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Photo: Courtesy of big.dk/#projects-hud

Last month, the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) awarded the city with $176 million in funding to support the planning and implementation of several coastal protection projects. Prior to the award, Mayor de Blasio designated $100 million of the city’s capital to fund the projects as well. These developments would help fortify lower Manhattan’s coastline and aid in the stabilization of flooding and storm surges in the event of another superstorm like Hurricane Sandy.

However there was quite a bit of confusion as to how these funds were being allocated, particularly regarding those projects within Community District 1 in Manhattan. The total amount of money that had been set aside for essential resiliency projects within the district’s boundaries, which covers most of the southernmost part of lower Manhattan below Canal Street, was $9.5 million. With an anticipated cost of $234 million for the entire plan, this leaves an enormous funding gap, with no solution yet on how it will be filled.

As per the February 2016 Community Board 1 meeting “New York City’s Phase 2 application for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) NDRC contains four main components… Of these four components, Coastal Protection for Manhattan Tip, which is defined as the area from the Brooklyn Bridge to the western edge of Battery Park, is the only one that occurs in CD1”

According to a statement from the mayor’s office “Well before the HUD award, Mayor de Blasio allocated over $100M in City capital to the entire project, from Montgomery St down and around to the north end of Battery Park City. That funding remains and allows the City to immediately move forward with design and community engagement in CB1 and the rest of the project, as we continue to source funds for the longer-term costs.” As reassuring as this statement may appear to be, the frustration still lies in its ambiguity.

Catherine McVay Hughes, Chairperson of Community Board 1, has yet to receive any clarification on how the $100 million will be spent in the district. “We want to know the details of exactly how and where the money will be spent, which have not been provided to us yet”, Hughes said. “It will take two years before the Manhattan Tip project even starts. What will people do if another storm hits? We need short term solutions.”

Hughes’ concerns for the community are very real. According to data gathered by the NYC Department of City Planning 100 percent of Community District 1 lies within the evacuation zone; 57 percent of the district is located within Evacuation Zone 1, the most vulnerable area for flooding. Additionally, as stated in the February 23rd Seaport Committee resolution: “According to the American Geophysical Union… waters can be expected to overtop the lower Manhattan seawall — 1.75 meters (5.74 feet) high — once every four to five years.” Through these two factors alone, immediate action is crucial for the inhabitants of these neighborhoods.

Community leaders within the district as well as other city and state officials have refused to stand idly by waiting for these detailed funding fact sheets to present themselves. They have been adamant in expressing concerns for their community and for countermeasures to be put into place to protect the flood prone neighborhoods of lower Manhattan.

On February 25th, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Senator Daniel Squadron, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and City Councilmember Margaret Chin addressed a letter to HUD Secretary Julian Castro expressing their concerns in relation to the lack of specifics within the grant award, stating “we are concerned that no funding will be provided for the area between Two Bridges and the Manhattan Tip for resiliency protection… As the area continues to face risks from coastal flooding and climate change, we must provide significant flooding protection and increase long-term resiliency for the area.”

The city would be remiss to not put in place clear cut, sustainable solutions to protect these neighborhoods right away.

-by James Baginski