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Post Sandy MTS Letter - Final

Post Sandy MTS Letter - Final

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Published by: State Senator Liz Krueger on Dec 21, 2012
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01/08/2013

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December 17
th
, 2012Hon. Michael R. BloombergMayor, City of New York City Hall New York, NY 10007Dear Mayor Bloomberg:Given the unprecedented impact of Hurricane Sandy, it is clearer than ever before that we needto carefully consider how and what we build along our waterfront. The unexpected flood levelsexperienced during Sandy combined with the anticipated rise in sea levels only makes thesechallenges more severe.Abiding by the strictest definition, Hurricane Sandy was technically not a true hurricane. Thesustained wind speeds recorded by the time the storm made landfall in New York were belowthat of a traditional category 1 hurricane. Hurricane Flood Zone A, which we previouslyunderstood to be the designated perimeter for likely flooding during such storms, wasunexpectedly overrun by a storm that was, in some ways, less powerful than a traditionalcategory 1 hurricane. The affects of Sandy overwhelmed our understanding of traditionalhurricanes and therefore undermines the system by which we estimate the likely impacts of suchstorms. It is now apparent that our conventional understanding and therefore our expectations of such storms are no longer accurate. We cannot continue to believe with confidence that we areable to accurately predict and classify flood zones of our waterfront in anticipation of futurestorms. Among the many concerns this raises for the City is our need to carefully rethink howand what we build along our waterfront.The new reality of storm behavior in NYC brings into question some of the City’s plannedconstruction projects along our waterfront, including the East 91
st
St. Marine Transfer Station(MTS). Situated on the East River, in the middle of Hurricane Flood Zone A, the already longlist of concerns raised by this project has lengthened and become more pressing than ever before.The location’s viability in relation to potential storm damage, which we have questioned in the past, is now is an even more urgent concern. The surrounding community near East 91
st
St. aswell as the larger collection of communities potentially serviced by the MTS, would be well
 
served to gain a better understanding of how the City plans to address the additional concerns brought to light in recent weeks.In addition, following Sandy, the Coast Guard closed New York Harbor to fuel tankers, partiallyout of fear that floating debris (storage containers etc.) presented a hazard to such vessels. This isconsidered a major contributor to the gas crisis following the storm. It is not unimaginable thatsuch massive objects adrift in the harbor and rivers could pose a future threat to river and harbor activity. This fact raises additional questions about a potential MTS in a flood/surge area on theeast river.Our expectations of flood damage were exceeded during Sandy. Given this information, it is safeto assume we no longer have a full understanding of potential flooding in the future. Based onthese concerns, I am requesting a response to the following questions regarding the safety of theMTS in tropical storm or hurricane conditions:
Could the proposed MTS be at risk of damage from large drifting objects as the CoastGuard deemed dangerous for large vessels post-Sandy?
 
Could garbage containers from the MTS be knocked into the river during a storm, causinghazardous conditions for vessels?Have plans for the MTS taken into account such possibilities?
 
In the event that storms similar to or more severe than Sandy were to strike NYC andcause damage to the East 91
st
St. MTS, how would the City handle/respond to the followingpossibilities?Would flooding of the MTS cause garbage contaminated water entering basements andfirst floor homes to be more harmful than the flooding endured during Sandy? Why orwhy not? Please review the attached photo’s of the site during Sandy flooding.Would additional preparation be necessary in the event of evacuation and relocation of displaced residents in anticipation of waste contaminated flooding?How would DSNY handle garbage removal and transport in the event that the MTSsuffered debilitating damage during a storm or was out of commission for an extendedperiod of time?Would such methods be more or less expensive than projected utilization of the MTS orour current system?Does the City anticipate any design alterations, following Sandy and the lessons we’velearned? Would these alterations change the cost of the project?Does the MTS need to be built higher or stronger?

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Carol Tweedy added this note
Kudos to the Senator for raising these significant questions. It is of concern that to date, the only review of the impact of Sandy was to be internal to the Dept. of Sanitation. It was not clear it was part of the agenda for the infrastructure task force.

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