Northeast
Satellite view of Hurricane Sandy on 29 Oct 2012. Credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project.

(Opinion) The East Side Coastal Resiliency Plan is Worthy of Our Support

The following op/ed was written by Lower East Side resident and architect William J. Rockwell. The Lo-Down accepts op/ed submissions relevant to the Lower East Side community. Opinion pieces do not reflect the editorial position of The Lo-Down, but only the viewpoints of each individual author. To submit an editorial/letter to the editor, use the following email: info@thelodownny.com.

Seven years ago last week, the East River swamped the FDR Drive and reached the edge of my building on the Lower East Side. The next five days after Superstorm Sandy were traumatic, with power and communications shut down and streets darkened, testing everyone’s resourcefulness.

By Thursday of that week, many had fled to Brooklyn, to friend’s apartments above 14th Street, second homes, or family out of state. Many, like me, stayed behind.

I am still haunted by images from that week of hundreds swarming white vans waiting for phones to charge, of people carrying buckets of water along Grand Street, and floating cars careening under the Williamsburg Bridge during Sandy’s wrath.

Radio reports of people stranded in the taller buildings of Coop Village came across the radio, with elderly tenants relying on neighbors for the barest of necessities.

Amalgamated Dwellings, where I live, was low enough at six stories for uninterrupted water service and despite losing power was easily accessible, with stairs daylit from windows at every landing. Remarkably resilient for housing built in 1929.

These memories accelerate an annual anxiety about flooding in my neighborhood during hurricane season only exacerbated by global warming. They coincide with the City’s own concerns to protect hundreds of thousands poor and middle class residents with planned infrastructure in the 100-year flood plain that overlaps an enormous swath of the Lower East Side along the East River.

The City of New York has worked for the past five years on a plan whose first critical component—the zone from Montgomery Street to East 25th Street—is in the queue for approval by the City Council.

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