2016 year in photos at PortSide NewYork!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.
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
By Carolina Salguero
This blogpost is a response to Curbed’s 1/28/16 article about Red Hook which carried only parts of several long conversations with Nathan Kensinger. Here is more of what I said so that my position, and PortSide NewYork’s, on changing Red Hook is better rendered.
The Curbed article looks back; my waterfront work, from my photojournalism to founding the forward-looking non-profit PortSide, focuses on the growing maritime sector, making change and shaping the future. At PortSide, we use history to further Red Hook's development. All images, except the rendering above, are copyright Carolina Salguero.
How I would frame the future of Red Hook?
Red Hook has evolved from a place perceived by 1990’s national media as a hopeless crack den to a peninsula that in 2014 was the announced recipient of a "first in the nation" plan for urban flood protection.. Hello IFPS! That is our future, example to the nation.
I understood Est4te Four to be the core of Nathan’s intended story. Thus, I said that, given that Red Hook was going to change, hugely change, it was better that we have Est4te Four, with a curated vision and their standards, than have the building boom of “luxury”’ housing such as occurred on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope/Gowanus. That left us with a hodgepodge of dreadful buildings like the yellow brick one looming over the historic Old Stone House.
We all fall in love with the Red Hook we first met
Yes, we talked nostalgia. We talked a lot about Red Hook changes and my personal markers for the stages of evolution.
This led me to remark that we all seem to fall in love with the Red Hook of our first contact, and the point of that remark was not to say that my first experience of 1997 (as a visitor, I moved here in 1999) was better or more valid than that of someone arriving in 2002 or the 1980s, but to convey how Red Hook triggers a deep love that is very nostalgia based.
All newcomers to Red Hook love Red Hook, that’s why they come (you don’t come here for the great transportation), and their love starts in, and connects to, the era they arrive.
I said that was one of the great things about my being involved with Red Hook, it has an engaged community that cares about this place.
My view of Red Hook is so NOT nostalgia-driven that I had a lot positive to say about IKEA. IKEA’s Sandy recovery work (done with Swedish modesty that did not tout what they did) was so significant that PortSide honored them for it.
I said the IKEA waterfront esplanade was very well designed, one of the best in the city. I said all that despite saying that closing the graving dock was a policy mistake by the city and a personal loss to me; it was my photographic muse for 5 years. I had unfettered, permitted access to it and could come by land or sea, day or night; and I had the run of the old shipyard too.
NYCHA, The Red Hook Houses and the new Red Hook
The Curbed piece concludes with the quote “"It's not going to be the same Red Hook for a lot of the people who live here now."”’ whereas I talked quite a bit about the people who are likely to stay in Red Hook, the overwhelming majority of Red Hook’s residents, eg the residents of the NYCHA development in the Red Hook Houses East and Red Hook Houses West. I said that for all the problems faced by those folks, they had a large measure of residential stability.
I said that one of my hopes for Red Hook was that, with all the change, wealth and resources coming to the Red Hook around the Houses, more resources would be focused on helping those NYCHA residents. Some of that was visible in the great number of homegrown non-profits on this small peninsula. I said that entrenched, urban poverty was a tough challenge, but that we should try. It is certainly part of PortSide’s mission.
Same old, same old with new people
I said that even with all the new people moving in, much stayed the same: Red Hook the close knit community where gossip and rumor are big. Gary Baum, the friend of the pick-up truck sledding mentioned by Nathan, used to joke that if you sneezed, in 10 minutes people know that 7 blocks away.
All of which led me to remark that what I wish Red Hook would get better at research and negotiation since so many of our land use issues were characterized by “did you hear that?!!” shock that was not necessarily based on fact; and that, as a community, we had yet to negotiate benefits from any major real estate development. Segue to NY Rising, a change in that dynamic.
NY Rising and the future of Red Hook
Once Nathan and I got off the nostalgia beat, I spent a lot of time talking about NY Rising, my voice starting to crack with emotion when I talked about how beautiful it was for me to see that the disaster of Sandy had germinated something that augured such good for Red Hook.
NY Rising is a NYS program, and its Red Hook committee members (including me) were appointed by the State to craft a resiliency plan for $3MM in funds the state would provide.
