IKEA Brooklyn worked with Tunnel2Towers who brought about 16 box trucks full of donations for their co-workers and Red Hook neighbors for two weeks.
IKEA Brooklyn held a hiring event for displaced workers as a result of Sandy, offering temp work until their home businesses were back on their feet.
Additional work occurred at IKEA Elizabeth, Paramus, & Long Island with each store each working with their local communities.
IKEA provided $250,000 so that GlobalGreen could implement the “Solar for Sandy program” which installed solar power in the Red Hook Rec Center, so Red Hook has one off-the-grid community emergency center. The ribbon cutting was October 23, 2013 just before the first Sandy anniversary.
IKEA Brooklyn subsidized free Red Hook Summer Ferry in 2013 and 2014.
IKEA Brooklyn provided great support for their co-workers:
They brought in 3 counselors to help co-workers cope with the situation.
IKEA converted its large conference room into a makeshift shelter for co-workers and their families.
IKEA US organized a co-worker to co-worker donation program to help those IKEA co-workers who lost their homes or personal belongings.
IKEA received donations from other IKEA stores to give to our co-workers & their families (The store in Virginia sent a truck full of donations, driven up by two of their co-workers).
In addition, there were IKEA national initiatives
IKEA US donated over $500,000 in products for the NY/NJ area to disaster relief via the Red Cross.
IKEA donated furniture to firehouses, senior centers, & public libraries after Sandy
IKEA donated home furnishing to a Family Head Start/Early Learning facility in Brooklyn affected by Hurricane Sandy as part of the Life Improvement Project.
IKEA together with Tunnel2Towers:
donated furnishings for those in need in Staten Island and Brooklyn. Beds, mattresses, dining tables and chairs, chest of drawers, sofas. Value approximately $300K at retail dollars.
Product to be delivered to Staten Island and Gerritsen Beach locations.
Donations benefited between 500 to 1000 families in need.
IKEA teamed up with Save the Children and UPS to help refurnish 39 early childhood development centers in New York and New Jersey hit by Hurricane Sandy.
IKEA donated more than $100,000 worth of items, including bookcases, children's tables and chairs, cribs, desks and blankets to devastated child care centers Save the Children is helping to restore, as well as to the charity's Brooklyn field office. UPS is donating delivery services.
IKEA held special Sandy Recovery marketing events:
20% off Kitchens in January to help people rebuild
IKEA Brooklyn discounted moving boxes (Samla) in the months after Sandy
Sandy aid for Homeowner Repairs
Combo of $15,000 loan for 5 years at 2% and $15,000 grant = $30,000 with both.
We heard that the deadline for this is approaching. If you know or find out when it is, please post that as a comment!
Thank you Andrea Sansom for providing this info!
Raquel Colon, Senior Housing Counselor
Asian Americans for Equality CDF
111 Division Street
New York, N.Y. 10002
Tel: 212 964-2288
Fax: 212 964-6003
ALERT! Get info to FEMA by Wed 8/6/14.
FEMA realized that they need to revise the region2.coastal website and are looking for input and feedback. Send info directly to Heidi Carlin below.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org On Behalf Of Carlin, Heidi
Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 2:51 PM
Cc: Song Thomas
Subject: [Coat] We need your input on the Region 2 Coastal website by August 6, 2014
Dear COAT Members,
You are a valued member of a large team of professionals along the New Jersey and New York coast interested in promoting flood risk communication. We would really appreciate you taking a few minutes to review the www.region2coastal.com website, then fill out the attached questionnaire, and send back to Heidi.email@example.com by Wednesday, August 6, 2014.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Heidi M. Carlin, CFM
Senior Strategic Communications Specialist
*** here is the questionnaire ***
This questionnaire is intended for local community officials and other key stakeholders to determine usability of the www.region2coastal.com website. Your feedback is greatly appreciated!
1. What is your primary function? (Please circle)
a. Floodplain Manager
b. Building Official
c. Elected Official
d. Emergency Manager
f. Non-Profit Organization
g. Private Sector
h. Federal/State Government
i. Other, please describe: ____________________
For the following questions, please write your answer in the space provided. Use the back of this sheet if
you need more space and indicate which question you are writing about.
2. Which parts of the website are most useful to you?
3. What do you need the most from this website in terms of content now or in the future?
4. What would you like the website to do for you? How can the website assist with your job needs?
5. Is there information you need that you cannot find, or have difficulty finding, related to the coastal flood study, the NFIP, or related topics? If so, please list the specific topics.
6. What do you think the public needs the most from this website?
7. What do you think about the overall look and feel of the website? Do you have any suggestions for improving overall usability?
Amended 11/12/14 to include the following link and background about Eymund Diegel:
For related info, see our blogpost that includes Jim McMahon's Sandy flood map of Red Hook and info on how to assess your flood risk in future storms."
More info about Eymund Diegel:
- Eymund Diegel LinkedIn profile
- Eymund Diegel website
- Eymund Diegel profile in New York Times
- Eymund Diegel TEDx Talk
To further support flood prevention planning in Red Hook, we offer the following information.
The data and points of view in the following bullet points are courtesy of Eymund Diegel:
- General imagery of the Sandy Flood impacts available here
- Base map data showing where flood waters are likely to come from next time Blue lines show general direction of drainage flows, and in reverse, the likely path of rising flood waters. Green shows the original tidal marshes. Sandy essentially flooded anyone who built on the former tidal marshes.
- 1844 Coastal Survey showing original sand and mud banks off Red Hook whose alteration from harbor dredging is affecting how storm surges impact Red Hook
- The reconstruction of the historic bay bottom, in particular it's now damaged and altered offshore banks, should be studied to see how reconstructing some of these protective features may help reduce Red Hook flood damage the next time.
