Portify as we fortify: maritime & resiliency, MARAD & FEMA

Portify as we fortify: maritime & resiliency, MARAD & FEMA

I am concerned that superstorm Sandy could drown a good idea. By that I mean, that the focus on protecting NYC from water could prevent NYC from "activating the waterways" with greater and more diverse uses such as advocated by Vision 2020, the city's second comprehensive (and great) waterfront plan. "Activation" is urban planner speak for use them more.

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PortSide NewYork Awarded Two-Year REDC NYSCA Grant

PortSide NewYork is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a two-year New York City Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) grant for $49,500. We just commenced the contract.   The allocation comes from the New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA) and supports culture as economic development.  REDC grants are very competitive, and we won the first time we applied!  We also broke a glass ceiling -- maritime activity has not often been embraced as cultural activity.  

PortSide activities cited in our grant application include:

Preservation programs and internships with WHSAD, a fabulous CTE (career and technical educational) high school, what used to be called a vocational school.  Read what our summer 2015 WHSAD interns thought of it, in their own words.

Job training program with the Painters Union District Council 9 (DC9) who are the MARY A. WHALEN as a training site. 

Our WaterStories cultural programs which also include our Visiting Vessel program and TankerTours of the MARY A. WHALEN

Red Hook WaterStories a history, mapping, cultural tourism and resiliency project that tells the history of Red Hook, Brooklyn via a water theme.  In microcosm, Red Hook WaterStories tells New York City's maritime story. 

Our role on the Sunset Park Task Force, where we are represented by our President Carolina Salguero. The first job of the Task Force was helping the NYC EDC shape the RFP for South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.  Carolina advocated for maritime uses, for avoiding an RFP that had so many proscriptions it would deter respondents, and pushed to allow maritime uses that were originally not going to be allowed (ferries and historic ships).  Here is a Task Force description from the NYC EDC:

  • "Since July 2015, NYCEDC has worked with Councilmember Menchaca and community partners to establish and convene a Sunset Park Task Force, comprised of representatives from local community groups, businesses, and elected officials.  
    • The goals of the Task Force are to:
      • Maximize the potential of the Sunset Park waterfront in a sustainable and just manner to serve as an economic hub of traditional and innovating industries, including job creation and workforce development;
      • Establish and promote regional and local priorities for efficient goods movement;
      • Balance community access and needs across public and private initiatives and development; and 
      • Advocate for preserving and expanding Sunset Park's industrial, manufacturing, and maritime businesses, as well as nonprofit organizations and auxiliary/amenity businesses supporting the local community."

Our work on Red Hook's NY Rising Committee. Carolina Salguero was one of the original appointees to the committee by Governor Cuomo's office. She made significant contributions to the final plan submitted to NYS for the $3MM in funding.  We are pleased that her advocacy for maritime activation made it into the NY Rising plan and was subsequently picked up by the NYC EDC in their planning for Red Hook's IFPS (Integrated Flood Protection System). The Red Hook community strongly supporting maritime activation as a key value to ensure in any flood protection scheme: "residents said they wanted to encourage the development of the maritime industry and businesses to set up shop in the neighborhood."  Carolina's research and writing for the committee is supported by work done by PortSide staff and interns. 

PortSide NewYork & hidden Sandy stories, ours & others

At the two-year anniversary of hurricane Sandy, PortSide NewYork is telling our Sandy story, a story largely hidden, like so many in Red Hook.  We believe our story offers hope and guidance for the future. That’s because our maritime perspective explains how we knew to prepare for Sandy, made us available to help Red Hook’s Sandy recovery, and is a knowledge base we want to share to make you safer from floods in the future.

