At its Wednesday board meeting, the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) shared the preliminary findings of its two-year resiliency study, conducted by consulting firm Parsons Transportation, as part of an effort to formulate plans that will make the community more resistant to future extreme weather events, such as 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which flooded much of Lower Manhattan and part of Battery Park City.
“Resiliency — have we got it solved?” asked Authority chairman and chief executive officer Dennis Mehiel at the start of the discussion.
“We’re getting there, but I don’t want to make any promises,” answered Gwen Dawson, the BPCA’s vice president for real property, who led the presentation.
The initial conclusions from the Parsons study are that Battery Park City’s design and topography lend themselves to adaptation against storms more readily than much of the rest of Downtown’s waterfront.
“Our sea wall puts us in better stead in terms of baseline protection than many other areas of Lower Manhattan,” Ms. Dawson began. “We also have a network of garden and park walls that we can leverage to create a new line of flood protection. We have a line from the Museum of Jewish Heritage up to North Cove Marina, of existing walls that give us a starting point for reinforcement, expansion, and augmentation.” Similarly, she pointed out, a series of walls that surround the perimeter of Rockefeller Park, in the neighborhood’s northern section, form a comparable line of defense between Brookfield Place and Stuyvesant High School. “These define a protective barrier line that we can then follow,” Ms. Dawson said. “They establish the lion’s share of the protective area for the water side.”
Joe Ganci, the BPCA’s director of design, estimated that, “we have 300 linear feet of openings between walls, where we have to bridge gaps — for the most part where the streets intersect.”
Ms. Dawson noted that a range of strategies is being considered for these gaps. “We’re looking at deployables, landscaping solutions, and passive systems where the flood gate is buried within the floor, and raises up on its own,” she said.
The stakes could scarcely be higher, a point that Ms. Dawson illustrated with a map showing the projected penetration of flood waters into Battery Park City during so-called 100-year and 500-year storms. The former, which is based on a one percent probability of happening in any given year, covered much of Battery Park City. In the latter, which are believed to have a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in a particular year, flood waters covered the entire community. “We are projecting in the future a more severe storm event,” Ms. Dawson said, “with inundation throughout Battery Park City.”
Ms. Dawson and Mr. Ganci additionally noted that Battery Park City is vulnerable not merely from its western frontage on the Hudson River, but also from its northern and southern borders, and even from its eastern boundary. “Much of the damage that was suffered by Battery Park City came from the east side, along West Street,” she noted, where water rushing in from Tribeca (in the north) and Battery Park (in the south) collected and cascaded rapidly through the trench formed by West Street, and spread from there into Battery Park City’s upland side. These vulnerabilities have led Ms. Dawson’s team to prioritize Wagner Park (at Battery Park City’s southern tip) and the area behind Stuyvesant High School (on the community’s northern edge) for early redesign work. They are also planning to create a flood wall around low-lying sections of the ballfields, which suffered significant damage from flooding during the 2012 storm.
BPCA board member Donald Capoccia asked, “do you have a sense of what this will cost?”
Ms. Dawson replied, “because there’s so much existing infrastructure, we’re thinking that it will be tens of millions, not hundreds of millions dollars. In context, costs here will be significantly less than in other areas of Lower Manhattan.”
“We already have the space allocated,” she continued. “A lot times, when you’re trying to introduce elements, you have a building there that you have to work around or tear down. We’ve got the space for the walls already allocated.”
BPCA board member Hector Batista asked, “what is the timing” for the project.
Ms. Dawson replied that no schedule has been finalized, “but we’re hoping to move first on Wagner Park in the south and the ballfields in the north.” She added, “we can go faster than the City” is able to in other areas of Lower Manhattan.
Mr. Capoccia then returned to the budget for the project, asking “are we paying for this?”
At that point, BPCA president Shari Hyman interjected, “yes, this would be us.”
Mr. Batista jokingly questioned whether the Authority could expect to be reimbursed by the City, because other communities will not be expected to pay for anti-flooding measures themselves. “Can we keep some of that money and use it?” he asked.
Mr. Mehiel answered, “well, I was just thinking…,” but then added, “never mind, I won’t say it.”