- I am attaching some ideas from the excellent work being done by SCAPE landscape architects, (slide show above) exploring how we remove soil from some areas (eg Red Hook Park) to recreate a better flood holding basin, and use those soils to create surge breakers further offshore. All expensive and controversial, but we need to start this dialogue as we are only going to get more flood events, and the next one will be worse than Sandy. We got off lucky because we didn't have heavy rains.
- I did a 2013 Sandy Flood saline impacted tree survey for the Parks Department
- The most impacted trees (London Planes and Dawn Redwoods) were typically on "topographic sinks" where salt water sat for longer, affecting soil quality and damaging non salt tolerant trees. These "sinks" generally correspond with the location of the historic mill ponds that were landfilled and subsided.
- The planning recommendation I made to the City is that street grading needs to be improved to allow flood waters to recede more rapidly. This recommendation will contradict some of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenways Green Infrastructure work (eg on Columbia Street) where storm water is being diverted to pond swales and holding tanks to reduce combined sewer overflows. Both (flood management and green infrastructure sewer overflow reduction are good goals and should be supported. One compromise strategy may be sluice gates, like those used by the original millers of Red Hook to better manage tide waters.
Brooklyn Greenway Stormwater Study for West Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn includes ideas to consider
Red Hook NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program
Realty Collective, 351 Van Brunt St
Sat 2/22 & Sun 2/23 11am – 6pm
Only a few months of planning remain in the Red Hook NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program and the Committee is excited to engage the Red Hook community in the critical final phase of the program. The upcoming public meeting will be an important opportunity to gather community input on the top Priority Projects that may be recommended for funding with Red Hook’s $3M CDBG-DR allocation. We encourage everyone to attend this event and have your voice heard. At this event the Red Hook Committee will share ideas that its members have heard from you to date and answer questions you may have about the program and possible resiliency projects. Details for the event are on the attached flyer and as follows:
Experts will be on hand to discuss specific topics on Saturday and Sunday at the following times:
12pm-1pm: Infrastructure & Coastal Resiliency
1pm-2pm: Social Resiliency & Economic Development
Red Hook Resiliency Innovations event Sat 2/22, 3-6pm
Guest speakers to include: HUD Rebuild by Design, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) and Architecture for Humanity, and others.
We also have a few newsworthy pieces from the past few months to share:
- The Committee held its 11th meeting on Monday, February 10th in which we discussed benefits, feasibility, and considerations of possible priority resiliency projects.
- Youth from the Red Hook Initiative/South Brooklyn Community High School film production program completed a video documenting the November 19th Public Engagement at the Miccio Center. This will be featured at the public meeting as well.
- On December 18th, the Red Hook Planning Committee partnered with Good Shepherd’s Services at the Beacon Center to engage teens in the NY Rising program. At this event, teens brainstormed with planners and Committee representatives about resiliency challenges and solutions for Red Hook.
- The Committee applauds the incredible news from Governor Cuomo’s Office of a $200M New York City & New York State combined commitment for the development of an integrated flood protection system in Red Hook. This announcement provides great momentum to our work and is proof that Red Hook can and will become a more resilient community.
We hope to see everyone at the upcoming public event.
As always, thank you for your continued engagement in the Red Hook NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program.
NY Rising Red Hook Planning Committee & Committee Co-Chairs
Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nystormrecovery
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NYStormRecovery
Red Hook "Sandy Helpdesk" Feb 8-10, 2014 - pick a time slot on one of the three days and free resiliency, rebuilding advice from architects and building trades professionals. See page 2 of flyer
Feb 8-10, 2014 Asesora acerca de códigos de construcción zonificación y diseño en vecindarios afectados por Sandy para propietarios de edificios mas Informacion
Red Hook resiliency workshop Thurs 2/6/14 7pm at Hometown BBQ "to talk more generally about building innovative resiliency approaches people are developing in Red Hook."
Volunteer building trades professionals wanted in general (not just for Sandy Helpdesk). Please get involved!
This information comes from an email from Pratt which we copy below.
Pratt Center is working with Architecture for Humanity, Enterprise, the NY chapter of the AIA, and also with City agencies and with local partners (Margert Community Development Corp. in Rockaway; Fifth Avenue Committee and Red Hook Volunteers in Red Hook) to pilot the Sandy Design Helpdesk. The Helpdesk offers free consultations with architects and other professionals to residents, business owners, and building owners on Sandy-related design, code, and zoning issues – we’re also adding other experts based on what we hear from local partners, so in Red Hook there will also be insurance and mortgage advisors available.
Obviously with a one-time consult, the volunteer architects can’t provide much more than suggested design solutions to code/zoning/insurance problems, and maybe a freehand sketch – but we’re finding that this can be pretty helpful, especially for people who aren’t eligible for major assistance like Build it Back, or who are trying to figure out their options while they wait to find out where they stand.
So the Red Hook Help Desk will be February 8-10 (a flyer is attached)– but in Red Hook, there’s been so much thinking done (about the many local and challenging problems) that we are adding a workshop that will take place before the Help Desk, to talk more generally about building innovative resiliency approaches people are developing in Red Hook. The workshop event will take place on Thursday Feb 6th, at 7pm at HomeTown.
We’re also interested in adding to our volunteer pool. Volunteers get free training from NYC Department of Buildings and Department of City Planning staff on post-Sandy zoning and building code changes (and probably continuing education credits via the AIA); they are also covered by Architecture for Humanity’s liability insurance and it’s pretty-well-tested waiver. People who volunteered in Rockaway last October found it to be informative and rewarding, so if you’re willing to forward the Volunteer poster along to anyone in your professional networks, we’d much appreciate that too.