PortSide NewYork was founded to help change awareness and use of NYC’s BLUEspace, the water part of the waterfront.  New York City’s area is one third water, and contains 29 islands.  PortSide’s goal is to create a place that will showcase what NYC’s waterfront can really be.  Our ship, the tanker MARY A. WHALEN, is an ambassador in that goal and our endeavor to bring the community ashore and the community afloat, the maritime community, closer together.  Here’s our Sandy story:

Please help us continue this kind of resiliency work and reporting. Buy a ticket to our fundraiser Tues 10/28/14 or donate

Sandy prevention: Saving a historic ship

Thursday, 10/25/12, 1pm, Sandy minus 4.5 days, PortSide’s crew said good-bye to a class trip of first graders visiting the MARY A. WHALEN and started hurricane prep, punching our way thru the list of what we did for Irene the year before. 

During the next four and a half days, we traded strategies with historic ships and modern workboats around the harbor. We all laid in food, water and fuel; tested generators; and moved our boats to safer places. PortSide curator Peter Rothenberg, shipcat Chiclet and Director Carolina Salguero are storm crew on the MARY A. WHALEN.  

The maritime community obsessively followed marine weather reports. “Grim installments are burned in my memory,” said Carolina Salguero. “At Sandy minus 1.5 days, we learned an 8-foot surge is coming.  At Sandy minus a few hours, I am readying for a 12 foot surge.”

Ashore in Red Hook, things were different. Sunday night, Sandy minus 24 hours, an email blast went out telling Red Hook which bars will be open and what movies are being screened.  Carolina worried, “Is the community ashore prepping for Sandy? Has anyone evacuated?” PortSide’s maritime world felt separated from neighbors ashore by more than the containerport fence. 

Peter Rothenberg was valiant. “When Carolina got word that the storm surge was expected to be 12 or 13 feet high, I had visions of the MARY tipping over onto the pier and emphatically agreed with the idea of securing a preventer line to the next pier 265 feet away.”

Due to preparations, our ship MARY WHALEN safely rode out the surge with our office aboard, enabling every form of Sandy assistance we delivered to Red Hook afterwards.  

Peter and Carolina came ashore on Wednesday afternoon to discover a devastated Red Hook, and immediately decided that PortSide’s urgent search for a publicly-accessible homeport was flooded to a standstill and that we would help Red Hook until waterfront sites recovered enough for us to resume real estate talks. 

Appreciation from Red Hook

Adam Armstrong, Pioneer Street resident and writer of the blog “View from the Hook” describes what happened next, “PortSide came ashore, quickly set up shop at 351 Van Brunt Street and proceeded to make a base - a visible and accessible storefront -  from where they could reach out, provide information, resources and assistance to their land lubbing neighbors, most of us who were desperately trying to recover from the immense damage that had been done to our homes and our unique, waterfront neighborhood.  Carolina Salguero and her team of volunteers co-ordinated clean-out crews and tradesmen to go and physically assist our residents, and they gathered and disseminated information about anything they though would be helpful - FEMA, legal assistance, insurance matters, Con Edison, National Grid, the Rapid Repairs program, etc., and provided a connection to our representatives in government. On many of these matters, PortSide organized meetings and reached out to our residents, and in the case of our street - Pioneer Street – Carolina co-ordinated the creation of a comprehensive contact list so that everyone on our block could share information and provide support to each other. It was - and still is - a wonderful way for the residents of Pioneer Street to keep in touch and get updates on our street's recovery.” 

What made that work possible was the selflessness of three people PortSide is honoring at our fundraiser on Tuesday, October 28 at Hometown. Victoria Hagman donated Realty Collective’s storefront and utilities at 351 Van Brunt, despite suffering extensive flood damage herself.  Park Slope electrician Danny Schneider walked into 351 and offered free labor. PortSide coordinated his work, and Danny reports that he inspected and certified 60 buildings and repaired some two dozen for just the cost of parts. 

Our third honoree, our Curator Peter Rothenberg worked both ends of PortSide’s recovery story, the prevention that saved the MARY WHALEN and the aid work after the storm of setting up and running 351.

Peter, Carolina and Dan Goncharoff of PortSide ran 351 for a month and then continued a virtual aid station and other recovery efforts out of view. In April 2013, PortSide won a White House award for Sandy recovery work, and in July, the New York State Senate honored our work.  