It was a helluva lot of work over some 9 months, but we had the benefits of the region’s best consultants, paid by the state, to support the effort. I said it was a new model worth remembering: government paid to give grassroots community members planning resources (as opposed to Community Boards in gentrifying areas that are overwhelmed by trying to respond to Land Use permits and variances and that are not funded in proportion to that workload. Hint, hint, NYC.)
Official NYS webpage for NY Rising statewide
Official NYS webpage for NY Rising Red Hook committee
Blog of Red Hook’s NY Rising committee
Final resiliency plan of NY Rising Red Hook committee, shorter executive summary and mini brochure version.
Red Hook's NY Rising committee has gone well beyond the State-appointed mission. We proposed programs exceeding that budget. The committee has already sought and secured outside funding to further some projects, including the microgrid. The committee has continued to meet and is becoming a non-profit to further work in Red Hook. It is also looking to expand members. GET INVOLVED! It sought the support of the Municipal Art Society to host the Red Hook Summit about resiliency projects in Red Hook.
COME TO THE RED HOOK SUMMIT! It is Saturday, 1/30/16, 10am – 1pm at Summit Academy, 27 Huntington Street. Full disclosure, I am presenting for PortSide there.
I talked to Nathan about my role on NY Rising where I tried to raise NYCHA issues (I proposed the solar-powered emergency lights in the final plan) and my big focus was activation of the waterfront (the waterways, really) and ensuring that the wisdom of NYC’s 2011 waterfront plan Vision 2020 (embrace and activate the waterways!) was not drowned by Sandy (water is destructive, let’s build walls!).
As a result, I was very moved when at the IFPS (Integrated Flood Protection Study) meeting last week, community members very strongly supported the idea of waterfront access and maritime activation that were on the sheet of NY Rising “values” had the room discuss.
Listening to the IFPS room, with the report-back from each break-out table echoing PortSide values for the waterfront, I felt that I, and PortSide staff and interns, had really made a difference preparing advocacy papers, blogposts, webpages, walk-to-ferry-landings studies, etc for NY Rising, all of which is shared on our website. Our NY Rising work and waterfront vision was embraced by the room without our having spoken up for it in that room. Given that the IFPS is a “first in the nation” program, the eyes of the world are on us in Red Hook, so it was powerful for me to see PortSide’s harbor advocacy work picked up by the IFPS process.
Changes in Red Hook – growth of maritime sector
The thrust of Nathan’s Curbed piece is displacement, new replacing the old, but I also talked about what NYC’s real estate driven press (Ahoy, Curbed!) does not cover very much: the growth of the maritime sector. So I rattled off some Red Hook increases in maritime activity since I moved here in 1999: New York Water Taxi (a new company, and headquartered in Red Hook), Vane Brothers tug and barge company expanding two times beyond the footprint of the old Ira S. Bushey yard at the foot of Court Street (where the MARY A. WHALEN started work in 1938) to GBX and Port Authority piers, a new cruise terminal, and Red Hook Container Terminal expanded business (despite hiccups of lawsuits, Sandy and more), and the founding of PortSide NewYork, to create a maritime hub that would foster the community revitalization of Red Hook along a water and maritime theme, combine working waterfront, public access and community development and be a test lab and advocate for expand that model harborwide.
PortSide NewYork services to a future Red Hook
I told Nathan that in September, 2015, PortSide asked the EDC for the space inside the Pier 11 warehouse next to the ship that had been promised to us in 2009, 2010, and 2011 – space that the EDC had also promised to the community as the home for PortSide.
I concluded by sending Nathan two renderings of what PortSide plans for Pier 11, a forward-looking vision for Red Hook. Here is what we are working towards! #GetOnBoard and join us!
2015: the search is over. The future is now.
2015 was a year of major milestones and growth. See, read and feel it below.
The pivot point was the exhilarating move on May 29 in the video at right.
Our new site strengthens our ability to fulfill the PortSide vision of combining the working waterfront, public access and community development.
Please donate now and support our momentum!
The public access at our new home enables us to grow our educational programs. We hopped on it right away with outreach such as our Open House for Educators Week and researching new curricula. We gained new partners in the World Monuments Fund, the Williamsburgh HS of Architecture and Design (WHSAD), and Behind the Book. We had three summer interns from WHSAD and two college interns from Spain. We created a curriculum for simple machines aboard the MARY A. WHALEN and taught Hurricane Sandy & resiliency to elementary school kids. For adult job training, we furthered our relationship with the painters' union District Council 9.
