April 21,2014

Community Advisory Board Minutes


Meeting called to order at 6:45 p.m.


CAB members in attendance: Sue Hornik, Lue An Eldar, Joyce Lannert,

Ted Schweitzer, Steve Rapkin, Andrew Greene, John Bacon, David Sztyk, Renee Cherow-O’Leary, Anita Aboulafia, Gary Brocks, Judith Cholst


Absent:          Michael Bauman, Harriet Olsen


Also in attendance: Matthew Schuerman, Senior Editor of WNYC


Public Audience in attendance: Will Fairhurst, Gretchen Anthony, Barbara Gerolinsky, Cori Falk, Andrew Greene, Jill Cormell, Jeremy Baron, Timothy Buchman, Katherine Arcure


Agenda approved.


Approval of Minutes.  David Sshweitzer approved, Lue Ann Eldar seconded.


Guest speaker. Joyce Lannert introduced Matthew Scheurman, Senior Editor of WNYC, invited to update the audience on the City’s response to Hurricane Sandy. The Initiative for this conversation came as a follow-up to the CAB’s May 2014 forum on Protecting the City Before Next Time.  The forum explored the issue as to how the City will rebuild - smart, or will we face same issues in the future.


Mr. Scheurman started the discussion with four points to think about: 1) This was a 1 in 700 year event, a very rare occurrence. However with sea level rise and climate change, this may happen again. 2) Sea level rise. 3) We’ve become savvy about building on flood plains, but NYC has filled in the edges, putting more people in harm’s way. 4) Lack of transportation precautions and preparation. Previous attempts to address dangers occurred in the 1960’s including proposals for sea walls, barriers, and studies by the Corps of Engineers. It was also recognized that flooding could come through the “back door” for example creeks, not just straight from the sea.  


On June 11, 2013 the Bloomberg administration released the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR). It rejected a giant barrier (too big, cuts off sea, too expensive, and could be stopped while under construction), proposed multiple local measures, if some failed others would take its place, and continues coastal development “we are not going to retreat from the coast” (a focus of Bloomberg development was coastal areas such as Hudson Yards). The report carried a $20b price tag, partially funded by the Federal Government over a ten year time line. Bloomberg felt that all but $4.5b could be covered.


Macro solutions:

            Building code – increase building heights;

            Utilities – flood proof their equipment;

            Fuel Distribution – better systems to avoid fuel shortages;




Neighborhood specific: -

Wetlands and tidal barriers purpose built for vulnerable neighborhoods;

Create another Battery Park City Seaport on the east side higher to prevent flooding in contiguous lower neighborhoods.


De Blasio supports SIRR and a new Seaport City. He has retained Dan Zirrilli (Bloomberg appointee) in the new office of Recovery and Resiliency, and has

appointed Bill Goldstein, who has a good reputation overseeing city to oversee Build it Back .


What have we done?

  • To date only nine homeowners are receiving help from NYC.
  • Lots of sand on the beaches – brought back to pre-Sandy and then some
  • 26,000 linear feet of reinforced dunes
  • Building code changes added a 2ft. freeboard (space between base flood level plus wave level to a total of 2 ft.)
  • Flood maps revised and will be more stringent, but don’t take into account climate change. 
  • “Dozens” of SIRR Intitiatives completed but difficult to identify what the initiatives actually are and how substantive they are. A more specific report card is expected in the coming weeks


Other efforts: The Bloomberg plan is comprehensive, but chances are de Blasio will produce a plan in the next year. Gov. Cuomo’s plan is not as comprehensive, but has money for rebuilding and buy-outs, for example taking certain SI neighborhoods out of commission and turning them into parklands. Gov. Christie also has a buy-out program. Army Corps. is also an important player – has come out with new plans and will probably do some levees, dunes, etc. along the coast. All the houses in certain areas may be put on stilts. HUD is the source of a lot of the funding and has an effort called “rebuild by design” using architectural ideas to rebuild. It has picked finalists and its up to the recipients of the money whether or not to go forward with the designs.


