Community Board 6 and the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) hosted a public hearing about the Red Hook Coastal Resiliency Project (RHCR).
First conceived in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the $100 million coastal protection project is aimed at reducing flood risks due to coastal storm surge and sea level rise along Red Hook’s waterfront, while also integrating with the community fabric and improving the long-term resiliency of the neighborhood.
RHCR is currently in its design phase and is seeking community input at a series of public hearings.
“We are getting close to the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy,” said Sapna Advani, a landscape architect working with DDC on the project. “That storm was very important to the Red Hook community, and we have not forgotten that.”
DDC engineer Joe Menzer spoke at length about the proposed design of the project.
“This is a coastal resiliency project, specifically a flood wall and protection system meant to lessen coastal flooding in Red Hook,” Menzer said. “The devastating outcome of Hurricane Sandy and other storms led to this and many other coastal flooding projects.”
The central component of the project is a ten-foot sea wall that will be constructed in front of two particularly vulnerable portions of the waterfront: the Atlantic Basin docks where the NYC Ferry and other vessels land and Beard Street, which is directly adjacent to the shore.
Additionally, smaller eight-foot sea walls will be built around other low-lying parts of the neighborhood.
“The Atlantic Basin area and Beard Street are some of the lowest areas in the city,” Menzer explained. “The project is larger in reach than we originally anticipated, but that is because of our studies and previous community feedback.
“One of our community priorities is maintaining waterfront access,” he added. “Red Hook has a working waterfront, and we don’t want to take that away. There will be temporary restrictions during construction, but we want to preserve the neighborhood’s character.”
However despite these considerations, community members present at the hearing still voiced a number of concerns about the agency’s approach to the project.
Primarily, locals voiced concerns that the project’s construction needs would overburden the already decaying streets of Red Hook. Locals mentioned UPS and Amazon last-mile distribution centers that are currently being built in the neighborhood’s old industrial area, and how the extra truck traffic will decrease quality of life.
“Last-mile delivery and distribution centers are independent of our project,” Menzer responded. “Our project is committed to not increasing any traffic in the neighborhood, besides the construction obstructions that we will coordinate with DOT”
Additionally, CB6 members argued that the project is not doing enough and will still leave certain critical parts of the neighborhood exposed to flooding.
“The proposed plan leaves one of the most important food stores in CB6 on the outside, vulnerable side of the storm barrier,” said CB6 member Hildegaard D. Link. “Leaving the Food Bazaar site on the outside of the protected zone adds risk not only to Red Hook, but to many contiguous neighborhoods in Brooklyn.”
RHCR is not the only flood protection project taking place in Red Hook. Earlier this year, the Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency and the New York City Emergency Management installed temporary storm openings at the Atlantic Basin to prevent flooding.
These measures will stay in place until the comprehensive Coastal Resiliency project is completed.
NYCHA developments within the neighborhood are also currently being upgraded with new flood prevention measures under the citywide NYCHA Resiliency Project.
“One of the advantages we have in Red Hook is that many of these projects are underway simultaneously,” Menzer said. “They can build off one another.”
RHCR is still a long way off from becoming a reality. The project, which kicked off in 2019 before the pandemic but experienced a temporary pause, is slated to finish its design phase by the end of 2023. Construction of the sea walls will begin in early 2024.