PortSide work transitions from recovery to resiliency

Carolina began attending resiliency conferences. Summer 2013, she was asked to become a member of Red Hook’s NY Rising committee to create local resiliency plans.  PortSide staff and interns did research supporting the committee (which includes bone, two, three, and four and several pages on our website) during the committee's eight months of work. 

One of Carolina’s NY Rising goals was to inject maritime issues into the discussion, hoping the State NY Rising process could influence a state agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), so waterfront infrastructure in NYC can be more repaired and built for both resiliency and everyday operations.  Carolina also proposed the solar-powered emergency lights for NYCHA housing which are in Red Hook’s plan and are being considered for other NYCHA developments. “I think the NY Rising committee work is good. Red Hook distinguished itself for what we put in our plan,” says Carolina; but plans are hidden assets for most people until they are built. 

Looking back on PortSide’s two years of Sandy-related work, for the sake of Red Hook’s planning better for the future, we would like to talk about some hidden Sandy stories of need and success we found in the course of our recovery and resiliency work.

Hidden Sandy stories of need and success

PortSide’s recovery work helped many people who don’t get media coverage and whose cases deserve more attention:  People without an advocacy group, without on-line fundraising.  People who aren’t comfortable using computers and needed Peter’s help to complete digital forms. People in mixed-use buildings that don’t fit FEMA homeowner funding guidelines. Renters who are not in NYCHA, and so are not in the media and political spotlights.  Seniors, immigrants. People whose divorce, estate and tax situations complicated filing for aid and kept them from speaking up in public meetings.  People who are private about their needs in general.

We learned that some affordable flood prevention was possible: The owners of Metal & Thread used a few hundred dollars of hardware store supplies to keep water from coming into their storefront and through the sidewalk hatch -- though their cellar suffered water leaking through the foundation from the empty lot next door.  Some tugboat crews saved their cars by moving them from Erie Basin to the second floor garage at Home Depot, above surge level.

IKEA’s contribution needs more attention. IKEA gave and gave and got no media coverage until the Sandy’s one year anniversary when their $250,000 investment in solar powering the Rec Center netted some articles.  

The power of connecting the community ashore and community afloat

Inland Red Hook is so disconnected from maritime Red Hook that the latter’s role in recovery is not discussed.  For example, Jim Tampakis’ business Marine Spares was significant in pumping out the Brooklyn Battery/Hugh L. Carey tunnel.  Vane Brothers provided hoses to the Hess fuel terminal at the foot of Court Street so home heating oil could be delivered. Both firms did that despite flood damage to their offices and mechanical shops.

PortSide feels the gap between inland resident and mariner is acute when we heard residents say “They told us to evacuate for Irene but nothing happened” and “I didn’t know there were two high tides a day.”  We conclude that people ashore poorly understand marine weather reports and don’t know where to get them.  

In comparison, mariners understand how to live with water, and how to prepare for hurricanes. They do the post-flood work of pumping tunnels, building ferry terminals and running emergency ferries, fixing bulkheads, clearing the harbor of debris so ships can import products as diverse as fuel, orange juice, new cars, bananas.  

To bring maritime voices to people ashore, PortSide plans programs to help folks develop coastal living and flood prep skills, such as educational events with actual mariners, exhibits, and creating a children’s book with our shipcat Chiclet as a resiliency narrator talking about riding out Sandy on the tanker.

Andrea Sansom, who founded the Red Hook flood mitigation Google group, sees the need, “We all love living at the water, and PortSide is here to help bring understanding to living with the water.”

Our ship is a great tool for this. Our tanker MARY A. WHALEN is now a maritime symbol of resiliency, in contrast to the tanker JOHN B. CADDELL, Staten Island’s symbol of Sandy, which went aground and had to be scrapped.

PortSide’s own Sandy damages

PSNY-Sandy-slide (9).jpg

A hidden Sandy story PortSide feels acutely is that of our own Sandy damages.  An electrical short left us facing thirty-five nights of relying on flashlights and one 15-amp extension cord attached to a little gas generator.  Sandy damaged the Sheepshead Bay house of our staffer John Weaver keeping him home for many months.  Everything PortSide had off the ship (antique crane, 60’ dock, electrical transformer, restoration engine parts, historic artifacts and documents, special event equipment and furniture) was flood-damaged or floated away. Our FEMA worksheet totals some $340,000, and we are still deep in that paper chase, starting six months late because we were misinformed that we don’t qualify. 