Above shows the disarray in the process – many entities and no central direction.


Wildcat responses: building owners have put up temporary flood walls. Rush rebuilding – builders are taking advantage of quick sales but it is not clear whether the new structures will take into account lessons learned.


Audience questions followed.

How will the government enforce insurance requirement? If you have a government-backed mortgage, then you are required. If no mortgage, then you’re off the hook. However, Congress passed a law post-Katrina increasing insurance rates to even the playing field – these were recently rolled back due to public out-cry. The intention is to prompt people to elevate homes to ease rate increases.


Climate is a potentially chaotic system with unpredictable actions which would render small changes useless. Speaker would like WNYC to report more on stopping climate change rather than reporting on all these small changes.


Is WNYC looking at NY Rising program? Yes, recently did a story on one of the programs, The Courts in Sheepshead Bay is working with the Pratt Center.


What sort of education effort is going on in the communities? Not a lot visible effort, but the Army Corps is involved in getting community input. Breezy Point asking for funds for a double dune system.


Are there any projects that deal with vegetation vs. buildings? It is not clear how the City would handle private property, but there is a section of the SIRR looking at public parks. The Army Corps also has been replenishing the Jamaica Bay area with salt marsh. Cuomo is pursuing “soft infrastructure” (oyster reefs, breakwater).


Disarray, no coordinated effort. Do we need a regional task force? What does Matt think should happen next? There was initially a lot of talk about a regional  effort, but now isn’t sure that’s the correct answer given egos, etc.


Are people going to get reimbursements from loans so they can then go on to further rebuilding in areas that are not subject to buy-outs? We still have to wait to see what de Blasio does.


Some of the property that is going to be subject to buy-outs may go to parks, but is some of it going to be resold? There is a possibility that some will go to affordable housing  (a de Blasio initiative). A memorandum of understanding between the City and State governs this process.


What is the MTA doing? The MTA says they require more money and expect to get it. Who reports on the MTA? Jim O’Grady and Transportation Nation.


Will any property be made not buildable? Three areas of SI per Cuomo but other areas are open per Bloomberg.


During his reporting, did he learn anything from Rotterdam or the Thames? Rotterdam was built after many died. The Dutch were actually ultimately unhappy because of a lack of circulation, and they are now doing a “managed retreat”. Also, in NYC you need to find places to put buyout people – already have a shortage of affordable housing.


Comment that maybe those profiting from building in flood zones should bear the cost of protecting them from flood.


There is tension between people living in “risky” housing in flood areas vs. trying to build better/safer housing. What is the City doing to inform homeowners to build smarter? Bloomberg believed insurance changes weren’t going to work and proposed changing rules so that if you did certain flood proofing you would get lower insurance (incentives). No active effort by the City though to inform homeowners.


How do citizens follow up? What happens to “pretty plans” that disappear under new administrations? One pressure point is the City Council, who requires 4 year updates on long term planning. One CAB member opined that journalists need to keep the politicians‘ feet to the fire”.



Report on WQXR instrument drive. The effort received 2500 instruments, more than twice as many as they hoped for. Thanks to CAB members Andrew Greene who helped with actually accepting the donations, John Bacon who put notices in libraries, Sarah Lenigan who got word out to the musician union 802 and Joyce Lannert who got the notices into Metro North stations. An excellent result!


Recruitment report. Yesterday was the deadline for applications and we have received 30 applicants. Steve Rapkin thanked all for their support and recognized effective spots on the radio. Lue Ann Eldar and John Greene were very helpful contacting potential candidate sources.


May meeting. Next month will be the first round of officer elections. The Chairman and two Vice-Chairmen need to be nominated. (Elections will be in June). Anyone interested in running should be prepared to give a brief statement. John Keefe, a data collector will be speaker. There will also be a discussion on having meetings outside Manhattan, and specific topics for those meetings to make them effective.


Further public comments.

Where is Bob Henley?


There was a recommendation that the CAB contact the Queens public library system for a location for meetings.


Meeting adjourned at 8:05.

Submitted by Helen C. van der Voort