Seaport to Get Temporary Flood Protections for Coming Storm Season

Rendering of four-foot-high flood protection system to be installed next month along nearly a mile of the Seaport. The water-filled Tiger Dams (orange) would be put in place only in advance of a storm. Credit: Mayor's Office

May. 03, 2019

Next month, more than six-and-half years after Superstorm Sandys foodwaters inundated the South Street Seaport, the city is bringing “interim” protections to the neighborhood.

The new measures, already in place in some other hard-hit parts of the city and expected to have a lifespan of five years, will not defend against the next Sandy, officials said, but would reduce the risks from what they call “low level, high recurrence coastal floodings” up to four feet high. The proposed Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliancy Project, offering more substantial protections and announced in March, is years down the road and as yet unfunded. It includes the much publicized idea of a $10 billion expansion of the East River shoreline, up to 500 feet that would extend from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Battery.

“We heard, ok, this is interesting long-term work but what are you doing to protect us this storm season,” Jordan Salinger of the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, told Community Board 1’s Environmental Protection Committee last month. “We want to be responsive to that.”

When a big storm is approaching and there are at least three days of warning, the plan calls for the use of two types of interconnecting barriers that together would run for nearly a mile, from Catherine Slip to Wall Street. One of them, four-foot-high HESCO barriers, are wire mesh bags that are normally filled with sand or soil. They are expected to be installed in June, in time for the coming storm season, officials said. The other, called Tiger Dams, are orange, water-filled tubes that will fill in the gaps between the HESCOs and begin being put in place 96 hours before an oncoming storm hits land.

The barriers would not protect against events that strike with shorter warning, said Ben Krakauer of the city’s Office of Emergency Management. “We would love for the science to get to the point where we can activate the system for noreasters, but right now that’s beyond the state of the science,” he said, noting that Hurricane Joaquin, in 2015, was roughly the type of storm that this barrier system could handle.

There are no resiliency plans for Tribeca’s west side, north of Chambers Street. Heather Reiter of OEM said an engineers report showed that by installing similar protective barriers along the west side, “we weren’t going to add any value…we were only protecting the roads.”

Committee chair Alice Blank, a Lispenard resident whose basement along with many others in northern Tribeca were flooded by Superstorm Sandy, argued that northwest Tribeca also needs protection.

“It would be fair to say that this community needs to have interim measures not only in the South Street Seaport and Financial District area but also in the west and northern portion of this community board,” she said. And I’m hoping to hear from you soon on those measures as well.

As for the Seaport, Krakauer called it “our largest and most complicated site,” with what he said were overlapping land uses and jurisdictions that has made the approval process a lengthy one, and still not complete. But, he said, “Once we’re ready to go, it’s fast. Renderings below are from the Mayor's Office of Resiliency. Gifs by The Tribeca Trib.


Roughly three days before a heavy storm is due to strike, the orange, water-filled Tiger Dams would be installed across the two streets, and connect to pre-installed HESCO barriers (green).



Pre-installed HESCO barriers, put in place along the esplanade and decorated with artwork to make them more visually palatable, would connect to Tiger Dams when storm conditions approach.



HESCO barriers will replace the current jersey barriers. 



When needed, Tiger Dams will tie into the HESCO barriers where there are gaps. The HESCOs will replace jersey barriers.



Resiliency plans are also afoot for the Battery and Battery Park City. At the Battery, the city expects to raise the wharf and esplanade and build a berm or other protective barrier at the rear of the park. And the Battery Park City Authority is in the midst of separate resiliency planning for the neighborhood’s north end, the western edge along the water, and in the south at Pier A and Wagner Park where public design meetings and workshops have been ongoing. The city says it will create a “seamless line of protection” between the Battery and Battery Park City.

Planning for what was expected to be a 27-month, $14 million project to build a barrier system around the Battery Park City ball fields was put on hold recently after leaders of the youth sports leagues said they didnt want playing time cut short by long-term construction. As a result, the Authority and its design firm, STV, are now tasked with coming up with less intrusive, temporary measures for the near future.