A massive Sandy effect on PortSide was the stalling of our urgent search for a homeport.  We need a place to fulfill our mission, earn revenue, and run programs. Resumption of real estate negotiations took many, many more months than we expected, and remains a major strain on PortSide.

PortSide is now focused on the future while celebrating the good in recovery. Come join us in that spirit at our fundraiser on Tuesday, October 28 at Hometown Bar-B-Que. Join us in honoring our partners in Red Hook’s Sandy recovery: Victoria Hagman of Realty Collective, Danny Schneider the electrician, and Peter Rothenberg.  Wear festive MARY WHALEN red and white.  We look forward to talking with you there and, going forward, continuing the work we’ve collectively begun after Sandy in understanding our waterfront in all its complexity and potential!

FEMA needs input to Region 2 Coastal website - due 8-16-14

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: coat-bounces@marine.rutgers.edu On Behalf Of Carlin, Heidi
Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 2:51 PM
To: coat@marine.rutgers.edu
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.carlin@urs.com by Wednesday, August 6, 2014.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Heidi M. Carlin, CFM
Senior Strategic Communications Specialist
URS Corporation
Office/Mobile: 410-725-7414
Email: Heidi.Carlin@urs.com

*** 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
e. Academic
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?

From 1934 to our 2013 White House award: PortSide board member John Weaver's trips to DC

A year ago today, some of the PortSide NewYork crew and colleagues traveled to Washington, DC to receive a White House "Champions of Change" award for our Sandy Recovery work in Red Hook, Brooklyn. 

John Weaver

Much is made of youth culture these days, but at PortSide we have developed a deep appreciation for senior culture thanks to the wisdom and long perspective offered to us by people such as John Weaver, one of our board members. John's connection to PortSide is through the tanker MARY A. WHALEN. John's father in law Alf Dyrland was captain of the MARY from her rechristening in 1958 to 1978. 

John has had many careers in his life. On his first acting gig after graduating from Columbia he shared the stage with Katherine Hepburn.  He was in Greenwich Village when it was The Village and met Ed Koch when he was just a real estate lawyer.  John went to Woodstock, drove Diane Arbus to her photo shoots because she didn’t have a car, and traveled the country as actor and stage manager.  John’s work as a director in live TV was notable for his creative approach to the use of multiple cameras, and he was the Producer/Director of the first season of "Like It Is" a public affairs show focusing on issues relevant to the African-American community that ran from 1968 to 2011 until its host died. Here is what he wrote about PortSide's trip to DC in 2013:

It’s April 23rd, 2013 and Carolina Salguero, Peter Rothenberg and I have just arrived in Washington DC after four hours on the BOLT Bus. Union Station is Grand Central large but not Grand Central dirty. We all remark on how clean it looks feels and smells.

We wend our way to the street and the line for a taxi. No pushing, shoving, bumping. It’s all so very civilized and pleasant. As we exit out into the fresh air Carolina asks me:

“When was the last time you were in Washington, John?”

I replied: “I believe it was maybe 1934. My parents brought us down here for the traditional Easter Egg rolling on the White House lawn

This did get a laugh along with a few strangers turning their heads to see the relic who had just said that. Then it was our turn to climb into a cab and head for our lodgings. I recalled that I actually had been to Washington more recently, on two separate trips. One was on the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King’s address, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. “I have a dream” resonates for me today as if I am hearing it again, for the first time. I traveled that day on a bus with a delegation from Actors’ Equity Association to support the Civil Rights movement that Dr. King was leading. I sat on the steps a few feet behind and to the left of Dr. King.