WaterStories cultural programs
We secured $20,000 in funding from Councilman Carlos Menchaca to support our Red Hook WaterStories cultural tourism, placemaking and resiliency project. We were invited to join a historic ship flotilla that celebrated Cunard's 175th anniversary and got community members in the parade via our partner, the historic tug CORNELL. We curated and ran a great POW! weekend with TankerTours, TankerTime and gifted flamenco jazz musicians who have offered to make this an annual event. We produced a distinctive multimedia history night with Norwegian Red Hook WaterStories with bluegrass musicians from Norway, history speakers, and vintage video. Out shipcat Chiclet has become an attraction, with a growing fan club of regulars who come by to see her.
Volunteers repainted three cabins! Thank you, volunteers! Three summer interns from WHSAD did enormous work restoring the teak rail around the wheelhouse. The painters' union District Council 9 will repaint the exterior as a training excercise with paint donated by International Paint. DC9 scoped out the job, did some prep work, and laid plans for painting in 2016.
History: research, acquisitions & programs
History runs through so many of our programs: all events on the ship, programs such as our Norwegian Red Hook WaterStories night, info content we share on our Facebook and Twitter, our blogposts such the one about the important sale of slave ERIE ship in Atlantic Basin which marked an important step in the end of slavery in the USA. In 2015, we added considerably to Mary A. Whalen history: more former crew members found us (thanks to our new home): Engineer Bill Siebert who works on a Vane tug and retired, 86-year old, former relief captain Thomas J. Smith. Captain Smith donated his maritime papers to us, and we have taped hours of interviews with him. A big boost in the history department was the visit by Scott Gellatly and his wife Pat. They ran a waterborne fuel transportation company years ago and almost bought the MARY. The Gellatlys donated photos, recorded hours of interview and brought along retired engineer Bryan Sinram, another trove of history, who had worked for Eklof, the company that ran the MARY WHALEN for years. Walter Barschow donated the folk painting of the MARY aground in the slide show above and gave us leads on Red Hook WaterStories about his family that ran a scrap yard for decades, founded by his German immigrant grandmother. Karen Dyrland and John Weaver donated another large cache of photos, letters and documents from Alf Dyrland, Captain of the MARY from 1958-1978. And, our home, the historic tanker MARY A. WHALEN turned 77!
PortSide continued to inspire filmmakers, painters and multi-media artists. Most find us because they can now see us. The MARY A. WHALEN is visible from our new friends and partners Pioneer Works which leads to a steady stream of artists coming to brainstorm, photograph, get ideas, one even collects salt water for a printing project. We gave the title to the documentary film BLUESPACE and appeared in it. We invited painter Jim Ebersole to memorialize our final week in the Red Hook Containerport.
This important work does not generate inspiring, cuddly or sexy photos. It involves a slew of emails and hundreds of conversations that advance our vision for bringing change to NYC's waterfront. Some highlights: Our President Carolina Salguero was appointed to the Sunset Park Task Force whose first task was to advise the EDC on creating an RFP for SBMT. How's that for alphabet soup! The Task Force continues to meet to shape the Sunset Park waterfront and industrial waterfront district. PortSide provided info and advice on the siting of a Citywide ferry stop in Red Hook. We are engaged with the ongoing work of Red Hook's NY Rising committee. We had a photogenic policy gig by being a stop on Alex Washburn's OHNY Resiliency bike tour.
Capacity Building - great progress undergirds all the above!
Getting our new home in Atlantic Basin, has provided PortSide NewYork with much needed stability and allowed us to turn energies to growing PortSide's capacity. We grew the team with 2 board members and 4 advisory board members. We completed the long slog of paperwork of a FEMA Sandy Alternate Project application, along with other important funding applications. We were awarded $20,000 by Councilman Carlos Menchaca to support our Red Hook WaterStories project. In Late October, PortSide launched a year-long growth campaign #GetOnBoard. In December, we were awarded a competitive Regional Economic Development Council grant of $49,500 via the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. We scored new major sponsors in the Weather Channel and International Paint. There is strong growth in the number of entities reaching out to get involved: we have heard from college community service programs, schools, teachers and individuals.