Some years later, 1968, I was once again on a bus. This time it was with a group from the 15th St Meeting of the Friends, Quakers, from Manhattan. We had traveled to Washington to protest the Vietnam War. Highlights of that trip: sleeping on the floor of the Smithsonian, We had left New York at 6am and all of us found someplace, indoors, to take a nap. Next getting to experience tear gas on an open field…Mr. Nixon did not want us to feel that he welcomed our presence. And last, when we returned to the location where our bus was meant to be, there was no bus. Earlier arrivals from our group told us that, when they got there, the driver told them he wasn’t going to drive any “Commies” back to New York and he drove off. We found our way to Union Station in tears, literally, and got a train home.

This time around, Union Station welcomed me and I was here, In Washington DC, as the most very proud member of the PortSide delegation on the occasion of PortSide being honored as a Champion of Change for the work done on behalf Hurricane Sandy relief.

We were invited to the White House where our President resides as one step, one giant step forward toward the realization of Dr. King’s dream for us all.

Waterfront Assets info for NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program (CRP) Red Hook Committee

Our Director Carolina Salguero is on the Red Hook committee of the NYS resiliency planning process "CRP."  That process has stressed that the planning exercise is about more than recovery, or flood prevention and mitigation.  It is supposed to take a long and broad view which includes economic resiliency years into the future.

This emphasis prompted Carolina Salguero to make some suggestions regarding Red Hook's waterfront assets, both their potential and the impediments to reaching their potential. She wrote a document to cover what was not being said in the CRP discussion that seemed essential to get into "Needs and Opportunities" document that was due on 10/28, a document that was first described as "a conceptual plan for Red Hook" and then later as a guide for issues to be discussed.  PortSide shares that document below.

Many of the themes about policy, permits and pier design reflect citywide issues, so this blogpost has relevance beyond Red Hook and beyond Sandy issues.

The document is marked DRAFT as it was done in a rush due to a NYS deadline of 10/28 for that  "Needs and Opportunities" document,. DRAFT signifying that it will be updated. After discussion at PortSide, we decided it was important to get this information out and shared without further delay given the pace of the CRP process -- also given the pace of the Bill de Blasio transition team. 

PortSide, along with many other waterfront operators and advocates hopes that the impediments described will be lifted. NYC created a great road map for activating the waterfront, and the water part of the waterfront, in its new comprehensive waterfront plan "Vision 2020."  Many of the changes proposed here would move the city towards fulfilling the great promise of that plan.

Download document Carolina Salguero waterfront suggestions for Red Hook CRP Committee 10/23/13

Some excerpts

“Understanding Red Hook waterfront options means understanding a lot of arcane regulation and policy, so I have written up the following observations and suggestions to help Red Hook committee members of the CRP who are not waterfront people. “

“Red Hook is a peninsula. Water is therefore our greatest resiliency challenge due to the risk of floods, but water is also the defining feature of this place and our greatest economic asset.”

“If nothing else, consider the clout: the largest land owner in Red Hook looks to be the Port Authority, and Red Hook’s relationship with the Port could be grown and improved. The Committee should be sitting down with the major property owners.”

“Understanding and capturing the potential of Red Hook’s waterfront involves understanding and engaging a constituency that is not usually at the table in Red Hook planning discussions, the maritime community.”

Action Items

Use CRP to improve NYS & NYC policy regarding pier design & use:

1.    Change State Dept of Environmental Conservation (DEC) policy regarding permits to install or repair a pier
2.    Change NYC policy, to go beyond just “access to the waterfront” to promote use of the water itself.
3.    Change NYC policy regarding pier design & management

Longer Term Improvement Opportunities

o    PANYNJ
o    Brooklyn Cruise Terminal Shed
o    Brooklyn Cruise Terminal Parking Lot
o    Atlantic Basin
            Reality Check: limitations on Atlantic Basin waterspace use
o    Valentino Park
o    A Home for PortSide NewYork

Appendices

A.    A Home for PortSide NewYork
B.    DEC Impediments to pier repair and construction

Testimony to New York City Council
Committee on Waterfronts
Re: 6/15/05 Regulatory Obstacles to Waterfront Development

C.    Frequent impediments to boat use of piers in NYC