Please donate now and support our momentum!
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
Dear Mariners (ones on contemporary ships and historic ones) as we build up to the 2-year anniversary of hurricane Sandy, we invite you to tell you Sandy stories and share your photos here. We ask you to join us in an educational project.
A goal of PortSide NewYork is to bring the community ashore and community ashore closer together. Sharing Sandy stories is one important way to do that. We have found that most people ashore in NYC don’t know the mariners’ Sandy story, from prevention, to riding out the storm, to damages incurred, to recovery work -- usually recovery work while being damaged from Sandy.
In the way that PortSide told the mariners’ response to 9/11 in an exhibit, we would like to do that with Sandy, and we’d like to start that project here.
We believe that resiliency planning in NYC should involve hearing from the people who build the bulkheads and piers (and who will build any of the sea walls being proposed), marine salvors and equipment suppliers who pump the flooded tunnels, the crew and companies who move the fuel everyone was so desperate to have after Sandy, who clear the channels of debris so imports could arrive by ship, who build and run the emergency ferries, and companies that use boats like dinner boats in emergency response ways, etc.
We also believe mariners can have an important role in preparing communities for floods by helping teach awareness of marine weather, by bringing coastal living skills to New Yorkers living at the water's edge who lack those skills.
There are coastal parts of NYC where communities retain what were traditional coastal skills in abundance, the Rockaways, City Island, parts of Staten Island, where bayman, watermen, boatmen (and women) live, work and play; but large parts of NYC’s waterfront are now populated by people who have little sense of the water along which they live.
PortSide has designed some programs to share knowledge of the water with such people, and we’d like to see if we could kick off that conversation here.
What echoes in our ears is what we heard so often in the Sandy aid center we ran in Red Hook when people explained why they did not prep for Sandy either by evacuating or executing protective measures “they warned us about Irene, and nothing happened.”
This request is also on our two Facebook pages (Mary A. Whalen and PortSide NewYork) for people who would rather share there.
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:
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
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!
News & Background
Park Equity News from Gotham Gazette
Park Equity News from New York Times
Valentino Park Comfort Station proposed Parks Department plan. This became so large, in part, due to FEMA requirements that a new building in coastal flood zone be elevated.
Message to Red Hook
Dear Red Hook:
Thinking of the Valentino Park and Coffey Park discussions, above is info about citywide discussions about #parkequity to get funding to underserved neighborhoods. Mayor Bill de Blasio will announce a new plan today with $130MM in funding to go to 35 parks.
This is encouraging news in and of itself (we support more going to communities that have less) and seems like a good time to bring to citywide level one of the issues that our Valentino Comfort station has brought up, eg, how to keep costs down.
$130MM will not go far if 4 toilet stalls cost $2.4MM.
Let's find ways to engage constructively in a citywide discussion about how to improve parks for all. Better, cheaper, smaller potties for us could be the start of something bigger for all. All word play intended.
It would be good for Red Hook to bear in mind, that though many feel this community was slighted for years, by now Red Hook has revitalized so much we are NOT as underserved as places like Brownsville are.
Thanks to NYS Senator Daniel Squadron for his work on #parkequity and to Councilman Carlos Menchaca for bringing the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to the community table for meetings about waterfront parks in Red Hook and Sunset Park.
see January 2018 update at bottom
THURSDAY 10/9, 7:00pm at PS 15
Next Red Hook meeting about Valentino Park Comfort Station: Note, this is a change from the originally announced date of 10/8!
People for Red Hook Public Parks (PRHPP) set up this meeting. Here is their REVISED announcement PDF
Here is Parks Department proposed comfort station
For background, see our prior blogposts:
Report on Meeting #1: 9/4/14 Meeting with Carlos Menchaca & Parks at Red Hook library
Background info: Parks Dept. proposed comfort station & the process
Report on Meeting #2: 9/24/14 PRHPP meeting at 351 Van Brunt for community members only.
Info on upcoming meeting for Thurs 10/9 from PRHPP
People for Red Hook Public Parks and City Councilman Carlos Menchaca will be holding a community meeting on Wed. October 8th at 7pm at P.S. 15, The Daly School on Sullivan Street, between Van Brunt and Richards St. in Red Hook. The meeting is the latest in a series of meetings regarding the proposed NYC New York City Department of Parks & Recreation comfort station for Valentino Park.
The Red Hook community has expressed serious concerns about this project: cost, its size location and necessity.
At a cost of $2.5 million dollars, the cost to taxpayers for this project will be over $4000 per square foot. Construction costs for a luxury condominium in Manhattan are $500 per square foot.
The proposed location, Valentino Pier Park, is a quiet community gem, treasured by the neighborhood. The proposed building will cut the park in half and occupy a large portion of open green space.
With a change in city administration, the Red Hook community is counting on a reversal of the top--‐down management style of previous administrations. In order to protect our parks and our neighborhood, we need to bring the people who make decisions together with the people those decisions impact.
So please come to the meeting and bring a friend. We wish to avoid acrimony and work towards a positive relationship between community and administration, so bring your ideas and yourself!
January 2018 update
DOT has approved a sidewalk toilet. Red Hook, we have been heard! Remember all those meetings about a big, expensive "comfort station" proposed for our charming waterfront park Valentino Park? That concept was defeated, and a small, sidewalk toilet is coming via the DOT. Thanks to everyone for participating in public meetings, on-line discussions with us, and other modes. Community action worked! A special shout out to Anne Griepenburgwho researched the Portland Loo which presented an alternative that appealed to many and may have swung government decision around to that kind of solution.
Toilet Party any one? It has the great acronym of TP.
We hear that there is a spring installation expected, but we are still waiting on confirmation.
Help PortSide continue this kind of community reporting and grow our programs
Support our fundraiser on Tuesday 10/28/14 “Resiliency is our HOOK.” Buy a ticket. Become a sponsor. Join the Host Committee and help sell tickets before the event. It will be a fun event with the rollicking Dixieland jazz of the Red Hook Ramblers and the great food and casual ambiance of Hometown Bar-B-Que restaurant. We greatly appreciate your support! As do the people and businesses who benefit from our resiliency work!
|Photo by Will Van Dorp of Tugster|
Spring 2013 internships at PortSide NewYork
download this listing click
Join the innovative non-profit PortSide NewYork, a leader in waterfront advocacy and programming.
Our programs are a mix of maritime, preservation, forward-thinking urban planning, arts, education and community revitalization.
During the first month after hurricane Sandy, PortSide ran a pop-up Red Hook aid center, and we plan to have our cultural tourism programs support the area’s recovery from the storm.PortSide’s offices are on a historic ship the MARY A. WHALEN, which we use as a museum, mobile cultural platform and teaching tool. The only oil tanker cultural center in the world, the MARY A. WHALEN is on the National Register of Historic Places and is docked in the Red Hook, Brooklyn container port. Late December, PortSide announced that our seven-year search for a site looks to be ending with a prospective home at GBX•Gowanus Bay Terminal across Columbia Street from IKEA. Map See our program video below
We seek dependable, organized workers for a small and social office. Enthusiasm for PortSide’s mission, and good research and writing skills are essential. Familiarity with Photoshop, Illustrator and/or InDesign and website/blog maintenance is highly desirable. A knowledge of boats or waterfront issues is a decided plus, but not required.
Positions are unpaid. Send resume and availability via email.
The ideal candidates will be able to contribute to several of the tasks outlined below.
Fundraising and program planning
As we transition to a new home, fundraising and capacity building will be our priorities, but we will be looking to create programs that can comfortably be executed during this period of institutional growth. Interns will help plan events and execute outreach to potential new supporters, sponsors, program partners and venues; help launch a fundraising committee; be a liaison between all participants, set up meetings and conference calls; and help put out PR blasts about events and breaking news.
Interns need to be organized and capable of tracking communication between many people over time.
Programs are likely to include regular ship tours, some cultural events, and the creation of a new guide to Red Hook in both hard copy and web versions.
Intern will do pre-production work to help maintain PortSide’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter by researching some content, distributing Sandy recovery updates from the Mayor’s office, downloading and resizing photos. We would love an intern who has advanced Twitter skills. Intern will do some maintenance of our constituent database on Constant Contact.
Grant Research and Applications
New York City Council Committee on Waterfronts hearing, held jointly with Parks Committee
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2012 2:30 PM